Ikechukwu Nnochiri – Abuja
The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), on Friday, dismissed reports that he tried to dissuade President Muhammadu Buhari from prosecuting some persons fingered in the $1.1billion Malabu oil deal.
The AGF, in a statement issued by his media aide, Dr. Umar Gwandu, said he never at any time, “stated anywhere or advised any person or authority that there was no prima facie case in the matter.”
Malami said he had unequivocally maintained that all persons the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) indicted in its investigation into the alleged fraudulent transfer of ownership of Oil Prospecting License (OPL) 245, be prosecuted in accordance with the relevant laws.
The AGF said he only insisted that the investigation should be “watertight and intensified,” so as to ensure that essential elements of the alleged offences were established through a thorough and detailed investigation before charges were entered against the suspects by the EFCC.
The Commission has arraigned the immediate past AGF, Mohammed Adoke (SAN) and six others – Aliyu Abubakar, Rasky Gbinigie, Malabu Oil and Gas Limited, Nigeria Agip Exploration Limited, Shell Nigeria Ultra Deep Limited and Shell Nigeria Exploration Production Company Limited – on a 42-count corruption charge at the FCT High Court in Gwagwalada.
Following an application by the anti-graft agency, Justice Abubakar Kutigi had last Thursday also issued a warrant for the arrest of a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Dauzia Loya (Dan) Etete and two others, Munamuna Seidougha and Amaran Joseph, over their alleged roles in the scam.
Malami noted that going by the cumulative effect of sections 150 and 174 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended and being the Chief Law Officer of the Federation, he has absolute control on the prosecutorial functions of both the EFCC and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).
He described as malicious, the allegation that he had since his assumption of office watered down many corruption cases.
He said: “Questions that readily come to mind include but not limited to the following:
If the EFCC or ICPC investigates the criminal cases and proceeds to file a charge in court in respect of the same, does he expect the AGF to duplicate the charges in another court in respect of the same investigation and proceed to prosecute the same offence?
“Should the AGF constitute himself into a rival authority with the EFCC or ICPC and begin to investigate and prosecute cases already investigated, filed and being prosecuted by them?
“Where the need arises, should the AGF no longer exercise his constitutional power of taking over criminal matters from any federal prosecuting agency?
“It goes without saying that the convictions recorded by both the EFCC and the ICPC in the last four years were made possible by the fact that the AGF provided a very conducive atmosphere for the two agencies to carry out their statutory duties without undue interference.
“If the AGF had watered down corruption cases since he assumed office as maliciously claimed in the report, then all the convictions on corruption cases recorded by the EFCC would have been taken over and stopped by the AGF using his constitutional power of Nolle Prosequi.
“However, the AGF allowed the EFCC to thrive well due to his total commitment to the fight against corruption in line with the manifesto of President Muhammadu Buhari.
“It is common knowledge that since the EFCC filed charges against the suspects in Malabu Oil case before both the Federal and FCT High Courts, the AGF has NOT at any time approached either of the courts to withdraw the charges even though he has the power to do so pursuant to Section 174 of the Constitution.