November 8, 2021

Protest as Reps’ C’mte Chair stops Malami from disclosing whereabouts of recovered loots, amount

Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami

By Levinus Nwabughiogu – Abuja

String of subdued protests greeted a smart move by the Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Justice, Hon. Ugonna Ozurigbo to prevent Abubakar Malami (SAN) from discloing the whereabouts of recovered loots and the actual amount involved.

Malami, the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, AGF, had appeared before the Committee to defend the ministry’s 2022 budget estimates.

Done with the presentation, some lawmakers took turn to ask questions on the current status and the exact amount of recovered loots.

First to speak in that direction was Hon. Chinyere Igwe (PDP, Rivers). He said that the record needed to be set straight on the matter in view of the controversy surrounding its custody.

Igwe also enquired to know why Nigeria was paying hugely on consultancy services on the Paris Club refund.

He said: “There are trending issues in the Nigeria polity today and one of the issues is the payment of consultancy services for Paris Club. A whopping sum in the region of 400 to 500 million dollars is being paid and I am sure you are aware of that. 

‘Two, you made reference to the recovery of looted assets. With the successes recorded so far in this regard, Nigerians need to know what has been recovered and where the money has been kept because there has been controversy as to whether the money is with the EFCC and ICPC. Where is this money?”

Similarly, Hon. Ademorin Kuye (APC, Lagos) requested to know why the Ministry of Justice was outsourcing legal services to private lawyers when those in the employ of government can easily take up the responsibilities.

According to the lawmaker, over N2.5 billion had been expended on legal services.

Kuye also asked about the decongestion of Correctional Centres across the country, prosecution of offenders, the number of persons released and the number of convictions and why the Ministry was outsourcing the Maritime cases to lawyers outside the Ministry.

Another area of concern to the lawmaker was the current status of the anti-torture legislation.

He said: “I saw the sum of N43 million appropriated for local training in your 2021 budget and N35 million has been released, while N32.1million has been expended. Despite these trainings for our lawyers, we still see that a lot of the jobs are outsourced. 

“We spent N2.5 billion for legal services. You spoke of some limitations about lawyers not been able to take up those jobs. What are these limitations?

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“I want to ask about the anti-torture legislation. You will recall that most of the protests are as a result of abuse of office by some of our police officers. 

“I want to find out if the legislation is now in place and if it has not been put in place, what is the Ministry doing about putting it in place. Also, sometime in 2017, you promised us an anti-torture policy. I want to find out how far you have gone with that policy.”

At this juncture, the Committee chairman who had allowed the questions to fly intoned that the answers to the questions will be supplied in the future.

“The questions are noted. We will have to give the Minister another date to respond to these questions”, Ozurigbo said, hitting the gavel.

The chairman ignored a string of protests that ensured from among the members as he discharged the Minister who had earlier made his presentation.

Members were also not allowed to raise questions on the budget presentation.

Speaking earlier, Malami decried poor budgetary allocation to the Justice sector.

The AGF also disclosed that there were more funds stashed abroad.

He, however, said efforts were being made to recover and repatriate them. 

The Minister also disclosed that the Federal Executive Council, FEC had asked his office to cause a memo for the establishment of a Federal Taskforce to review and validate contracts, Judgments and Arbitral Awards and implement the Federal Verification System.

This, according to him, was to prevent cases similar to the P&ID.

Malami also said that approval had been given by the government to incorporate the funding requirements of a Federal Contracts Administration System (FCAS) in Nigeria in the Federal Ministry of Justice’s 2022 Budget proposal just as he highlighted that cases of COVID-19 pandemic, kidnapping and armed banditry were some of the challenges faced by the ministry in the outgoing fiscal year. 

Vanguard News Nigeria