By: Yusuf Alli, Managing Editor, Northern Operation
The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), on Friday said he did not advise President Muhammadu Buhari against the trial of those involved in the $1.09billion Malabu Oil Block Settlement Agreement.
He said under his watch, the Federal Government has been trying to bring more suspects to trial in Italy and London.
He also said a former Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki was not put on trial for allegedly forging the Senate rules because there was no prima facie case against Saraki.
He said he withdrew the case against ex-Governor Danjuma Goje having found out that 19 out of 21charges were struck out by the court.
He said nothing fundamental was found against Goje in the remaining two charges.
Malami made the clarifications in a statement against the backdrop of allegations that he has been frustrating anti-graft cases.
The allegations of obstructing justice were said to have accounted for the low rating of the country by the Transparency International (TI).
But Malami, in a statement through his Special Assistant, Media and Public Relations, Dr. Umar Jibrilu Gwandu, said he was not undermining anti-graft war.
He said he had never advised any person or authority that there was no prima facie case in the Malabu Oil Block.
He said: “As regards the Malabu Oil case, the AGF has never at any time stated anywhere or advised any person or authority that there was no prima facie case in the matter.
“The AGF has unequivocally maintained that all persons indicted by the EFCC’s investigation report as regards the OPL 245 (Malabu) be prosecuted in accordance with the relevant laws.
“The AGF has, further, maintained that the investigation should be watertight and intensified to ensure that all essential elements of the alleged offences are established through a thorough and detailed investigation before proceeding to court with a view to filing success-driven charges against the suspects.
“It is common knowledge that since the EFCC filed charges against the suspects in the 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.
“The assertion that the AGF misled the President that there is no case in the Malabu Oil deal is not only laughable but ridiculous and should therefore be disregarded by the right-thinking members of the general public.
“The AGF has been pursuing the case in Italy in relation to OPL 245 Malabu deal and has registered as interested parties in the ongoing case. The Federal Republic of Nigeria (FRN) sued JP Morgan in London. The Court of Appeal ruled in favour of Nigeria on 8th October 2019 and dismissed JP Morgan Chase Bank claim to dismiss the FRN claim and stated that JP Morgan Chase Bank has a case to answer in the FRN claim.
“It is interesting to note that the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation is pursuing traces of crime in relation to Malabu OPL 245 in Switzerland and Netherlands. The AGF remains resolute in looted assets recovery and the general fight against corruption.”
The AGF also responded to issues bordering on the alleged failure to put ex-President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, on trial for alleged forgery of the Senate Rules.
He said there was no prima facie case against Saraki to warrant his trial.
He said after 19 out of 21 charges against ex-Governor Danjuma Goje were struck out by a Federal High Court, his office found no merit in the remaining two allegations.
Malami added: “As regards the allegation that the AGF stopped the prosecution of former Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, for allegedly forging the Senate Rules to conduct the elections of principal officers of the Senate. It is important to state that for securing conviction on any crime, investigation must be done to establish the essential ingredients of the offence.
“It is a fundamental principle of criminal justice administration in all climes that you do not file criminal charges where investigations have not revealed prima facie case against the suspects and Nigeria is not an exception.
“As to the allegation of the withdrawal of the corruption case of N25 billion against former Gombe State Governor, Senator Danjuma Goje, the first point of correction is that the AGF did not withdraw a N25 billion case.
“The EFCC had filed a 21- count charge of N8billion against Senator Goje and had been prosecuting same for over eight (8) years without the AGF’s interference but after a No Case Submission filed by Senator Goje, 19 of the 21 counts making up the N8billion were struck out by the court leaving only two counts bordering on the manner in which the sale of some old buses belonging to Gombe State Transport Company between 2003 and 2011 were handled under the watch of Senator Goje.
“It was the said last two counts that the AGF thoroughly reviewed in 2019 and having found no prima facie case, withdrew in exercise of his constitutional power pursuant to Section 174 of the 1999 constitution.
“Besides giving the EFCC conducive atmosphere to operate without exerting the might of his office on the commission, many officers from the Chambers of the Attorney-General of the Federation are regularly seconded to the EFCC as representatives of the AGF to work and help the EFCC in the war against corruption meaning that the AGF is part of the EFCC’s success story.”
Malami insisted that he was not undermining the war against corruption under any guise.
He clarified that by virtue of Sections 150 and 174 of the 1999 constitution, the AGF has absolute control on the prosecutorial functions of both the EFCC and the ICPC
He said: “The attention of the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice has been drawn to the news report with unprintable allegations on the matters related the fight against corruption in the country.
“The AGF found such allegations as not only cheap blackmail but false, frivolous and baseless. We view this as machinations to cover up for the TI’s biased and illogically cooked up 2019 Corruption Perception Index with poor rating of Nigeria.”
Malami said he is committed not only to the fight against corruption, but the fight against all other crimes.