The attention of the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice has been drawn to a news report with unprintable allegations on the matters related to 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.
The general public may wish to be reminded of the provisions of Section 174 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to the effect that the AGF shall have power to institute and undertake criminal proceedings in respect of any offence created by or under any Act of the National Assembly; to take over and continue any such criminal proceedings that may have been instituted by any other authority or person and to discontinue at any stage before judgement any such criminal proceedings instituted or undertaken by him or any other authority or person. By Section 150 of the 1999 Constitution, the AGF is the Chief Law Officer of the Federation.
The elementary meaning of the above provisions of the Constitution is that all federal prosecuting agencies in Nigeria including the EFCC and ICPC perform their functions are subject to the powers of the Attorney-General of the Federation. The EFCC was established to investigate and prosecute economic and financial crimes while the ICPC was established to handle official corruption cases.
The cumulative effect of Sections 150 and 174 of the 1999 Constitution is that the AGF has absolute control on the prosecutorial functions of both the EFCC and the ICPC like all other federal prosecuting agencies in Nigeria.
Questions that readily come to mind include but not limited to the following:
- If the EFCC or ICPC investigates criminal case and proceeds to file a charge in court in respect of 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.
The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice has a historical record of going to the court personally and defending the nation in matters of public national interest including the cases of labour union crises and the processes of deepening democratic ideals in the country.
As regards to 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 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 interested 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 asserts recovery and the general fight against corruption.
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 election of principal officers of the Senate. It is important to state that for securing conviction on any crime, investigation must be done to able 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 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 N8 Billion 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 N8 Billion 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.
The general public may wish to know that the AGF is constitutionally empowered to exercise the powers of his office through officers of his department who are all assisting him in defending and advising the Federal Government of Nigeria in all its activities, programmes and policies; receiving and attending to endless criminal and civil petitions from within and outside Nigeria on daily basis; prosecuting all forms of crimes across the country including terrorism, hostage taking, smuggling, homicide, armed robbery, illegal dealing and unlawful possession of firearms, and many more.
Regular convictions on terrorism and other security threatening cases are being secured by his Office and the records are there for anyone to see. The AGF is, therefore, committed not only to the fight against corruption, but the fights against all other crimes that constitute danger to the lives and properties of Nigerians in line with the aspiration of the current administration.
Therefore, notwithstanding the unfair rating of Nigeria by Transparency International and the unguarded utterances of individuals who appeared to be a new voice of Nigeria opposition parties, the administration of President Mohammad Buhari remains committed more than ever to the fight against corruption and other crimes in Nigeria. No matter how hard they strive to fight back, they will meet our equally firm and unshakable resistance.
Mr Gwandu is an SA on Media and Public Relations in the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice.