Following his re-appointment as Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), has set a new Justice Agenda for his four-year tenure.
“I could not have achieved much success without your invaluable support and cooperation. In fact, my re-appointment is shared testimony and victory,” he said.
Justice Ministry in 2015-2019
During the send-forth for his first tenure, Malami disclosed that his first tenure saw Nigeria’s assets recovery account grow from N19bn to N927bn as at May 2019, which was a 1,327 percent increase in recoveries.
He said the ministry also led an increase in local recovery of N59.163bn, $385m, and an additional N779.4m, adding that he led Nigerian negotiations for the return of $322.5m Abacha loot with Switzerland and the World Bank, and the expected $500m from USA, Island of Jersey and France.
There was also recovery to the Federal Government of the sum of $73m as ordered by the UK Commercial Court being part of the proceeds from the sale of OPL 245 by the Malabu Oil Company, and Eni Shell, which has also been concluded.
Malami was also pursuing many legislations to ease the anti-corruption campaign and address the limitations to the existing laws of the Federal Government, among which is the Proceeds of Crime Bill.
Malami said the ministry will put its energies towards the policy thrust of the Buhari-administration by protecting the sovereignty, integrity, solidarity, well-being and prosperity of the Federal Republic of Nigeria by defending the constitution, contributing to improve security, fighting corruption, and fixing the economy for greater benefit of all Nigerians.
It will also ensure public enlightenment, campaign for ethical reorientation, enforcements and sanctions and recovery of proceeds of corruption by activating sacrosanct provision of Section 15 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (As Amended).
The eight major areas to be pursued are:
Prosecution of individuals, entities in the $9bn gas deal
AGF Malami has stated that the Federal Government will punish individuals and entities involved in the gas contract that resulted in the $9bn award against Nigeria.
A British court on Friday, August 16 ordered the seizure of $9 billion Nigerian assets by Process and Industrial Development Limited (P&ID) over a failed 20-year Gas Supply Processing Agreement (GSPA) in 2010, on which the firm said it expended $20m and which was not refunded to it.
Malami said the Federal Government believes the negotiation, signing and formation of the contract involved some “underhand manners” by some vested interests in the past administration “in collaboration with local and international conspirators.”
“As a government that has the mandate of the people and their interests at heart, we shall not fold our arms and allow this injustice to go unpunished as all efforts, actions and steps shall be taken to bring to book all private individuals, corporate entities and government official – home and abroad and past and present – that played direct and indirect roles in the conception, negotiation, signing, formation as well as prosecution of the agreement,” he said.
To intensify anti-graft war, beaming searchlight on financial institutions
The returning AGF announced that the Justice ministry will intensify efforts in the anti-corruption war for the next four years, with focus on Financial Institutions (FI) and Non-designated Financial Institutions (NDFIs) to make them “pay dearly for the dastardly role they have played and are still playing in encouraging and deepening corruption in Nigeria.”
“From arms procurement fraud, INEC bribery case to Diezani case and several others, quantitative data available to the Federal Government abundantly shows that financial institutions are directly involved in most of the major corruption cases investigated by the EFCC and ICPC from 2015 till date,” he said.
Harmonious working relationship for anti-corruption agencies
The returning justice minister has pledged to enhance the working relationship between the anti-corruption and law enforcement agencies. The lack of coordination has affected the work of anti-corruption agencies in Nigeria.
“As a chief prosecution officer, I shall promptly introduce and put in place under my watch and coordination, a quarterly meeting of the heads of all anti-corruption, law enforcement and prosecuting agencies in Nigeria where relevant issues bordering on their respective capacities, relationships, funding, challenges and possible solutions shall be discussed to ensure their optimal performance and efficiency in the overall interest of Nigeria and Nigerians,” he said.
Ensuring effective and timeous prosecution of cases
Under the new administration, there will be speedy prosecution of cases being handled by the ministry. The AGF said he will make personal court appearances in furtherance of this new directive.
“The overall objective of this is to assist the Federal Government in saving more funds through use of in-house counsel/law officers in the Attorney General’s Chambers to prosecute and defend most of the civil and criminal cases usually farmed out to external counsel,” Malami said.
Regular meetings with staff of ministry
Malami promised to have regular meetings with staff of the Ministry of Justice to get first hand views and concerns on issues that affect their work and welfare.
“Apart from prioritizing the management meetings, there shall be prioritization of the welfare and professional needs of the staff of the ministry through personalized capacity-building and development schemes such as mentoring and life coaching programmes,” he said.
Consolidating prison decongestion programmes
The ministry will also be consolidating the on-going programme on prison decongestion to reduce the huge cost of running the prisons across the country.
“Decongesting the courts; reducing the workloads of our judges at all levels; and ensuring speedy dispensation of justice by competent, ethical and independent judicial officials will certainly make justice accessible to the people,” Malami stated.
Pursuing Nigeria’s membership of FATF
The ministry would pursue the registration of Nigeria as a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) as part of the efforts to reverse the country’s suspension from the body.
Considering alternative, faster and cheaper recovery of stolen assets
The AGF said under the new administration, he will seek for alternative means to recover stolen assets through settlements, civil suits, non-conviction-based forfeiture proceedings, non-prosecution agreement arrangements etc.
“The rationale for this is to save costs, resources and time often expended on conviction-based asset forfeiture,” he added.