Recovered Loot: SERAP Starts Committal To Prison Hearings Against Malami, Idris

Criminal CasesSocio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has commenced committal to prison hearings against the Federal Government, Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami and the Accountant-General of the Federation, Mr Ahmed Idris.

They are being tried “for having neglected to obey the order of the court made on Friday February, 26, requiring them to provide SERAP with up to date information on the spending of recovered stolen funds since the return of democracy in 1999”.

A statement by SERAP said  that the information ordered to be released by Justice Muhammed Idris of the Federal High Court Lagos include specific details on the total amount of recovered stolen public assets by governments since 1999; the amount that has been spent from the recovered stolen public assets and the objects of such spending; as well as details and location of specific projects on which recovered stolen public assets were spent.

The Form 49 “notice to show cause why order of committal should not be made” was filed at the Federal High Court, Lagos last week by SERAP Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni “following the service on Mr Malami and Mr Idris of Form 48 contempt suit, and the certified true copy of the judgment.”

Mumuni said, “Despite the service of both form 48 and the certified true copy of the judgment on both the Attorney General of the Federation and the Accountant-General of the Federation they have failed and/or neglected to acknowledge the judgment let alone obey it”.

“It has become painfully clear since the judgment was delivered that this government has no plan to enforce it. It’s dismaying that a government, which builds its reputation on combating grand corruption has not embraced the enormous opportunities the judgment provides to open the book on what exactly happened to recovered loot.

“It’s absolutely unacceptable to take the court, which is the guardian of justice in this country, for a ride. A democratic state based on the rule of law cannot exist or function, if the government ignores and/or fails to abide by Court orders,” Mumuni said.

The 69-page judgment in suit no: FHC/IKJ/CS/248/2011 signed by Honourable Justice Mohammed Idris reads in part: “Transparency in the decision-making process and access to information upon which decisions have been made can enhance accountability.

“Obedience to the rule of law by all citizens but more particularly those who publicly took oath of office to protect and preserve the Constitution is a desideratum to good governance and respect for the rule of law. In a constitutional democracy like ours, this is meant to be the norm.”

The group further pointed out that in respect of its reliefs on recovered stolen funds since return of democracy in 1999, the government had kept mute, insisting that the government had no such power under the law.

“There is public interest in public authorities and high-profile individuals being accountable for the quality of their decision making. Ensuring that decisions have been made on the basis of quality legal advice is part of accountability.

“I am of the view and do hold that the action should and does succeed in whole. Documents relating to the receipt or expenditure on recovered stolen funds since return of democracy in 1999 constitute part of the information which a public institution and authority is obligated to publish, disseminate and make available to members of the public.

“The government has no legally justifiable reason for refusing to provide SERAP with the information requested, and therefore, this Court ought to compel the government to comply with the Freedom of Information Act, as the government is not above the law,” SERAP pointed out.

Electoral Institute Stresses Need For Electoral Reform

Electoral Institute, Electoral ReformThe Electoral Institute says Nigeria needs to improve its electoral service delivery and get the reform process right in order to stabilise its democracy.

The Director-General of the Electoral Institute, Professor Abubakar Momoh, made the remarks on Thursday during a meeting with stakeholders in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory.

He said that although series of talks and committees had been formed to establish a panacea to credible elections, the independence of the nation’s electoral body had come into question.

Highlighting the role of the media, Professor Momoh pointed out that the issues of rising poverty, corruption and erosion of public institutions should not easily sway media practitioners.

He said that the media has a huge role to play in solving the many challenges bedevilling the nation’s electoral process.

The guest lecturer, who is a professor of Political Science at the University of Ibadan, Adigun Agbaje, posited that the attitude of politicians was largely to blame for Nigeria’s eroding democratic values.

Other experts at the gathering also cited the experience at the Edo State governorship election as one of the ways politicians erode the foundation of democracy.

They maintained that the culture of impunity during elections must be addressed.

The stakeholders said that President Muhammadu Buhari’s renewed focus on reforming the electoral process should be sustained to the letter.

The Federal Government had constituted an Electoral Reform Committee headed by a former Senate President, Mr Ken Nnamani.

The government said the committee was set up, not as an imitation of the Justice Mohammed Uwais’ panel, but to improve on the preceding one.

FG Grants States Fiat To Prosecute Criminal Cases

Criminal CasesThe Federal Government has issued a general fiat to states to prosecute criminal cases on its behalf.

The Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr Abubakar Malami, made the disclosure on Thursday at a meeting of attorneys-general in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.

Mr Malami also encouraged the states to adopt the National Policy on Prosecution and the National Guidelines on Prosecution, as a way of cushioning the many challenges bedeviling the Nigerian justice system.

He stated that the absence of smooth, speedy and effective justice administration had no jurisdictional limits or boundaries.

The Minister, therefore, noted that all hands must be on deck to improve the capacity of the judiciary to effectively and efficiently deliver justice to Nigerians.

The Attorney-General of Akwa Ibom State, Uwem Nwoko and his Benue State counterpart, Micheal Gusa, described the move as a step in the right direction.

They expressed hope that it would go a long way in addressing the many challenges in the Nigerian justice system.

FG Says Electoral Reform Committee Not An Imitation

Ken Nnamani on Electoral Reform CommitteeThe Nigerian Government says its newly inaugurated Electoral Reform Committee is not an imitation of the Justice Mohammed Uwais’ panel.

The government, however, said it had constituted the committee to improve on the preceding one.

The head of the committee and a former Senate President, Mr Ken Nnamani, made the clarification on Tuesday in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.

Reduce Poll Rigging

Senator Nnamani pointed out that President Muhammadu Buhari was determined to turn around the nation’s electoral system, in order to reduce the prevalence of polls rigging and violence.

The Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr Abubakar Malami, also made further explanation on the newly inaugurated committee.

He said the 24-man panel was carefully selected from across board.

Mr Malami was hopeful that the committee would among other things, enthrone transparency and come up with implementable recommendations.

He said the committee had been given 10 weeks to submit its report.

Diversionary and Unnecessary

Dr. Dele Ashiru

However, a lecturer at the University of Lagos’ Political Science Department, Dr. Dele Ashiru, was of the belief that another electoral committee was unnecessary.

Dr. Ashiru berated the government for its refusal to implement the recommendations of past committees that had been set up to review Nigeria’s electoral system.

He told Channels Television that recommendations of past electoral committees were yet to be implemented, describing the Nnamani panel as diversionary and unnecessary.

Ashiru wondered what area of the electoral system had not been covered by the Justice Uwais report.

He highlighted some of the recommendations of the Uwais panel, which he believed if implemented, would provide solutions to many challenges faced during elections in Nigeria.

The academic emphasised the need for the Electoral Offences Commission and the exemption of the Independent National Electoral Commission from the internal affairs of political parties, as key recommendations that should be implemented.

Family Alleges Foul Play In EFCC Suspect’s Death

EFCC, Desmond Nunugwo, JusticeFamily members of former Chief Protocol Officer to the Minister of State for Defence, Mr Desmond Nunugwo, have visited the Ministry of Justice to demand for justice over his death.

According to the deceased’s family, he died on June 9, 2016, after he was arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for his alleged role in a 91 million Naira fraud.

Mr Malami had called for an independent inquiry into how he allegedly died in the EFCC custody.

Lawyer to the late Nunugwo, Paul Edeh, who led the wife of the deceased, Mrs Susan Nunugwo and other family members to the Ministry of Justice for an update in the matter, alleged foul play in his death.

They expressed confidence in the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, in ensuring they get justice.

However, they frowned at the attitude of the anti-graft commission and security agencies towards the matter.

Late Nunugwo, according to EFCC, was arrested for fraudulently obtaining 91 million Naira from an acquaintance after he allegedly tricked her into believing that he had high net worth business associates in Dubai, who were to buy NICON Insurance and convinced her of their disposition to help her stock fish business.

Shiites Reiterate Call For Zakzaky’s Release

Ibraheem Zakzaky, court, Shiites
Sheik Ibraheem Zakzaky

Members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria have reiterated the call for the release of their leader, Sheik Ibraheem Zakzaky.

The Shiites pushed for the release of their leader during a protest on Wednesday held in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.

Some members of the group’s Academic Forum, Muhktar Awwal and Firdausi Yusuf, read out a statement which contained the demand.

The Shiites say the group and its leaders are being subjected to what they called “unwarranted and vicious attack” by the Kaduna State government and security agencies.

They held a peaceful protest through the streets of the Federal Capital Territory, which terminated at the Federal Secretariat.

The protest follows the refusal of a Federal High Court to hear the bail application filed by Mr Zakzaky.

Ruling on the application on Monday, Justice Okon Abang, said since the main suit was already ongoing before another judge of the Federal High Court, the applicant ought to obtain a ‘leave of court’ to hear the matter.

Zakzaky and his wife, Mrs Zeenah Ibrahim, were arrested after a confrontation between the Islamic group and soldiers which resulted in several deaths and destruction of property on December 12, 2015.

The leader of the Shiites, through his lawyers, Femi Falana and Festus Okoye, is demanding an order of court directing his immediate release from custody.

Nigeria, UK Sign Agreement On Stolen Assets

Robert-Goodwill-and-Abubakar-MalamiThe government of the United Kingdom has reaffirmed its commitment to recovering and returning stolen assets to Nigeria.

It says returning the funds to Nigeria will send a clear message to all who may seek to harbour stolen assets overseas that there is ‘no safe haven’ in the United Kingdom.

The Minister of State for Immigration of the United Kingdom, Mr Robert Goodwill, briefed reporters in Abuja about the agreement shortly before signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the Federal Government of Nigeria.

Mr Goodwill announced that 40 jurisdictions, including British Overseas Territories, would share beneficial ownership information relating to companies, trusts and foundations in order to expose owners of stolen assets.

“Let me be clear that my government is fully committed to the return of all funds looted from the Nigerian state.  We will do this as soon as the necessary legal processes allow.

“As outlined in the summit, we will be taking steps to accelerate the procedures for identification and confiscation of illegally acquired assets.

“We are committed as is Nigeria to ensuring that beneficial ownership of assets is made available to relevant authorities so they know who the real owners are of assets held in the UK,” he said.

The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, who signed the agreement on behalf of the Federal Government of Nigeria assured Nigerians that returned assets would not be misappropriated again.

Efforts of the current administration of Muhammadu Buhari to recover Nigeria’s assets stolen and taken to the UK were heightened at the anti-corruption summit held in London where the President made an emphatic call for the funds to be returned to the oil rich nation.

President Buhari told the summit that he was more interested in repatriating Nigeria’s stolen assets than any apology from British Prime Minister, David Cameron, following sour remarks ahead of the Anti-Corruption Summit.

Court Declines Hearing Zakzaky’s Bail Application

Ibraheem Zakzaky, court, ShiitesA Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has refused to hear the bail application filed by the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, Sheik Ibraheem Zakzaky.

Ruling on the application on Monday, Justice Okon Abang said since the main suit was already ongoing before another judge of the Federal High Court, the applicant ought to obtain a ‘leave of court’ to hear the matter.

Justice Abang noted that the applicant failed to serve the Department of State Services (DSS), the Inspector General of Police, IGP Ibrahim Idris and the Attorney General of the Federation, Mr Abubakar Malami, who were the respondents in the matter.

Mr Zakzaky and his wife, Mrs Zeenah Ibrahim, were arrested after a confrontation between the Islamic group and soldiers which resulted in several deaths and destruction of property on December 12, 2015.

The leader of the Shiites, through his lawyers, Femi Falana and Festus Okoye, is demanding an order of court directing his immediate release from custody.

He also wants the court to award the sum of two billion Naira against the Nigerian Army, the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai; the DSS, Mr Idris and Mr Malami.

The case which had been before Justice Gabriel Kolawole, has been adjourned till September 20.

FG To Probe Alleged Death In EFCC Custody

EFCC, Abubakar Malami, Desmond NunugwoNigeria’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, has called for an independent inquiry into how a former Chief Protocol Officer to the Minister of State for Defence, Mr Desmond Nunugwo, allegedly died in the custody of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

According to his family, Mr Nunugwo died on June 9, 2016, after he was arrested by the EFCC for his alleged role in a 91 million Naira fraud.

The lawyer to the family, Mr Paul Edeh, led relatives of the victim to the Ministry of Justice, where they had a private meeting with the Justice Minister.

Mr Edeh said that the Minister gave a directive that the issue be investigated and promised to get back to the family in a matter of days.

Wife of the deceased, Mrs Susanne Nunugwo, lamented that she had not been able to see the corpse of her husband since his death two months ago.

She requested that her husband’s name be cleared as he had been declared guilty by the EFCC and was no longer alive to defend himself.

Nigeria’s Attorney General Asks Agencies To Compile List Of Pending Cases

Abubakar-Malami Attorney General in Nigeria and prosecuting agencies Nigeria’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, has directed various agencies with prosecuting powers to compile list of pending cases they are currently handling at the various courts.

He said that the list would enable the Ministry determine which of the cases falls within the category of high profile cases to be taken over by the National Prosecution Coordination Committee (NPCC).

Mr Malami met with the various agencies at his office on Monday to brief them on the exigency and existence of the Committee and fashion out a working synergy between the Committee and the Agencies.

Malami’s message was read by the Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Research and Special Project attached to the Federal Ministry of Justice, Mr Sylvester Imhanobe.

Mr Imhanobe, who is also the Secretary of the Committee, informed the agencies of the objectives for setting up the prosecution committee.

High Profile Cases

The spokesman for the NPCC, Comrade Othman Isah, who doubles as the Special Adviser to the Attorney General, listed Agencies present at the meeting to include, the Nigerian Police Force, Department of State Services, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission and the Federal Inland Revenue Service.

Mr Malami explained further that for a case to be tagged high profile, it must have overriding public interest elements. He, however, said that he ultimately determines what case is tagged a high profile case.

“The quantum of value of a case and its sensitivity also influences whether a case is a high profile case or not,” the Minister of Justice explained.

According to him, members of the Committee are mainly his aides as well as eight external members selected on the basis of experience and expertise. He further explained that the Heads of Agencies were not part of the NPCC due to their busy schedules.

The Attorney General also hinted that the intention was not to distract the Heads of the Agencies, but to engender smooth synergy between the Committee and the Agencies.

For Cooperation And Synergy

The Special Assistant to the President on Coordination and International Affairs under the Federal Ministry of Justice, Mr Pius Oteh, who chaired the meeting reiterated that it was for the purpose of sensitising the relevant Agencies on the objectives of the National Prosecution Coordination Committee.

He emphasised that the AGF in his wisdom saw the need for coordination and cooperation between the NPCC and these Agencies with prosecuting and investigative powers.

“It was necessary for cooperation and synergy between the Committee and the Agencies consistent with the mandate of President Muhammadu Buhari in the anti-graft war.

“Beyond the synergy and partnership between all concerned, a robust interface between the Agencies is necessary, Oteh said, pointing out that the agencies should take their mandate seriously for a more vigorous and efficient prosecution.

“When it comes to delay in the justice system, every stakeholder has a responsibility. It is a cross cutting issue in which all key players share a responsibility vis-a-vis the judiciary, prosecutors, investigators and even defence counsels. When everyone do their bit, a more efficient and humane criminal justice system will be attained,” he stressed.

Others who represented the Ministry and the Committee at the meeting were Special Assistants to the President, Mrs Juliet Chikaodili Ibekaku (Justice Reforms), Mr Okoi Obono Obla (Prosecution), Mr Kehinde Oginni (Financial Crimes) and a staff of the Ministry, Ms Aisha Bajeh.

FG Sues Turkish Airlines For Alleged Rights Violation

Court, Turkish Airlines, GovernmentThe Federal Government has sued Turkish Airlines before a Federal High Court in Abuja over an alleged criminal violation of the rights of some Nigerian passengers.

The government also indicted the company for violating the enabling law of the Consumer Protection Council (CPC).

The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, filed a three-count charge against the airline as well as its Board Chairman, Liker Ayci and its Commercial Manager, Rasak Shobowale.

Untimely Delivery Of Baggage

In the charge, the Federal Government alleged that the three accused persons between December 20, 2015 and March 2016, “without sufficient cause, refused to provide the Consumer Protection Council documents on Turkish Airlines’ policy on delayed baggage,” thereby committing an offence punishable under Section 18 of the CPC Act.

The Federal Government also accused the airline and its two principal officers of violating the same section of the CPC Act by neglecting, without sufficient cause, to attend and testify before the consumer protection agency on the detailed steps taken by the airline to provide redress and compensation to passengers aboard its Flight 623 from Istanbul to Abuja on the said dates, who were affected by its untimely delivery of baggage.

The prosecution came on the heels of persistent refusal of Turkish Airlines to respond to lawful requests of CPC for a full situation report on the airline’s alleged shoddy treatment of passengers of Flight 623 from Istanbul to Abuja on December 25 and 31, 2015 as well as January 9, 2016, which prompted the council to approach the Justice Minister for the prosecution of the airline.

Corruption: FG Develops National Policy On Prosecution

national policy, corruptionAs part of efforts to stem the tide of corruption through speedy trial of suspects, the federal government has developed a national policy on prosecution.

The Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, announced the new policy at a meeting of attorney generals in Abuja where they converged from the 36 states of the federation to discuss how to improve the justice sector.

Mr Malami said that the adoption and implementation of the policy by state authorities will fast-track the prosecution of corruption and criminal cases.

The Minister appealed to states to accept the federal government’s vision of tackling corruption by establishing special anti-corruption units.

He advocated the restoration of public confidence in the justice sector through the speedy prosecution of cases.

The Country Representative of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Cristina Albertin, also outlined the role of prosecutors in the fight against corruption.

At a separate meeting on the London summit on Anti-Corruption, the Minister of Justice pledged government’s commitment to accountability and transparency as a means of stemming corruption.

The Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, confirmed government’s resolve to run an open government just as the Deputy British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Simon Shercliff, advised political leaders to lead by example.