A coalition of leading civil society organisations has asked Nigeria’s president to investigate his chief law officer over several allegations of graft levelled against his office. The allegations range from financial sleaze, nepotism and influence peddling.
In a letter sent to President Muhammadu Buhari,three prominent anti-corruption groups demanded an immediate probe of Abubakar Malami, a Kebbi-born lawyer who has served as Nigeria’s Attorney-General since 2015.
The groups said that the letter detailed fourteen high profile allegations against Mr Malami, one of the Mr Buhari’s closest allies.
The groups said that Mr Malami should resign immediately so that the administration can institute a full inquiry into the allegations.
“It has to be now or never. There are very strong allegations of corruption against Mr Abubakar Malami with clear evidence. President Buhari should act now. We have listed these corruption cases after a painstaking compilation of high-profile corruption cases involving the country’s top law officer. The President must act without delay”, the group said in the petition signed by the Chairman of the Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC), Mr Olanrewaju Suraju, Chairman of the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, CACOL Mr Debo Adeniran and Co-founder, Say No Campaign, Ezenwa Nwagwu. The CSNAC is a coalition of some civil society groups spread across the country.
The coalition said the nature of Mr Buhari’s response to its demands will greatly affect the effectiveness of the nation’s anti-graft campaign.
“We are perturbed by these reports considering the revered position occupied by Mr Malami, being the number one law officer of the country. Some of the allegations as conveyed in the media reports go to the root of breakdown of law and order and total disregard for the rule of law. These allegations serve as a slap in the face to your Excellency’s administration foremost goal of ridding the Nation of corruption,” the three groups wrote in the petition to Buhari.
The groups accused Mr Malami of the illegal auctions of crude-oil laden vessels in violation of Section 31(2) and (4) of the EFCC Act 2004.
The groups also accuse Malami of shielding members of his family, allegedly corrupt officials and some institutions from prosecution. Mr Malami was accused of being responsible for the reinstatement of Abdulrasheed Maina, former chairman of the Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT) into the Federal Civil Service Commission without due process.
They also accused him of filing a motion for the discontinuation of a 25 billion Naira criminal charge against Senator Danjuma Goje without any justification, after 7 years of diligent investigation and prosecution by the EFCC, whereas in June this year, he allegedly withdrew criminal charges against soldiers who were accused of killing police officers and a civilian in the bid to aid the escape of Wadume, an alleged millionaire kidnapper.
The coalition said that on November 18, 2018, Mr Malami, through a lawyer from his office, Mr Pius Akuta, came to the Lagos High Court to withdraw a case of fraud filed by EFCC against one Dr. John Abebe, a businessman and younger brother to a former first lady Stella Obasanjo, an action ultimately resisted by the EFCC on the premise that the Attorney-General of the Federation has no constitutional power to take over a case filed in Lagos High Court.
Several other examples listed by the coalition include the withdrawal of the criminal charges case against the Chairman, Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), Mr Danladi Yakubu, other attempts by Mr Malami to withdraw criminal cases against Bello Adoke, Diezani Alison-Madueke and others involved in the Malabu scandal and the termination of an investigation into alleged fraud at the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NISRAL).
The Malabu scam involves the controversial OPL 245 which has seen Nigeria recover some $78 million from individuals already convicted in Italy as oil majors linked with the case continue to face prosecution in Milan.
Mr Malami was also accused of having ordered Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Offences Commission, (ICPC) and the Department of State Services, (DSS) and the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit, (NFIU) to cease probe of NIRSAL. He was said to have described the investigations as “unhealthy competition” and “sheer waste of government resources”.
The civil society coalition also accused Mr Malami of being the mastermind of a controversial payment of $16.9 million as consultancy fees to two lawyers for the recovery of the funds traced to a former Nigerian Head of State, Sani Abacha, after Enrico Monfrini, a Swiss lawyer had been fully paid for the same task by the previous administration.
The groups accused Mr Malami of ending the prosecution of a former Comptroller General of Customs, Mohammed Inde Dikko, through a murky deal between the Attorney-General’s office, former director of the Department of State Services Mr Lawan Daura and the Comptroller General of Customs which allowed Mr Dikko to refund $8 million to the Federal Government in exchange for legal immunity. The case was discontinued after a High Court judge Nnamdi Dimgba refused to allow further prosecution of the matter on the grounds that Mr Dikko had kept his promise under the agreement by refunding N1,576,000,000 and more to the government’s treasury through the EFCC funds recovery account in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). The Buhari administration had earlier accused Mr Dikko of stealing over N40 billion.
The groups said its investigations and media reports suggest that Malami owns assets worth billions far ahead of what he owned before his appointment as the country’s AGF. Some of the properties listed in his name were a multimillion naira Rayhaan Hotels worth about N500million, located at opposite Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, Zaria Road, Kano State, a property worth about N600million Naira locate at Ahmadu Bello Way, Nasarawa GRA, Kano, a newly constructed school at the back of Nitel at Gesse Phase 1, Birni Kebbi worth about N700million, a multi million Naira property built by Mr. Malami for his son located at Gesse Phase II in Birni Kabbi worth over N400 million, a mansion known as Azbir Arena allegedly built by Mr. Malami for his second son. Azbir Arena an entertainment centre worth over N3 Billion, with a big plaza and kids playing centre and hotel all combined in one expansive property.
The groups accused Mr Malami of other offences such using the official letterhead of the office of AGF to seek support for his son’s wedding and that he encouraged the defacing of Naira and other currencies to the embarrassment of the country and in violation of section 21(1) and (3) of the Central Bank Act, 2007. During the wedding of his son, Mr Malami was also accused of allowing the breach of COVID-19 protocols and regulations.
The coalition stated “At ICPC, Mr Malami also displayed his unpretentious hatred for the fight against corruption by writing a letter dated 16th December, 2016 withdrawing the case of fraud filed against Mr Godsday Orubebe, the former Minister of Niger Delta, in a case involving over N1.97billion, on the grounds that there was no basis for filing the charge against him.”
“We strongly believe that the above allegations are deserving of thorough, immediate and urgent investigation through an independent panel of inquiry and the Attorney General suspended from office pending the conclusion of this investigation; the veracity or otherwise of these allegations is essential for the sanity of the public service.”
The groups said “the law presumes any allegation as a suspicion until the suspect is so proven guilty; we as organizations, relentless in seeing transparency and accountability actualized and that due process is deployed in investigating corruption, abuse of power and office belief the allegations leveled against the Attorney General of Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami is deserving of your urgent action.”
The coalitions said they believe in the prevalence and sanctity of the rule of law. “We believe in due process which is why we have forwarded this petition to your Excellency for proper and diligent investigation and timeous action in order to restore the sanity of the core mandate of your administration to fight corruption which is at the verge of collapse as a result of the alleged abuse of power and office by the incumbent Attorney General and Minster of Justice.”