NIGERIA’s $15m seized in South Africa during the Dr. Goodluck Jonathan administration is yet to be retrieved – no thanks to diplomatic intricacies and the long process.
Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) Abubakar Malami said such hindrances also accounted for why the government was yet to record appreciable success in its efforts to repatriate looted funds.
“As it relates to the money in South Africa and other countries, my reaction to recovery generally is that it is a process; a process involving mostly nations whose legal systems differ.
“The process in respect of diplomatic consideration equally plays a key role over and above international convention and best practices.
“So, when multiplicity of legal systems is in issue, multiplicity of diplomatic engagement is in contention, delay is naturally bound to set in.
“But, one thing I want to state categorically is that the government is doing whatever is possible to ensure the recovery of moneys that relate to Nigeria in all jurisdictions and not necessarily limited to South Africa,” he said.
Malami, who spoke in Abuja yesterday while reviewing the activities of his ministry in the last one year, however declined to answer a question on the rift between him and the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, over the country’s suspension from the Egmont Group.
He also declined comments on whether or not his directive that the EFCC provide him with a status report on on-going high profile cases had been complied with.
Malami said the Federal Government planned a committee on how to defray the N113billion judgment debt pending against it and its agencies to avoid its assets being attached.
He said the Judgment Debt Verification Committee, to be headed by the AGF, will, among others, ensure compliance with enforcement of court judgments and orders against government and its agencies.
Malami said memos on the recommendations of the Senator Ken Nnamani-led Constitution and Electoral Reform Committee would soon be presented before the Federal Executive Council (FEC) for deliberation and adoption, following which Bills relating to the recommendations would be sent to the National Assembly.
The minister, who could not confirm if members of the Nnamani committee had been paid their allowances, said he was aware the Federal Government has approved the payment and that the approval had been forwarded to the Ministry of Finance.
On the prosecution of Boko Haram suspects being kept in custody, Malami said a speedy trial had been planned.
He said some judges have been assigned to handle the prosecution. He declined to give further details, citing security concerns.
Malami also hinted of plans for prisons decongestion, which he said would be electronically driven and last for the next two years.
The AGF, who praised his ministry for a successful outing in the last legal year between 2016 and 2017, said it concluded 7,119 criminal cases, including 4,709 petitions and 325 civil cases in the last legal year.
Malami, who highlighted various plans to be executed in the new legal year, said a coordinating centre would be created in his ministry for among others, ensure coordination of all criminal justice agencies.
The unit will enable the office of the AGF to “have a first-hand information of the status of all criminal investigations/trials in the country”.
Malami also spoke about a plan to create an investigation unit in the ministry to address the “want of legal expertise in the conduct and process of investigation by the various security agencies and to address such anomalies leading to the consistent rejection of vital evidence in the course of prosecution.”
The AGF is relying on his constitutional powers and the provision of Section 105(1) and (3) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) to create the unit, it will coordinate and form part of every investigation to ensure robust investigation and successful prosecution of cases, Malami said.