Abubakar Malami, attorney-general of the federation and minister of justice, has defended his approval to Omoh-Jay Nig Ltd, an oil firm, to auction sea vessels holding crude oil and diesel seized by the federal government.
Malami said his action followed due process, and the firm “was in no way known, associated or related” to him either in his official or personal capacities.
The minister was reported to have given approval for the sale of the oil assets valued at millions of naira and seized by security agencies for illegal oil bunkering operators during different operations.
He was said to have directed Omoh-Jay Nigeria Ltd. to auction the crude oil and diesel in four sea vessels despite the firm being tried for allegedly stealing about 12,000 metric tonnes of crude oil in 2009.
But in a statement which Umar Gwandu, his spokesman, issued on his behalf Malami said he committed no illegality in approving the auction.
He said the issue in contention should be whether Omoh-Jay “being a duly registered company can be denied opportunity to participate in the auction bidding process.”
The minister wondered if it is enough grounds to stop the company from the auction “on a purported account that the company is standing trial (NOT CONVICTED) by a competent court of the land if indeed … the Company is being criminally tried.”
“The position of the law is clear by virtue of Section 36 (5) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) that a person is presumed innocent until the contrary is proved. Every person who is charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed to be innocent until proved guilty,” he said.
“Assuming, without conceding that Omo-Jay is being tried for criminal offence, if indeed any, does that take away the Constitutional presumption of innocence in their eligibility to apply and be considered for auction?”
He added that the disposal of the vessels were done following the final forfeiture obtained by his office and the presidential directive of October 25, 2018 “directing the OHAGF to put in the interim before the passage of the Proceeds of Crime Bill, appropriate transitional arrangements for the management and expeditious disposal of the realisable assets so as to preserve their economic value.”
“Therefore, as far as the question of criminality of Omoh Jay Nigeria Ltd is concerned, it is not before the OHAGF and for avoidance of doubt, it should be noted that the disposed of the vessels under reference were conducted with due process following a report submitted by the Federal Ministry of Works, Power and Housing on the value of these assets,” he said.
“It should be further noted that Omoh Jay Nigeria Limited is one amongst the 38 auctioneers appointed by the OHAGF after being selected during the opening of the pre-qualification Bid.”
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