By Inibehe Effiong
Let me begin by congratulating you, Mallam Abubakar Malami, SAN, on your well deserved appointment and inauguration as the Minster of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation by President Muhammadu Buhari. Among the eleven legal practitioners appointed as ministers by the President, three of whom are Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) including your humble self, you have been found worthy to oversee the very important and powerful Justice Ministry. This inarguably is a resounding testament of your competence, character and commitment to service.
As you are well aware, the only minister whose office and powers are specifically recognised and guaranteed by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) is the Minister of Justice who doubles as the Chief Law Officer and Attorney General of the Federation. While Section 150 of the Constitution establishes the Office of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Section 174 of the same Constitution expressly provides for the powers domiciled in the Office.
The Courts through avalanche and unbroken chain of decided cases have reiterated the potency and latitude of the powers of the Attorney General of the Federation. In the locus classicus case of State v. S. O. Ilori & Ors. (1983) 2 S.C. 155, the Supreme Court of Nigeria held that the Attorney General “is a law unto himself” only subject to the Constitution and his appointor – the President.
As you assume office, I most respectfully wish to advert your mind to certain issues that requires your attention. Needless to say that these issues which are highlighted below are neither novel nor eccentric. Indeed, they are very well within your knowledge. The Nigerian public are desirous of seeing conceited and sincere actions aimed at addressing them.
These issues were relegated and ignored by your predecessors. It is hoped that your tenure as the Attorney General of the Federation will be a radical departure from the past.
Resolving high profile murders:
The right to life is the most sacred of all fundamental rights. It is guaranteed by Section 33 of the Constitution. International instruments like Article 3 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 and Article 4 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights equally guarantees this right. Contrary to these constitutional and legal safeguards, several Nigerians have been murdered over the years in circumstances that smacked of State complicity and governmental conspiracy.
Nigerians are interested in seeing you unravel the mysteries behind the killing of the persons listed below with the year of their assassination in no particular order:
1. Dele Giwa – founding editor of Newswatch, October 1986; 2. Kudirat Abiola – wife of the late M. K. O. Abiola, 1994; 3. Alfred Rewane – elder statesman, 1994; 4. Bola Ige – former Attorney General of the Federation, December 23, 2001; 5. Marshal Harry – ANPP chieftain, March 5, 2003; 6. Igwe Barnabas – Onitsha Branch Chairman of NBA, September 10, 2002; 7. Funsho Williams – Lagos State PDP governorship aspirant, July 2006; 8. Ayo Daramola – former world bank consultant and PDP governorship aspirant in Ekiti State, 2006; 9. Dipo Dina – Action Congress chieftain in Ogun State, January 25, 2010 and Olaitan Oyerinde -Principal Private Secretary to the Edo State Governor Comrade Adams Oshiomohole, May 4, 2010 among others.
These people deserve justice. They must not die in vain. Their killers, no matter how highly placed, should be identified and prosecuted. It necessary for you to reopen investigation into these and several other cases of politically motivated murders.
Prosecution of electoral offenders:
While swearing in the Chairman and National Commissioners of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Monday November 9, 2015 President Buhari emphasied the need for electoral offenders to be prosecuted thus:
“It would be much better if all whose actions or inactions led to the cancellation of such election to be investigated and if culpable prosecuted whether they are individuals as candidates or party agents, Institutions such as political party, electoral body, or public officers as electoral staff or security agents.
“Similarly, perpetrators of electoral violence and thuggery should not be spared. Unless our system stops covering up all forms of electoral malpractices we can hardly get it right. No system endures with impunity.”
The President has said it all. I need not say more except to urge that those who rigged and manipulated the April 11, 2015 elections in Akwa Ibom and Rivers States be used to set example. These States deserves urgent attention given the unprecedented, killings, mayhem and violence that marred elections in the two States. The Election Tribunals have confirmed this. We await your urgent action.
Revisiting high profile corruption scandals:
Sir, as the new Chief Law Officer of the federation, Nigerians are earnestly waiting to see actions being taken on several high profile corruption scandals which your predecessors treated with kid gloves. Some of these scandals are:
1. Halliburton and Siemens scandals. Nigerian officials were alleged to have received some $180million and more than 10 million euros as bribes from the two companies. In October, 2007, a German court indicted Siemens and fined the company $14million for offering Nigerian officials bribes. Four former Federal Communications Ministers, a PDP Senator, and other senior federal officials were specifically identified as being involved in the bribes scandal. Halliburton fired its Chief Executive for the involvement of its agents in the bribes scandal; 2. The N32. 8 billion Police pension fraud; 3. Kerosene subsidy scam; 4. Stella Oduah N255 million armoured car scandal; 5. Missing N20 billion oil money as alleged by former Central Bank Governor, Mallam Lamido Sanusi in 2013; 6. $15 million South African arms purchase scandal; 7. Abba Moro Immigration job scandal which led to the painful death of over 15 Nigerians; 8. $1.1 million Malabu Oil Scandal and the $6 billion fuel subsidy scandal, among others.
Judicial and Law Reform:
Given your long experience as a legal practitioner, it is expected that you will pay attention to the reform of the Nigerian judiciary and our corpus juris (body of law). Nigerians expect a synergy between your office, the National Judicial Council (NJC) and the Nigerian Law Reform Commission in this regard. It is necessary for you to revisit the Justice Mohammed Uwais Electoral Reform Committee’s Report. The current legal regime on election petitions is anachronistic, unjust and unsustainable.
Rule of Law:
As the Attorney General of the Federation, we expect compliance with and adherence to the dictates of the law. This is a government that came to power with strong promise of change. All Nigerians should be treated equally. Whoever violates the law should be prosecuted without recourse to political affiliation or status.
In summary, there is no doubt about the fact that politicians and influential business individuals and organisations will seek to patronise you in the hope of getting certain privileges from you in the course of your duty. You will see all manner of distractions aimed at dividing your loyalty and commitment to your oath of office. Remember that your performance is vital to the success of this administration.
I urge you to resist overtures that will derail your devotion to the progress of Nigeria and be mindful of the verdict of history. May God be with you.
Your learned friend,
Inibehe Effiong, Esq.
Legal Practitioner and Convener of the Coalition of Human Rights Defenders (COHRD).