We believe that to fashion an aggressive fight against corruption, the chief law officer of the federation must be of impeccable character, incorruptible, have respect for the rule of law, and be courageous with a hunger for justice. Unfortunately, Mr. Abubakar Malami has shown himself to be a far cry from these requirements.


Introduction

Almost twenty years since the return to democracy, widespread corruption and impunity have continued to impede development and threaten democracy in Nigeria. In the period, successive administrations embarked on reforms to improve transparency and accountability, bolster confidence in the institutional arrangement, processes and operations of government and improve the business environment in Nigeria. Nigeria adopted continental and international frameworks and partnerships necessary to give teeth to the fight against corruption, raise the cost of corruption and recover stolen asset wherever they are hidden. These reforms have led to the blockage of leakages in public administration and state resources. For example, Nigeria saved billions of naira in state resources from the thousands of ghost workers feasting on agency budgets, while international partnerships exposed more billions of naira in corruption proceeds locked away in secret accounts across the globe by former and current public officials.

The election of President Buhari in 2015 on the promise to tackle corruption head-on, as one of the administration’s tripod strategies for reviving public confidence in government and making democracy work for the poor was a welcome development for change advocates. It marked an important turning point for the fight against corruption, considering the lethargy under the previous administration of President Jonathan.

President Buhari’s Fight Against Corruption

Not surprising, the last three years witnessed renewed vigour in the fight against corruption, with the injection of political will at the highest level of administration, and introduction of financial and administrative policies to improve transparency and accountability, streamline government business, cut excess fat in budget appropriations, recover stolen assets, build partnerships with governments where Nigeria’s stolen asset find safety, and mobilise Nigerians as critical partner for the fight against corruption using the whistle-blower policy.

In the last four years, Nigeria made important progress with the full introduction of the Treasury Single Account, the Bank Verification Number, and human resources management programmes, resulting in huge savings. The period witnessed the trial of a sitting Senate president and a chief justice of Nigeria docked on allegations of corruption, past state governors sentenced for fraud, recovery of looted asset, greater transparency in governance, and intensified demand for accountability among citizens.

Losing the Momentum In the Fight Against Corruption

While these represent important milestone in the fight against corruption and impunity, haemorrhages in public sector resources remain a challenge, and the abuse of authority has continued with impunity.

The attitude and body language of the government in the scandals involving the former secretary to the government of the federation, Babachir Lawal and Kano State governor, Ganduje, have left nothing to be desired.

The AGF and the Fight Against Corruption

One of the greatest disappointments in the fight against corruption under this administration has come from the office of the attorney general of the federation and the minister of justice, whose actions and inactions have continued to bring shame to the proclaimed anticorruption campaign of the administration and huge losses to Nigeria.

Statutory provisions make the office of attorney general of the federation pivotal to the fight against corruption, charging its occupant with the sole responsibility to deliver justice, in PUBLIC INTEREST, in its actions, inactions and decisions. This is as contained in Sections 174(1) (2) and (3) of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended.

Sadly, Nigerians recall many shady and odious roles the current attorney general of the federation and minister of justice, Abubakar Malami has played to deliberately frustrate the fight against corruption the last three years. For example:

1. Nigerians have not forgotten the minister’s role in the fraudulent reinstatement of former chairman of Pension Task Force, Abdulrasheed Maina, who was wanted on allegations of corruption, into the civil service commission;
2. We recall the shady deal involving the minister, which led to the approval of a highly controversial and contentious payment of $17 million to two lawyers for an already concluded deal on the repatriation of the Abacha loot from a Swiss bank. There are many reported cases of undue meddling and interference by the attorney general to gag and muzzle the anticorruption agencies and force discontinuation of investigations and prosecutions of high profile government officials;
3. A case in point is the Malabu scandal involving former oil minister, Dan Etete, Eno and Shell in a heist allegedly resulting in a loss of more than $US1 billion to Nigeria;
4. The minister has also been fingered in the suspected attempt to frustrate the investigation and prosecution of the director general of the Nigeria Broadcasting Commission for his alleged involvement in the diversion of about N2.5 billion. Most crucially, Mr. Malami has superintended over a systematic strategy of frustrating the freedom of the information law;
5. Under his leadership, government agencies have found cover and a new boldness to ignore and/or outrightly treat with impunity, the many FOI requests in order to frustrate any accountability effort by concerned public. Going by the record of its hall of shame and fame programme, the Media Rights Agenda, a leading civil society organisation at the forefront of strengthening application and compliance with the freedom of information of law, a significant number of federal agencies have been hauled into the hall of shame for the blatant refusal to respect FOI requests. These persist, while the minister continues to present himself as chief in frustrating the fight against corruption and civil society’s effort for accountability.

These actions are inconsistent with the expectations of the office of an AGF or minister of justice and inimical to the commitment of this administration’s zest to fight corruption. The minister’s actions demonstrate impunity, contempt for the fight against corruption and outright abuse of the public authority and sovereignty of the Nigerian people vested in this administration. The current attorney general is undeserving of the exalted office and the confidence of the Nigerian people in delivering a second term to this administration.

We believe that to fashion an aggressive fight against corruption, the chief law officer of the federation must be of impeccable character, incorruptible, have respect for the rule of law, and be courageous with a hunger for justice. Unfortunately, Mr. Abubakar Malami has shown himself to be a far cry from these requirements.

Our Recommendations

Therefore, as President Buhari prepares for swearing-in and commencement of his second term on May 29, 2019, we, the listed non-government organisations, representing civil society organisations advocating on anticorruption and accountability in Nigeria, hereby call on President Buhari and Vice President Osinbajo to consider the following recommendations:

1. Immediately relieve and replace the current attorney general of the federation, Mr. Malami, in order to salvage the fight against corruption and recover public confidence and support for the anti-corruption struggle;

2. The President to reconfigure his fight against corruption by ensuring people with questionable characters are not appointed to sensitive positions capable of curtailing the independence of key anti-corruption agencies and the fight against corruption;

3. That the President considers separation of the office of the AGF from that of the minister of justice to avoid conferring such enormous power on an individual.

4. That the Presidency distances itself from suspected corrupt officials by not defending them and by upholding the independence of key anti-corruption agencies;

5. That the president immediately orders the commencement and/or continuation of the prosecution of outstanding high profile corruption cases including those of members of his political party and his appointees, including the former SGF, Babachir Lawal.

6. That Mr. President insists on the accountability of anti-corruption agencies including the Code of Conduct Bureau/Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCB/CCT), the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and others involved in the prevention, investigation and prosecution of corruption, to ensure probity and accountability.

Finally, we wish to remind Nigerians that the thick garment of corruption covering our nation can only be lifted when we work as collectives, lifting it from every side. We hereby call on all Nigerians not to relent in our struggle to secure a sane society for our children, but to be more determined, now more than ever, to apply sufficient pressure on the administration to right its wrong and champion an aggressive fight that will deliver a country that we all can be proud of.

Signed

SAY NO CAMPAIGN
YES Project
YIAGA AFRICA
African Centre for Media and Information Literacy (AFRICMIL)
The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC)
The Cable
Action Aid Nigeria
Lawyers’ Network Against Corruption (LAWNAC).