A Lagos based human rights organisation, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), on Sunday charged the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mallam Abubakar Malami (SAN), to quickly take steps to prosecute all 31 former governors suspected of official corruption while in office.
The group in a letter dated November 20, 2015 and signed by its Executive Director (ED), Adetokunbo Mumuni argued that, “This action is necessary to send a strong signal that President Muhammadu Buhari’s government will not tolerate high level official corruption, no matter who is involved, and to secure public confidence and trust in the office of the Attorney General.”
“This request is brought to give practical effect to the exercise of the powers of the Attorney-General under Section 174(1) (b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended). The request is also entirely consistent with your widely publicised commitment to audit and pursue high level corruption cases and end the impunity of perpetrators in the country.
“SERAP would like to draw your attention to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Report presented to the National Assembly in 2006 by the former Chairman of the EFCC, Mr Nuhu Ribadu. The Report, which was accepted and adopted by the National Assembly, documented the cases and indictments against 31 former governors.
“SERAP urges you to seek and obtain a copy of the Report from the National Assembly, and to use this as a basis to pursue prosecution of the governors. Pursuing these cases would help to enhance public confidence and trust in the office of Attorney-General, as previous occupiers of the office seemed to be disinterested in prosecuting or facilitating prosecution of high level cases of official corruption.
“SERAP believes that there is already a strong prima-facie case and sufficient information for you to exercise your constitutional authority and ensure that suspected perpetrators of high level official corruption are brought to justice fairly and to recover and repatriate stolen public wealth.”
“Section 174 of the 1999 Constitution grants to the Attorney-General the power to among others “(a) institute and undertake criminal proceedings against any person before any court of law in Nigeria, other than a court-martial, in respect of any offence created by or under any Act of the National Assembly; (b) to take over and continue any such criminal proceedings that may have been instituted by any other authority or person.” This section also requires the Attorney General to exercise his power having regard to “the public interest and the interest of justice.
“SERAP believes that there is at the moment no greater public interest than an urgent and diligent prosecution of the cases of indicted 31 former governors. Because corruption is well entrenched in Nigeria, fighting it requires not only a minimum level of political will and an adequate and sensible strategy, but also involves being ready and able to confront powerful interest groups that clearly benefit from the status quo and will resist any such initiatives.
“The full and effective prosecution of the former governors is a test case for the Buhari government’s commitment to fight corruption and end impunity of perpetrators in the country. By effectively prosecuting the indicted former governors, you would not only be exercising your constitutional mandate and authority but also protecting the sanctity and values entrenched in the 1999 Constitution. The allegations against the former governors are grave and prohibited by law.
“Therefore, prioritising these cases is important to give practical effect to the constitutional principle of the rule of law. We believe that it is the involvement of many high-level public officials in corruption and the display of unsubstantiated wealth that have precipitated corruption among low level public servants in the country.
“Pursuing the 31 cases would also help to obtain the international support and mutual legal cooperation and assistance required to recover and repatriate stolen wealth, which can then be spent to provide the much needed infrastructure and development of the country.
“SERAP notes that 24 of the indicted 31 former governors by the EFCC have also been indicted by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), and their cases referred to the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Mohammed Uwais for corruption trial.
“SERAP hopes that you will take forward these cases as a matter of public interest and for the sake of justice for victims of corruption. SERAP will leave open the possibility of legal action to compel you to take steps in this direction.”