Abubakar Malami, Nigeria’s minister of justice and attorney-general, has described as “baseless” the objections by state governors to the Federal Government’s deduction of $418m from the Paris Club refunds to pay consultants.
Malami also disclosed that Nigeria is currently reviewing its Criminal Code System, as well as harmonising the Penal code and criminal law system to allow for parity between the North and the South.
The criminal code is the apex codified law in Nigeria for criminal investigation, trial and punishment of criminals, derived from the Nigeria Criminal Code Act of 1916, Nigeria Penal Code Act 1960 and other criminal laws enacted by the Nigerian parliament from time to time.
There have been contentions over the differences in the applications of the laws between the North and the South parts of the country.
The minister while speaking at the regular briefing of the Presidential Media team on Thursday said the $418m payment to the consultants was at the instance of the governors.
According to Malami, the Nigerian Governors’ Forum had given their mandate for the deductions to pay the consultants engaged by them.
He said that “All the noise is now being generated by the Governors’ Forum, is not only unjustified but indeed a clear case of absence of defence”
According to Malami, “the Governors’ Forum, comprising of all the governors sat down commonly and agreed on the engagement of a consultant to provide certain services for them relating to the recovery.
“So, it was the Governors’ Forum in the first place that engaged the consultant when eventually successes were recorded, the governors collectively and individually, presented a request to the federal government for the fund.
“Among the components of the claim presented for the consideration of the Federal Government was a component related to the payment of this consultant.
He said the governors recognised the consultant, recognised the claim and presented such claim to the Federal Government.
The claims were eventually processed and paid to the consultants without the intervention of the Federal Government.
They requested an order from the court to allow them settle out of court and the court granted their request to meet the terms of the settlement
“Thereafter, the Federal Government under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari was requested to comply with the judgement at the Supreme Court on the matter.
“The president passed all the requests of the governors to the attorney-general for consideration,” said Malami.
He noted that “like the P&ID’s case, payments were made to the consultants, after due clearance by the EFCC and the DSS.”
Speaking on his achievements in office in the past 18 months, he disclosed that about 1000 terrorists were convicted
The minister also noted that about 648 cases instituted against the president, ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), are at different stages of trials, added the ministry of justice has also successfully defended cases without hiring consultants from outside.
“We have succeeded in addressing and avoided liability of over N54.8bn and $507.5m as judgement debts, succeeded in building capacity, using government lawyers, rather than hiring legal experts.
He stated that the current administration also saved Nigeria the execution of $10bn of the P&ID judgement, adding that “Nigeria is hopeful that the country will triumph in the case”
On contract negotiations, Malami stated that the Buhari-led administration inherited contracts that were the product of in-house compromise, but added that “the current government has succeeded in ensuring that all contracts are properly vetted”
“The ministry vetted about 392 major contracts to ensure value for money, save the nation from internal conspiracy of the current administration.
“We have ensured that loan agreements do not impose additional liabilities, vetted over 250 agreements signed by the current administration.
He noted that the signing of the Budapest Convention on Cybercrimes, has made Nigeria a major beneficiary of the global criminal information sharing.
“We have processed over 50 legislations, inclusive of bill that establishes educational institutions in the country.
He also cited the autonomy of the Judiciary as one of the bills initiated by the current administration to save the institution from executive abuse.
“Others include the proceeds of Crimes Act, 2022 and the Petroleum Industry Act, 2022.