Abubakar Malami’s Impact On Nigeria’s Justice System

Abubakar Malami Minister of Justice Attorney-General

By Umar Jibrilu Gwandu

In its speculative report on “How Buhari will Assign Ministerial Portfolios,” the Daily Trust on Sunday 28th July 2019 alludes that “Abubakar Malami (Kebbi) is most likely to be retained as Attorney-General and Minister of Justice”.

Although the paper says he could be appointed the Minister of Information, but was quick to say that it was very “unlikely” to get him moved out of the Ministry of Justice claiming that “impeccable Presidency sources” said there is no contemplation to replace him because “he has a lot of unfinished assignments in the ministry”.

The media is making this position on Malami not because he is the Chairman of the Presidential High Powered Committee on Extension of Continental Shelf neither because of his experience as the Chairman, Presidential Committee on the Verification of Debts owed to Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria nor of the fact that he chairs Presidential Implementation Committee on the Financial Autonomy of State Legislature and Judiciary.

Abubakar Malami, SAN, the then youngest Minister of Buhari’s first term proved to be an instrument for the amplification and the actualization of presidential ambition of making Nigeria out of the nasty epithet of a “corrupt nation”.

During Malami’s tenure as the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, the Asset Recovery and Management Unit of the office revealed that fifty-nine billion, one hundred and sixty-three million, twenty-nine thousand, nine hundred and forty-nine naira, forty-Six Kobo (N 59,163,029,949.46) as well as three hundred and eighty-five million, four hundred and ninety-five thousand, nine hundred dollars ($385,495,900.00) were locally recovered to the Nigeria government.

President Buhari’s fight against corruption received a boost as when Malaimi succeeded in the recovery of over $73 Million being part of the proceeds from the sale of OPL 245 by Malabu Oil and Gas Company to ENI/SHELL.

It is not surprising that while responding to the Senate on Friday 26th July 2019,  Malami unequivocally puts, that among other things, he wants to be remembered as one who ensured the aggressive “fight against corruption, recovery the looted funds; locally and internationally”.

“So my major task and intention are to ensure that our laws relating to treason and treasonable felony are indeed effectively brought to bear to ensure that this nation of ours remains one and the same,” Malami said.

Chronicling the achievements recorded during his tenure as the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Malami showed committed to the recovery of stolen assets stashed abroad through negotiations with different countries.

His efforts culminated into the eventual signing of MOU’s which yielded positive results that saw the return of $322.5 Million and $500 Million located in the United States, Island of Jersey and France.

As a Minister of Justice Malami was instrumental to the revolutionary movement in the war against corruption which included the drafting of Presidential Executive Order Nos. 6 and 8 on the Preservation of Assets Connected with Corruption and Voluntary Offshore Assets Regularisation Scheme (VOARS) respectively.

As the Attorney General of the Federation, Malami saw to the establishment of a Virtual Automated Case Management System to integrate Prosecution Data with the existing Prison Information Management System by incorporating an Integrated Biometrics Prisoners Information Technology to fast track Prison Decongestion in Nigeria.

As a member of the Presidential Committee on Prisons Reform and Decongestion, Malami contributed to the effective decongestion of Nigeria Prisons as the Committee visited and appraised thirty-two (32) prisons in fourteen (14) States of the Federation that saw to the release of three thousand, seven hundred and forty (3,740) prisoners.

Malami’s tenure as the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation saw to the inauguration of Law Review Team which lead to the establishment of Money Laundering Prevention and Prohibition Bill 2017; Anti-Terrorism Prevention and Prohibition Bill 2017; Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit Bill 2017; Proceeds of Crime Bill 2017; Public Interest Disclosure and Witness Protection Bill, 2017 and The Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Bill, 2017.

These initiatives included the whistleblowing protection policies prevented the expulsion of Nigeria from EGMONT Group – a Canada-based network of 159 financial intelligence units.

He successfully see to the designing  Broad Policy Framework or improving the Judicial Process and Access to Justice that included assessment of criminal cases that were being prosecuted by lay police Prosecutors before the enactment of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015.

As the Minister of Justice, Malami also established the Justice Sector Reform Committees in the Federation, provide Sentencing Guidelines for Judicial Officers; f Open Government Partnership Initiatives, Electoral and Anti-Corruption Law/Policy Reforms among others.

By way of fighting corruption, the Minister of Justice also ensured the effective implementation of preventive anti-corruption policies such as the Treasury Single Account (TSA), the Bank Verification Number (BVN), implementation of the Code of Conduct Legislations and the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System

(IPPIS).

No wonder the fearless and bold Malami told the Senate Ministerial Screening session that “in terms of the fight against terrorism we have succeeded within the time I was made Attorney General to conclude 63 terrorism cases and secured 59 convictions.

“I am happy to report we have succeeded in helping the government to save N145 billion through the dispensation of cases relating to the Federal Government and in dollar $5 billion within a period of 3 years….”

The office has prosecuted 1,141 civil and 12, 412 criminal cases. “We increased the recovery account from N19 billion to N279 billion as at November 2018 (i.e 1329 % increase in the recovery”, Malami said.

On these achievements recorded by Malami, Senator Ovie Omo Agege said “for some of us, it didn’t come as a surprise because we expected it. You are a good man. You are a brilliant attorney. You are a fearless anti-corruption warrior which is one of the major plans made by President”

While Senator Bassey Akpan said “this Attorney-general is a capacity nominee…. He is the most misunderstood Nigerian”, according to Senator Bala Ibn Na’allah (Kebbi South) they planned and allowed that Malami be grilled by the Senate during the screening “because of the product we brought. I am happy with the fact that all the questions asked have been satisfactory”.

Umar Jibrilu Gwandu, Ph.D., Department of Mass Communication Bayero University, Kano (umarungwandu@gmail.com)