The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister for Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), has said a situation where courts of coordinate jurisdiction give conflicting decisions on the same issues will not encourage the desired confidence building in the judicial process.
Addressing lawyers in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, at the national conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Malami called on the judicial arm of government to demonstrate its willingness to align itself with the overwhelming desire of the people for a national change and rebirth, through the transparent use of its powers enshrined in Section 6(6)(c) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
He urged the judiciary to exercise its powers in a manner that would protect the overall national interests, “promotes the predictability of the law, and expeditiously addresses cases brought before it in a manner that would encourage our citizens to continue to have confidence in the judicial process and in democratic governance.”
He said: “Multiplicity of counter judgement and orders by courts of coordinate jurisdiction on the same subject matter by the same parties does not encourage the desired confidence building in the judicial process.”
Malami, stated that his office had taken over 8,000 case files from the Nigeria Police Force for effective prosecution.
He said his office took over the case files pursuant to the enforcement of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015.
According to him, section 106 of the Act has substantially transferred the responsibility for the prosecution of all criminal matters to the Federal Ministry of Justice by expressly prohibiting prosecution by policemen who are not trained lawyers.
He said that government remained committed to the fight against corruption and would also observe rule of law in doing so.
He said government had recorded some successes in recovering stolen wealth while prosecution of those indicted were on going.
On the international scene, he said Nigeria had started reciveing greater cooperation from the international community.
He said: “We have therefore begun to receive greater cooperation from all such foreign entities.
“Recently, we signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Switzerland governor that will ensure the imminent repatriation of $321 million Nigerian funds in Switzerland. We are equally addressing, through a robust Mutual Legal Assistance mechanism, the legal challenges which had hitherto tied down assets in excess of $500 million Dollars in jurisdictions such as the United States, Jersey Islands and the United Kingdom.
“In January, we signed four critical agreements with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which is a favourite destination of Nigerian funds, to enable us commence long-term cooperation to block and recover illicit funds in that jurisdiction.”
Malami said the gaps in legislation had led to a situation where Nigeria continued to face the potential erosion of its sovereignty through the insistence of foreign partners in monitoring the use of recovered funds, due to the absence of an institutional mechanism for the management of such recovered assets.
He further noted that at present, the procedures for assets recovery and management were spread out across various laws which did not give sufficient guidance in relation to predictability and comprehensiveness, thus rendering them inadequate.
He said: “In addition, the current laws do not provide for a central management and regulation of procedure to secure assets recovered from suspects, thus creating the possibility of fraud, abuse or poor implementation.
“It is to cure the above defects that the present administration took steps to re-transmit the bill for the establishment of the ‘Proceeds of Crime Agency’ (POCA) to the National Assembly for re-consideration and eventual passage into law. The bill has become very important in order to enable Nigeria meet international standards in the recovery of stolen assets.”
He said the bill would also ensure coordination and proper management of assets recovered from those suspected or convicted of embezzling public funds.