AGF Malami explains role in suspension of N5.7 billion fraud trial
The Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, has explained his role in the controversial suspension of the trial of some government officials in Katsina State on November 27.
Mr Malami’s explanation was contained in a reaction to the latest report by this newspaper on the alleged diversion N5.7 billion fund by officials of the Katsina State Government.
We had reported the suspension of the trial of some officials of the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme, (SURE-P), following the inability of the Katsina State Ministry of Justice to secure the prosecution file from the office of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission, (ICPC).
According to the report, the SURE-P officials involved in the trial are a former special adviser to former Katsina State governor, Ibrahim Shema, on SURE-P, Nasiru Ingawa; the director of account and finance SURE-P department, Abdulaziz Shinkafi; and chief store officer Katsina State civil service, Bello Bindawa.
The report also cited portions from previous court sessions where an official of the Katsina State Ministry of Justice had told the court that Mr Malami requested the prosecution file from the ICPC for onward transmission to the Katsina justice ministry.
This newspaper reported that the official, a permanent secretary and solicitor-general to the Katsina State Ministry of Justice, Abdulsalam Sabiu, however stated in court that the AGF was in possession of the same prosecution file and was yet to hand it over to the prosecution team.
The previous report explained that the case, initiated in 2017 by the ICPC, had constituted the subject of a dispute between the commission and the Katsina State Ministry of Justice over the persistent request by the state to proceed with the trial of the government officials.
In a statement on Monday by Mr Malami’s media assistant, Salihu Isah, the AGF reacted to the November 27 story and denied collecting the prosecution file relating to the case.
“At no time did the HAGF/MOJ direct the ICPC to hand over the file to the Katsina State government but did not hand it over before he travelled out of the country as it (PREMIUM TIMES report) claimed. On the contrary, he had bluntly refused (request),” Mr Isah said.
The statement demanded a retraction of the November 27 report by this newspaper within 48 hours, describing same as false and malicious.
Mr Malami’s statement however confirmed that the AGF received a request for transfer of the file from the ICPC to the Katsina State Ministry of Justice.
According to the statement, Mr Malami declined the request by the Katsina State Ministry of Justice for the state to be given the fiat to prosecute the matter, initially begun by the ICPC.
“The truth of the matter is that, contrary to the report, the Office of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice in response to the letter of the Katsina state Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice with reference number DPPA/REQ/510/18 dated 29thNovember, 2018 and titled, RE: REQUEST FOR CASE FILE FROM INDEPENDENT CORRUPT PRACTICES AND OTHER RELATED OFFENCES COMMISSION (ICPC) IN RESPECT OF CHARGES NOS. KTH/9C/2017-FRN VS ALHAJI ABDULAZIZ ABDULLAHI SHINKAFI AND ONE OTHER AND KTH/SC/2017-FRN VS NASIRU INGAWA AND ONE OTHER, the Director of Public Prosecution of the Federation, Mohammed Umar Etsu had written and I quote:
“I am further directed to inform you that after a careful study of your request, it is the directive of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation that the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Commission (ICPC) be allowed to continue the prosecution of the case.”
Mr Malami’s statement further confirmed that the failure of the AGF’s office to respond on time to the request by the Katsina State Ministry of Justice may have resulted in the inability of the matter to continue in court.
The AGF in his statement cited parts of a communication with his Katsina State counterpart which suggested that the state’s justice ministry repeatedly requested the adjournment of the matter in court, till it received a response from the office of the Federal Ministry of Justice regarding the matter.
According to the statement, the Katsina State justice ministry had planned to proceed with the trial, after converting some of the accused persons to witnesses in the matter.
The communication contained in a letter from the Katsina State Ministry of Justice which formed part of Mr Malami’s statement also confirmed PREMIUM TIMES report that the Katsina State Ministry of Justice was bent on taking over the matter from the ICPC.
“The letter by the Katsina State Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice, Ahmad Usman Muhammad El-Marzuq reference number MOJ/KT/CON.10/VOL.1/142 titled as above was dated 28/08/2018 for which a reminder dated 30thOctober, 2018 was sent to the AGF/MOJ. State inter alia:
“I wish to further seek for the intervention of your office to facilitate the release of the case files, in respect of the above mentioned cases, to me, by the ICPC for the reasons stated in our earlier letter reference NO. MOJ/KT/CON.10/VOL… of 20thMarch, 2017, that is to say, to enable me to discontinue criminal proceedings against the accused persons and turn them to state witnesses in respect of charge NO. FHC/KT/26C/2017 FRN VS Ibrahim Shehu Shema (Copy attached).
“I also wish to request you to grant your fiat to me to discontinue criminal proceedings against the accused persons in the charges before the High Court of Justice, Katsina State as the patience of the court has been exhausted by our persistent requests for the adjournments of the cases, to enable me get the case files as well as your fiat based on clause (2)(c) of your fiat dated 7th July, 2017 (copy attached).”