Malami: A Chief Law Officer In Defence Of Nigeria’s Legal Heritage, By Gidado Ibrahim

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Good laws and the political will to adhere to the grand norms form the basis and foundation for a cohesive social order. Good laws administered by bad men will make no much difference but good laws implemented by men of noble character can become the springboard for a prospering society.

The first demonstration and quality of a law officer is the solemn duty of putting country first. As a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Nigeria’s Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Justice Minister, Abubakar Malami, has demonstrated overtime uncommon courage in the discharge of his duties. The core constitutional duty of an AGF is to institute and undertake criminal proceedings against any person before any court of law on behalf of the Nigerian State.

More than any time in our history, AGF Abubakar Malami, in exercising the powers of his office as spelt out in Section 174 and 211 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), has continued to uphold due regard for the public interest, the interest of justice and the need to prevent abuse of legal and due process.

Perhaps, one of the immeasurable demonstrations of Abubakar Malami’s stubborn adherence to due process is in the process of recovery of Nigeria’s stolen funds and assets. His legal acumen helped Nigeria recover huge sums stashed in both local and foreign banks. One of such humongous recoveries is the repatriation of $311million looted by Sani Abacha from the United States.

Enemies, within and outside the country, threw everything to the works to frustrate these recovery but because of the deft manner AGF Malami handled the process, the enemies of Nigeria were put to shame and the funds were repatriated and used for the benefit of Nigerians. Because of his expertise, the federal government did not need to engage any third party in the repatriation of the stolen public funds. The transparency and accountability in the handling of the process, leading to the repatriation of the money demonstrate one thing about the AGF: that he is a man of character with utmost respect for the rule of law.

Under his watch, Nigeria today has no known political prisoner and for the first time since 1999. Gone were the days of arbitrary arrest and detention without trial. The landmark political reforms the President Muhammadu Buhari administration has achieved cannot be divorced from the legal dexterity and huge inputs and initiative of AGF Malami’s Office. Gradually, we are witnessing the recalibration of our justice system from the era of democratic impunity to one that is transparent and adheres strictly to the rule of law.

In the face of alarming increase of incidences of rape, AGF Malami has risen to the occasion by revealing plans to establish special courts for the speedy trial of rape cases. There has been a surge in the number of rape cases. The Inspector-general of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu, had revealed that 717 rape cases were recorded within seven months.

In a bid to reform administrative system, in order to minimize official corruption, Nigeria has continued to witness landmark reforms under AGF Malami’s watch. One of such breath-taking initiative was the executive order seeking to implement financial autonomy for the state legislature and judiciary. Malami has vowed that no amount of pressure from any quarter will dissuade government from its implementation.

The legal instruments AGF Malami has continued to enact are all aimed at correcting age-long wrongs that have kept Nigeria in disadvantage position. The AGF is ready to dare a terrain that is most dreaded. For instance, he has vowed to prosecute Nigerians refusing to pay tax on their properties in foreign countries and has also warned banks or intermediaries that are found to be helping any citizen conceal foreign properties, the contravention of which will attract a fine equivalent to the cost of the property.

Worried by the lost grounds of the courts due to the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, the minister keyed into information communications technology (ICT) as a tool the judiciary could use to cover the “lost grounds.

One would wonder if AGF Malami is not as committed to the success of President Muhammadu Buhari’s Next Level Agenda, given his long record of loyalty and friendship with the president. He was the National Legal Adviser of the CPC. That was not only the event that proved his steadfast loyalty to Buhari.

The test of his commitment and loyalty crystallised in the presidential election petition that was instituted after the 2011 election in which the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared Dr Goodlcuk Ebele Jonathan as the winner.

At a time very many senior lawyers were reluctant to take on Buhari’s brief, scores of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) represented Jonathan and the INEC while only three SANs represented Buhari, to wit: Malami, Oladipo Okpeseyi and the late James Ocholi. Okpeseyi was the leader of the legal team.

Although Malami has suffered affronts from traducers, right from when he was named the minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, he has remained steadfast and has refused to be distracted. Had Malami not been named for the position, he would not have been assailed by the campaigns of calumny that are crudely choreographed by a proxy whose benefactor had planned to nominate into the cabinet solely for the position of the Minister of Justice and AGF for some selfish ends.

Gracefully, Buhari decided to assign the portfolio of Attorney General to Malami. Having put his nose to the grindstone in a rare commitment to a Buhari presidency even when the possibility was remote, it was only expected that he should reap where he had sown.

And what wrong did Buhari commit by appointing a man whose capacity in the legal profession he practically knew while doing the 2011 presidential election petition in court? Those whose fixation it was to clinch the portfolio of the Minister of Justice and AGF would turn Malami into a butt of unconscionable propaganda and relentless smear campaigns. It casts a spell in the eyes of even the ordinary man how mischievous peddlers of fake news are out, firing from from all cylinder, just to malign the hard-earned proficient legal system created by Malami, a legal luminary who assumed office with a vision to tackle corruption head on.

I believe that if Malami is out of that office today, which is their wish, they would forget about him and take on anyone other than their own that is appointed in his stead. But unfortunately for them, the president has not shown any indication or inclination towards changing his cabinet not to talk of removing Malami.

– Ibrahim is director of communication and strategic planning of the Presidential Support Committee (PSC).

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