The Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubabar Malami (SAN), has disclosed that President Muhammadu Buhari has directed all relevant agencies to compile the names of all suspected looters, including those who are either standing trial and those who, on their own volition, returned funds to the federal government.
A Federal High Court in Lagos had ordered the government to make public the names of high-ranking officials from whom public funds had been recovered.
The court also ordered the government to tell Nigerians the circumstances under which the recoveries were made and the exact amount of funds recovered from each public official.
Malami made the disclosure Thursday during a meeting in his office in Abuja with a delegation from a civil society organisation, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).
In a statement by SERAP’s Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, on the meeting with the AGF, Mumuni said: “We had a very productive meeting with Malami, discussing among other critical issues the need for the government to obey the judgment delivered in July by Justice Hadiza Rabiu Shagari, following a Freedom of Information (FoI) suit number: FHC/CS/964/2016 brought by SERAP.”
According to Mumuni, Malami informed the group that the president had directed the Ministries of Justice and Finance, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and other relevant agencies involved in the recovery of looted funds to promptly put the documents together with a view to fully and promptly enforcing the judgment by Justice Shagari.
“We appreciate the opportunity to meet with the AGF and look forward to working with him as the government strives to enforce this very important judgment.
“We hope that the implementation of the judgment will now happen sooner rather than later. We believe that effectively implementing the judgment will be a victory for the rule of law, show the way forward in the fight against corruption and impunity of perpetrators in the country, as well as demonstrate Buhari’s oft-repeated commitment to tackling the problem of grand corruption,” Mumuni added.
SERAP’s suit followed the disclosure last year by the federal government of funds recovered from some high-ranking public officials and private individuals.
In her judgment delivered on July 5, Justice Shagari agreed with SERAP that “the federal government has a legally binding obligation to tell Nigerians the names of all suspected looters of the public treasury past and present”.
Joined as defendants in the suit were the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, and the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture.
The same day that the judgment was delivered, Malami told journalists in Abuja that government was in agreement with the ruling and would carry out the order as long as it did not amount to sub judice.
The Ministry of Information last year published details of the recoveries, which showed that the Nigerian government had successfully retrieved cash amounting to N78,325,354,631.82, $185,119,584.61, £3,508,355.46 and €11,250 between May 29, 2015, and May 25, 2016.
Also released were recoveries under interim forfeiture, which were a combination of cash and assets, during the same period: N126,563,481,095.43, $9,090,243,920.15, £2,484,447.55 and €303,399.17.
Anticipated repatriation from foreign countries totalled $321,316,726.1, £6,900,000 and €11,826.11.
The ministry also announced that 239 non-cash recoveries were made during the one-year period.
The non-cash recoveries were farmlands, plots of land, uncompleted buildings, completed buildings, vehicles and maritime vessels.
Subsequently, SERAP issued an FoI request and gave the information minister 14 days to disclose the names of all suspected looters.