Sunday, August 12, 2007
Nigeria's Attorney-General on rogue Governors
Indications have emerged that some former governors accused of gross abuse of office allegedly hid their loot underground.
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EFCC Boss, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu
The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Michael Aondoakaa (SAN), gave the hint in an exclusive interview with Sunday Punch in Abuja two weeks ago in his office.
Though he did not give further details on the public officers involved and the specific location of their loot, he said the Federal Government was exploring all necessary and legitimate means to retrieve looted funds.
Aondoakaa marvelled at the alleged antics adopted by some former public officers in trying to shield their loot from the prying eyes of EFCC operatives.
He explained that every corrupt former public official, including ex-governors, would have to defend himself or herself over the charges against them.
He said, ”This is ongoing; if we arraign someone on specific charges at one time, that does not mean that we cannot press other charges with further evidence. Do you know how these people hide the money? Sometimes, it‘s even in places where we cannot even reach. It‘s only when people like you give us information.
“Assuming that we discover now that there are other assets somewhere, new charges will arise. We are pursuing an ongoing process; these are the most difficult sets of people when it comes to the hiding of money. Do you know that some of their money is hidden underground? If we discover such, we will go there.”
He allayed public fears over the issue of plea bargaining, saying the government would not compromise on its decision to recover all looted funds.
He said the government took account of national interest in adopting the necessary legal and constitutional strategies in the current battle to recover such funds.
He said, “You have to look at the national interest. In prosecution, the role of the law for the attorney general is to carry out prosecution in the public interest. Sometimes, this public interest could be on the issue of security or other matters. We do not discuss security issues on the pages of newspapers. If you look at Section 174 of the constitution, the EFCC is prosecuting as an agent of the Attorney-General of the Federation and anything it does is on the directions of the Attorney-General. If the EFCC goes outside the Attorney-General‘s directives, they will be cautioned. The Attorney-General has the power to take over the prosecution of cases.
“Things have to be done in the public interest. Take for instance, if we discover a governor with about $30m in an account, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, who has been doing a good job, goes to the man and, says, ‘look, this is what we found.’ The man shows remorse and says, ‘sorry sir, it‘s the devil’s work,’ and thereafter, brings back the money without stress.
”We are going to use that money in the public interest. We will now consider his case in the public interest and give him what we feel will be in public interest. However, if a former governor says no, he will not refund the money; I will still have to take from the taxpayers‘ money to pursue him,” he said.
When asked if it was enough for a corrupt former governor to forfeit a fraction of his loot and regain his freedom, the minister said that was not the case under the ongoing war against corruption.
“What I can assure you is that in all this (plea bargaining) process, we are abiding by the provisions of the constitution. I believe that you should commend this office and the EFCC. All the people that we have taken to court got there within 48 hours (of being charged). They were given opportunities and they even had their supporters there.
“It was like a political jamboree, which ordinarily I would not have allowed. But we felt we should give them that opportunity and let nobody say that we stopped anybody. Their supporters were in court, even shouting as if nothing happened. But we felt that this is a civilised country, let them have free access.”