Kabir Akingbolu, a human rights lawyer, says Abubakar Malami, attorney-general of the federation (AGF), risks five years in prison for “illegally” approving the auctioning of sea vessels holding crude oil and diesel seized by the federal government.
Malami was reported to have given approval for the sale of the oil assets valued at millions of naira and seized by security agencies over illegal oil bunkering.
He was said to have directed Omoh-Jay Nigeria Ltd, an oil firm, to auction the crude oil and diesel in four sea vessels despite the firm being tried for allegedly stealing about 12,000 metric tonnes of crude oil in 2009.
In his defence, Malami said he committed no illegality in approving the auction.
The minister said by virtue of Section 36 (5) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Omoh-Jay Nigeria Ltd which is a duly registered company can participate in the auction bidding process since it is yet to be found guilty for the allegations for which it is standing trial.
However, in a statement on Monday, Akingbolu said Malami acted beyond his powers when he independently gave approval for auctioning without the authorisation of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
He said section 31 (4) of the EFCC Act gives powers to the AGF to only make rules for the disposal of seized assets to ensure that the power of sale is not abused by the EFCC.
“To further expose the anomalies and administrative recklessness of Malami, may I invite him on a short excursion into section 31 (2) and (4) of the Economic Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, which is the enabling Act, under which he purportedly acted,” he said.
“It is submitted that the AGF does not have such power either under section 174 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria or under the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.
“For the purpose of elucidation and contrary to the highly misguided position of the AGF, section 31 (2) of the EFCC Act states that upon receipt of a final order pursuant to this section, the secretary to the commission shall take steps to dispose of the property concerned by sale or otherwise and where the property is sold, the proceeds thereof shall be paid into the consolidated revenue fund of the federation.
“In order to ensure that the power of sale of confiscated properties is not abused by the EFCC, the AGF is authorized by section 31 (4) of the EFCC Act to ‘make rules or regulations for the disposal or sale of any property or assets forfeited pursuant to this Act.’ But instead of making the ‘rules or regulations’ to guide the EFCC in the sale of confiscated properties, the AGF decided to appoint contractors including a criminal suspect to dispose of confiscated properties.”
He added that the AGF who represents the state is supposed to try to prove the guilt of the accused (Omoh-Jay Nigeria Ltd) rather, he is acting “as the mouthpiece of the suspect by singing the mantra of presumption of innocence for an accused.”
Akingbolu said since the AGF has admitted that he personally authorised the sale of confiscated properties without the authorisation of the EFCC, he has “committed an offence under section 32 (1) of the EFCC Act” and is “liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term of five years without the option of a fine.”
He urged President Muhammadu Buhari to order the inspector general of police to arrest Malami.