Nigeria’s Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, was on Wednesday, reported to have transmitted a memo to President Muhammadu Buhari, urging him to suspend the country’s constitution in order to be able to deescalate the ongoing insecurity crisis across the country.
In particular, Malami is alleged to have urged the president to suspend Nigerians’ fundamental human rights as contained in Chapter IV of the Nigerian constitution. According to the news medium, the Attorney-General, in a “secret memo” dated May 4, 2021, told Mr Buhari that insecurity across Nigeria had reached a level that could no longer be checked by existing democratic techniques…”
The report, released by an online news vendor, The Peoples Gazette, alleged that Malami had, in a secret memo, advised Mr President to keep in mind the option of declaring a nation-wide state of emergency” during which he would put a hold on the constitution, which is the country’s administrative instrument, in order for the government to leverage on a wide range of powers arising therefrom to deal with the crisis without having to worry about any legal drawback.
“The essence of declaration is to allow for suspension of constitutional and legal bureaucratic bottlenecks pertaining to matters of National Security with particular regards to fundamental rights guaranteed under Chapter IV of the 1999 Constitution and processes and procedures relating to procurements, among others,” the paper quoted Malami to have advised in the memo to the president.
But in his reaction, Malami denied the allegation urging Nigerians to wave it off as a”…fabrications of anti-constitutional democratic stability in Nigeria.”
Malami, whose denial came via a statement released by his spokesperson, Umar Gwandu, noted that “The Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice is a constitutionally recognised one with its role and responsibilities embedded in the constitution. It is antithetical to common sense to think that the holder of such coveted office as the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice will stoop to what was printed by the media.”
Malami has been enmeshed in a number of controversies since he assumed office as Attorney-General and Minister of Justice. Chief among them is the allegation of financial impropriety and influence peddling. He is alleged to have authorized the sale of vessels owned by companies being prosecuted by the EFCC for illegal bunkering.
The AGF is also alleged to have twisted the law to protect his family members, corrupt officials and institutions in ways that are unbecoming of his position as the country’s number one law officer. Further reports say he is behind the discontinuation of a N25 billion criminal charge against Senator Danjuma Goje without any justification, after over seven years of diligent investigation and prosecution by the EFCC. And in another instance, he is alleged to have withdran criminal charges against soldiers accused of killing police officers and a civilian to aid the escape of millionaire Kidnapper, Wadume.
For the numerous allegations against Malami, some civil society organizations are of the opinion that his conduct is “totally opposite the core objectives of your (the Buhari) administration and international perception of the country,”. They went to say that there are a number of concerned over why he is still in office.
Indeed the concerns appear to be many. One of them is that the AGF clandestinely worked for the reinstatement of former Pension Reforms Task Team head, Abdulrasheed Maina, into the federal civil service. He is also accused of having attempted to withdraw a fraud allegation case against former President Obasanjo’s brother-in-law, Dr John Abebe, a move which was resisted by the EFCC on the ground that he lacked the constitutional power. Many see the case as one of the reasons the AGF recommended the removal of the then anti graft agency head, Ibrahim Magu.
Others allegations against him including the withdrawal of the cases against the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, Mr Danladi Yakubu, for criminal charges, demand for the withdrawal of the cases against Bello Adoke, Diezani Alison-Madueke and others over the Malabu scandal. It involves the controversial OPL 245 from which Nigeria has recovered about $78 million from individuals already convicted in Italy just as some oil giants linked with the graft continue to face prosecution in Milan.
It is equally alleged that apart from Malami’s stoppage of investigation of huge fraud in Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending, NISRAL, he is said to have transmitted a letter ordering the EFCC, ICPC, DSS and NFIU to halt investigating the NIRSAL scam describing the investigation process as an “unhealthy competition” and “sheer waste of government resources”.
The allegations against Malami are too numerous to be listed here. However, his alleged secret memo, if true, may be one of several which may have resulted in a number of state of emergencies the country has witnessed. He may have alluded to that in part of his denial statement where he seems to suggest that even if the existence of the alleged memo is true, he did not act in breach of any known Nigerian law.
“The government does not operate in secrecy as it is not a clandestine operation. Hence, Malami discharges his constitutionally recognised mandates in compliance with principles of transparency, openness and accountability.”
Before now, Nigerians have contended with several constitutional suspensions particularly during military rule when the country was governed by decrees. For instance, between 1984 and 1985 when incumbent president Buhari ruled the country after seizing power via a military coup, he suspended both the constitution and all democratic institutions. However, the closest the country went through under any democratic government took place under former President Olusegun Obasanjo. He did not only declare a state of emergency in Plateau state, he also suspended all democratic institutions including the state house of assembly.
Immediate past president, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, also declared a state in three northern states, including Borno, Yobe and Adamawa over insurgency concerns. However, he refused to suspend democratic institutions as done by President Obasanjo.