9 September 2017
By James Ojo
The squabble between Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, AGF, Abubakar Malami, and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, over allegations by the anti-graft agency that the Justice ministry leaked information about its ongoing investigations of alleged corrupt officials to the public appeared to have deepened as of Friday.
Cerebral Lemon recalls that a report published by Punch Newspaper on Wednesday had alleged that the EFCC was conducting investigation into cases of alleged fraud involving high profile persons numbering over a hundred.
According to the report, some of the names on the list include: Minister of Mines and Steel, Kayode Fayemi; Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, Former Minister of Finance; Ngozi Okonjo-Iwala among others.
Reacting to the report, EFCC denied investigating Onnoghen but confirmed that it was indeed conducting an investigation of other politically exposed persons whose details had earlier been sent to the justice ministry.
The anti-graft agency however wondered how such information was leaked to the media after the commission sent it to AGF’s office, saying the investigation had been damaged.
The EFCC had in a statement signed by the commission’s head of media and publicity, Wilson Uwujaren said: “For the avoidance of doubt, cases under investigation communicated to the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation by the Commission are classified information and it is troubling how such would be leaked to the media.”
But reacting to EFCC’s allegation that the Justice ministry leaked the information on Friday, Malami, in a statement signed by his special assistant on media and publicity, Salihu Isah, described such allegation as “petty and unsavoury.”
The statement reads: The attention of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, has been drawn to a report in the media space insinuating that the Honourable Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen, GCON and other former and serving government and judicial officers are under investigation for alleged corruption.
“The report also listed other high-profile Nigerians who it claimed are purportedly under investigation for corruption to include former Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance under ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, present Minister of Solid Minerals Development and former Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, a sitting judge of the Federal High Court, Hon. Justice Abdu Kafarati, among others.
“The Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice wishes to express his displeasure over the unfortunate and unbecoming innuendo by certain persons and agencies which sought to accuse his office of leaking what was termed as classified information to the public.
“This office therefore wishes to state categorically, but with absolute repudiation, that it did not at any time leak such information to the media as wrongly alluded to by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC. The pertinent question to ask is since the EFCC has publicly denied that the Honourable Chief Justice of Nigeria is not under probe or investigation; is it then possible for the same EFCC to have forwarded any classified information on a non-existent probe or investigation of the Honourable CJN to the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation? It also goes to show that the Office of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation could not have leaked a non-existent classified information on an equally non-existent probe or investigation.
“The Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice strongly frowns at any unsavoury attempt or conspiracy to drag his office and that of the Honourable Chief Justice of Nigeria into petty squabbles in the midst of burning national issues”.
The statement went on to warn EFCC against attempt to lower principal officials of the ministry of justice, stressing that Malami has profound respect for Mr. Onnoghen and the entire judiciary in Nigeria.
It added: “We therefore use this opportunity to reaffirm our deep respect for the distinguished person and office of the Honourable Chief Justice of Nigeria, and we will never be party to any unpatriotic effort to denigrate his exalted office. We wish to state unequivocally that the office of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation will continue to collaborate with His Lordship in his efforts to reform the judiciary and galvanise the anti-graft war. Indeed the present administration appreciates His Lordship for his unwavering support for its anti-corruption drive.
“We wish to state further that we are neither aware of nor privy to any purported probe or ongoing investigation of the Honourable Chief Justice of Nigeria by any security or anti-graft agency. The office of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation dissociates itself from the baseless allusion or suggestion obviously made in bad faith to the effect that His Lordship is under any form of probe or investigation what so ever.
“In view of the above, the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice wishes to emphatically reiterate that he has profound confidence in the Chief Justice of Nigeria and wishes His Lordship the very best in the discharge or performance of his daunting duties to the nation at large.”