Nigeria’s jurisprudence: Locating Malami’s place in history

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“…I see the role of the attorney general, as someone in an office that can protect you and defend the constitution and defend state sovereignty and our individual liberty.” – Alan Wilson .

Over the last six years, there is no iota of doubt about the reengineering of Nigeria’s jurisprudence. In more than one fell swoop, the country has witnessed sweeping and audacious reforms in our legal system and jurisprudence. These reforms have been far-reaching and encompassing in strengthening Nigeria’s democratic culture and the advancement of our jurisprudence. The aim has been to railroad Nigeria into the comity of nations with regards to global standards in the judicial system; one that advances liberty and underpin the nation’s sovereignty. 

Thus, these landmark achievements have only been feasible owing to no other factor than the discreet and painstaking approach adopted by the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami, SAN. As our liberal democracy expands in scope and reach, amidst the ubiquitous nature of information dissemination in the age of big data, there has been a corresponding inordinate ambition for agitations and separatists movement that are clearly disingenuous and inimical to Nigeria’s sovereignty and oneness. Added to that is the naked display of lucre and pilfering of the national till. Such that, the task of resetting the usage and application of public treasury has likewise been thrust upon Malami, as the Chief Law Officer of the country. 

These two monsters  – public treasury thievery and nebulous secessionist agitations – have in the long run come to define the prevailing and circumstantial responsibilities of the AGF and his zeal to rise to the occasion in defence of constitutional democracy. Substantially, there is a sense in which the two crises of corruption and secession appear to be at the root causes of Nigeria’s ailing nationhood and disturbing cases of unpatriotic agitations. Corruption derails a nation’s launchpad to development and economic growth. Secession fuels and stokes division, unpatriotism, insecurity and abuse the minds of citizens on nationhood while enriching secessionists, agitations, separatists and tribal warlords.

True to type, the AGF himself has unequivocally redefined his mandate with utmost precision as the Chief Law Officer of the country in unmistakable terms. In chronicling and x-raying his constitutional mandate and what legacy he intends to leave behind in the annals of history, Malami during his screening for the position of MOJ by the Nigerian Senate, bore his mind. According to Malami, the most important aspect he wants history to remember him for is as an anti-graft czar entrenched in the “fight against corruption, recovery of looted funds; locally and internationally.” 

In no hold bars, Malami informed the Senate that “my major task and intention are to ensure that our laws relating to treason and treasonable felony are indeed effectively brought to bear to ensure that this nation of ours remains one and the same.” Understandably, Malami’s postulation of his responsibilities as the MOJ squarely falls within the purview of Nigeria’s most tasking public office. First, the task is onerous, given that, many secessionists and agitators often hide under the cover of Article 1 of the  United Nations (UN) Self-Determination Provision to cause chaos and incite troubling polarisation. As the clearing office for the prosecution of matters relating to secession, Malami has had to walk several tight ropes to navigate the nation’s law on sovereignty and indivisible legal status…

It is the light of the above that Malami has inadvertently made both friends, foes and frenemies. With Malami, nothing is and will ever remain in doubt about the capacity and capabilities of the state to protect legally and constitutionally its sovereignty and to halt purveyors of illiberal dissent and agitations in Nigeria. Again, with the return to the two cases of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu and Chief Sunday Igboho to the court with the two under custody, Malami has proven beyond all reasonable doubts about his tactfulness as the Chief Law Officer of the country. Credit will go to Malami for his ability to deploy powers within the confines of the law in arresting the debilitating cases of secession that were pitching the country to the precipice. 

Another area, Malami had put in stellar performance is in the recovery of looted funds and assets. Through the Assets Recovery and Management Unit in the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation (OAGF), Malami has spearheaded the recovery of about N59 billion; $385.4 million, the recovery of about $73 million as parts of OPL245 Malabu Oil debacle. The negotiations and signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the return if $322.5 million and $500 million from the United States and the Island of Jersey  and France are all traceable to the meritorious efforts of the AGF. 

Still on corruption, Mr Malami has enabled and formulated several enabling laws and frameworks to checkmate the spate of graft in the country. To this end, the legal instrumentality of the Executive Order Nos. 6 and 8 on the Preservation of Assets Connected with Corruption and Voluntary Offshore Assets Regulation Scheme (VOARS), Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit Acts, Proceed of Crime Act, and Public Interest Disclosure and Witness Protection Act are all sound legislations to fight corruption. 

Taking cognisance of the shoddy implementation of policies and the attendant red tape and bottlenecks, specifically, as they enable the free flow of corruption activities, Malami was quick to ensure that extant laws governing the Treasury Single Account (TSA), Bank Verification Number(BVN) and the Integrated Payroll and Payment Information System (IPPIS) policies were strictly adhered to and fine toned to check abuses in the public sector. The understanding of Malami stemmed from the fact that these strategic policies remain the bedrock to President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration template to ensure transparency and accountability in governance. A better way to ensure the attainment of this objective lies squarely in the deployment technologically driven software to protect abuses and safeguards the nation’s public finances and treasury. 

On the dispensation of justice and law reforms, Malami has led in initiating several landmark legislations and reforms that will ever remain timeless in the annals of history. Such critical aspects of reforms include Justice Sector Reform Committee, Open Government Initiatives,Sentencing Guidelines for Judicial Officers, Electoral and Anti-Corruption Law/Policy Reforms. Last week, Malami in conjunction with the National Judiciary Council (NJC) launched Court Proceedings Device (CPD) to enable judges move away from analog by way of writing down court proceedings to digital recording of court proceedings. This development remains one of the most outstanding reforms in the dispensation of justice in Nigeria. 

Beyond these reforms and critical pieces of legislations, Malami has also become a behemoth of sort in adjudication of cases involving Nigeria, including winning cases abroad. Nigeria’s ability to get relieve of the $1.5 billion liability and gains of $660,000 arbitration in the dispute involving Interocean Oil Company. On thus case, the nation was under apprehension due to the presence of economic downturn and crunch in the midst Covid-19 pandemic.  The consequences of an indictment and payment of the fine would have been huge on Nigeria. This achievement was basically an outcome linked to the legal prowess and doggedness of Malami and his astute team. 

Most importantly, Malami’s role as the Chief Law Officer and his understanding of the OAGF, have enabled him to zealously guide the Buhari’s government on salient issues of national importance. Such areas include national security, terrorism, financial crimes and other nefarious activities in the country. In various ramifications, Malami’s intervention as the AGF have been instrumental in directing the nation and government to align its policies in line with best practices. 

The man Malami, was born on 17th April, 1964 in Birnin-Kebbi, Kebbi State. He attended Nasarawa Primary School; School of Basic Arts and Science. He then attended Usman Danfodio University, Sokoto where he graduated with an LL.B; he further obtained a master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Maiduguri. He was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1992, after which he commenced his law practice. 

As a loyal fellow and confidant to President Buhari, Malami joined the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), where he was the party’s National Legal Adviser. At the dawn of 2014 merger  of opposition parties, Malami was one of the arrowheads in the merger talks and was influential in drafting the merger agreement that birth the All Progressives Congress (APC). He also run for the governorship of Kebbi State but was outperformed by the current Governor, Atiku Bagudu in the APC primaries. 

With the inception of the APC government and victory from the 2015 presidential election, Malami would be headhunted to be the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice. Considering his stellar performance and dedication, Malami would be reappointed in 2019, where he has continued to implement critical policies within the justice system and reform of the legal system. 

Although, Malami has continued to face criticisms from partisan analysts, his place in Nigeria’s history is huge and imperative to the sustenance of the Nigerian nation state. He comes into history, as an Attorney General whose focus and template was first the protection of Nigeria and its constitution, while safeguarding individual liberty. Malami would be remembered as a Chief Law Officer who expanded the frontiers of democracy, in enriching the Nigerian legal system, expanding the scope of financial crimes laws, widening the extent of anti-terrorism laws as well. 

As critical as his role is, Malami has been able to steer the ship of the Nigerian legal system, putting the law first while relegating politics to the background. To him, the law comes first before politics. It is the aggregation and summation of all these lofty heights and achievements that places Malami as a patriotic attorney general, one who puts the country first, reinvigorating Nigeria’s jurisprudence and democracy to global acclaim. Malami, an intelligent and fearless law officer, is unperturbed by the vagaries of partisan commentators. That is his height in Nigerian history and even beyond.

Ekpeyong, Esq writes from Abuja.

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