A former top prosecutor has accused Nigeria’s top lawyer of frustrating the country’s anti-corruption fight. Oluwatosin Ojaomo, a former prosecutor with the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for Recovery of Public Property, (SPIP) says that Nigeria’s Attorney-General Abubakar Malami has withheld approval for the prosecution of hundreds of individuals accused of corruption.
Mr Ojaomo says the the cases were investigated and handed over to Mr Malami’s office by the SPIP on the directive of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019 after the president dissolved the SPIP and directed the Mr Malami to immediately take over all outstanding investigations and other activities of the agency.
Mr Ojaomo accused Malami of failure to file the cases in court in violation of the presidential directive and section 1 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015.
Ojaomo cited the case of two brothers, Ibrahim and Tijjani Tumsah, who allegedly retrieved without due process, 86 expensive vehicles and real estate seized by the SPIP on the orders of a Federal High Court.
Mr Ojaomo had written a letter on July 14 titled: ‘Request for the prosecution of Ibrahim Tumsah and Tijjani Tumsah for contravention of the Recovery of Public Property (Special Provisions) Act, 2004,’. The letter was addressed to Mr Malami and copied to President Muhammadu Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu; the Chairman, Presidential Adviser Committee on Anti-Corruption, Prof Itse Sagay; Transparency International and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
Ojaomo disclosed in the letter that the cases against the Tumsahs were dismissed due to the decision by the Court of Appeal that the SPIP did not possess the statutory powers to institute criminal matters, adding that several attempts made by the panel to get authorisation from the AGF to file charges against many criminal suspects failed.
The letter read in part: “Until the removal of the members of the panel, your office refused to give the approval which led to the dismissal of the suit against the duo (Ibrahim and Tijjani) and other matters instituted by the panel.
“One would have expected you to use your good offices as the AGF to save this matter by taking over and prosecuting them, but the ones that were taken over by your office were either withdrawn or application made for them to be struck out.
“This action has struck big damage (sic) to the anti-corruption war of this government as most of the criminal suspects indicted after investigations are back to town enjoying the stolen assets.”
The petition observed that it had been close to one year since the SPIP was dissolved by the President with a directive that all the matters handled by the panel should be handed over to the AGF for review and possible prosecution.
“None of the suspects has been charged to court as the case files are currently being kept in view at your office without any action and in clear violation of section 1 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015,” the lawyer admonished Malami.
The prosecutor also requested the AGF to either re-enlist the case against Ibrahim and Tijjani Tumsah or prefer new charges against them “as the properties which were seized from them worth billions of naira had been returned to them under suspicious circumstances.”
Mr Ojaomo offered to prosecute the Tumsahs if the AGF grants consent in accordance with Sections 383(1) and (2) of ACJA, 2015, noting that “the war on corruption must be fought without any sacred cow as directed by President Buhari.”