“The withdrawal of the charges against Abacha is illegal, unconstitutional and a contravention of the UN Convention against Corruption.”
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, has instituted a suit over the Federal Government’s decision to withdraw the N446.3 billion corruption charges against Mohammed, son of late military dictator, Sani Abacha.
The suit was filed at a Federal High Court in Lagos against President Goodluck Jonathan and the Attorney-General of the Federation, AGF,.
In the suit (FHC/L/CS/1007/2014) filed on Monday, SERAP asked the court to declare the withdrawal of the charges against Mr. Abacha illegal, unconstitutional, and a contravention of the UN Convention against Corruption, of which Nigeria is a signatory.
The government had accused Mohammed of receiving stolen property worth N100.38 billion. The money is believed to have been stolen by the late Sani Abacha, when he was the Nigerian head of state from 1993 to 1998.
However, on June 18, the Federal government’s lawyer in an oral application told the court that the AGF has instructed him to withdraw the suit.
Following criticism from global anti-corruption organisation, Transparency International, TI, which condemned the dropping of the charges as encouraging impunity in the polity, Mr. Adoke explained that the government dropped the charges in the best interest of the country. He also said the government adhered to best international practices in withdrawing the charges against Mohammed.
However, referring to section 15 (5) of the 1999 Constitution, which states: “The State shall abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power,” SERAP argued that the defendants had abdicated their duties of preventing “the exploitation of Nigeria’s human and natural resources for any reasons other than for the good of the community.”
It also argued that that section of the constitution obligated the defendants, in cases of corruption, to ensure diligent and effective prosecution of suspected perpetrators.
“The philosophical foundation for the inclusion of the fundamental objectives in the Constitution is government’s powers are not exercised to disregard the very institution and citizens they ought to protect,” SERAP said.
Also quoting Section 174(3) of the 1999 Constitution, SERAP said the AGF fell short of his mandate to have regard for “public interest, the interest of justice and the need to prevent abuse of legal process.”
“If the Defendants want to exercise the power of withdrawing corruption charges/suit, it is mandatory that they meet the threshold of public interest, interest of justice and ensure non abuse of the court process. Thus, justice is required to be done in any case regardless of the status of anyone involved. It is submitted that the Defendants in this case over overstep on the powers contained in Section 174(3) of the 1999 Constitution,” SERAP argued.
It said by withdrawing the case against Mohammed, the government reneged on its commitment to the UN Convention against Corruption.
“Nigeria has ratified the UN Convention against Corruption, which in several of its provisions obligate the country to effectively prosecute allegations of corruption, recover stolen assets, and end the impunity of perpetrators. Several articles of the convention emphasise the importance of promoting, facilitating, and supporting international cooperation to effectively combat corruption. This good faith obligation requires the Defendants to submit cases of corruption to a State’s competent authorities for the purpose of prosecution,” it said.
Thus SERAP is asking the court to order the defendant to reinstate the corruption charges against Mohammed immediately.
No date has been fixed for the hearing of the case.