The Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, has made an appeal to the House of Representatives Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters to approve 2.5 per cent of recovered sums for the justice ministry.
This, he said, should serve as a requisite commission from recoveries arising from stolen assets stashed abroad.
In a statement made available to PREMIUM TIMES on Friday, the AGF’ s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Salihu Isah, said Mr Malami made the call during the budget defence before the committee at the National Assembly last Thursday.
According to the statement, Mr Malami said, ‘’We are proposing that 2.5% should be earmarked as a requisite commission from recoveries arising from stolen assets stashed abroad. Most times, we have had to use our lean resources to fund these recoveries without requisite commission. I would like to affirm that so far, all recoveries of stolen assets were promptly deposited at Federal Government Treasury.’’
Mr Malami also presented the justice ministry’s 2019 budget proposal of N7.4 billion to the committee. He said the budget would cover a broad spectrum of expenditure items ranging from personnel cost, overhead, legal services and capital for 2019.
Making reference to the 2018 budget proposals, Mr Malami explained that the ministry kept faith with all the expenditure items as approved. He promised to do even more in 2019 if the committee grants the request.
He also disclosed that the rule of law is the major pillar of the democratic enterprise as well as an economic enabler.
The quest for economic resurgence and industrialisation can only be spurred by unhindered administration of justice, equity and fair play, the top government lawyer said.
‘’The challenge of bridging funding gaps keeps resonating in our operations. This is as dangerous as it is disturbing because you cannot compromise the rule of law in whatever guise because of funding inadequacy,” he said.
The minister explained that Nigeria is finding it difficult to meet several of its international protocols, treaties and conventions which require funding. He said there is the need to reverse the trend if the country is to live up to its promises.
He said in 2017, N10 billion was released for the payment of judgement debts as contained in the approved budget while in 2018, no money was appropriated for judgement debts.
He said judgement debts keep mounting and beneficiaries of this debts are getting agitated.
In his response to the committee, the Solicitor-General of the Federation, Dayo Apata, explained that the money mapped out for monitoring and evaluation would enable the ministry to carry out periodic checks in its nine zonal offices across the country.
This, he said, is to ensure that the government’s policies are being effectively monitored.
Speaking on judgment debts, one of the committee members, Ayorinde Olabode, noted the importance of the justice ministry. According to the government statement, the lawmaker advised Mr Malami to forward his complaints to the Federal Ministry of Budget and Planning so the latter could include a specific amount in the justice ministry’s budget proposal.
It is through the budget ministry that ministries and agencies of government submit their budgets to the parliament.
‘’The rule of law will not be complete if there is (a) judgment of court not to be (obeyed) by the ministry. What is the rule of law then? So if there is a judgment of (the) court and the ministry has no money to carry out the judgment, then the rule of law is not complete,” Mr Olabode said.
“So, I will think that if this budget before us is completed, the ministry should work with budget office and something specific should be provided in the budget, rather than asking the committee to take them from you. Otherwise, it will amount to budget padding and we will not like to be accused of padding budget again.”
He also commended the ministry for generating over N32 million above other revenue generating agencies.
Another lawmaker, Onyemaechi Mrakpor, representing Aniocha/Oshimili Federal Constituency of Delta-State, was quoted as advising that budget proposal should be self-explanatory.