A coalition of civil society organisations on Monday kicked against the nomination of the immediate past Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, as a returning minister by President Muhammadu Buhari.
In a press conference held in Abuja on Monday, the coalition accused the nominee of being a “barrier-in-chief” to President Buhari’s ‘intention’ to fight corruption.
The signatories to the statement read before journalists are the African Centre for Media and Information Literacy (AFRICMIL), YIAGA Africa, Civil Society Legislative and Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Centre for Transparency (CTA), Lawyers Network Against Corruption (LAWNAC), Peer Advocacy and Advancement Centre for Africa (PAACA), Power to Protest (P2P), Connected Development (CODE), Keen and Care Initiative and Social Action.
On Friday, Mr Malami was one of the minister-nominees grilled by the Senate.
He was asked why many Nigerians still remain in custody even after they had been granted bail during his tenure as justice minister.
Mr Malami’s reply was that the state could still detain a person granted bail by the court if it believes the person was a threat to state security.
One of such individuals detained for years is the Islamic Movement of Nigeria leader, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, whose detention has led to violent protests that have recorded the deaths of at least 13 persons, including a journalist and a senior policeman.
Another such detained person is Sambo Dasuki, a former National Security Adviser who is still being held despite being granted bail by at least five courts including the Court of Appeal and the ECOWAS Court.
The coalition said Mr Malami’s first term left much to be desired as ”the Transparency International ranking of the country shows no improvement in public perception of corruption”.
“There was hardly any significant progress in any of the 14 national action plans. Similarly, Mr Malami failed to show any support to the work of Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, despite the revelation of the financial haemorrhage and leakages in oil production costing the country billions of unremitted dollars.
“It is on record that Mr Malami superintended the illicit payment of over $15vmillion in illegal fees to his compatriot lawyers through a phoney recovery contract, contrary to publicly available records which showed that all negotiations and payment in respect of the return of the $323 million Abacha loot had been concluded long before the phoney contract.
“It is also on record that the United States Government has repeatedly insisted never to return the outstanding $500 million, another Abacha loot, to Nigeria as long as Mr Malami is in office as Attorney General of the Federation,” Jaye Gaskia, co-convener said on behalf of the activists.
They also called for the review of the procedure for screening ministerial appointees.
They said this was to give a “window for citizens’ voice in the nomination and/or screening of public appointees”. They described the current procedure as an “expression of the current total political capture of the public administration system which bodes no good for Nigerians and our nascent democracy.”
Rafsanjani Auwal of CISLAC said the groups singled Mr Malami out because of the central role ”he has to play in the fight against corruption’. He also ascribed the refusal of some foreign countries to release Nigeria’s looted funds to their growing lack of trust for the judicial system.
He also criticised the president.
Mr Auwal said: “it is wrong that we condemn other people in the past who had done a similar thing and close our eyes now because Mr Integrity is the one in power, God will not forgive such act.
“We cannot fold our hands and watch corruption thrive because someone claims he is fighting corruption. If he has the intention to fight corruption it has not translated into action and what he is doing now invalidates such intention.
“In 2015, the whole world looked up to President Buhari to lead the fight against corruption but with what has been going on, many Nigerians have started to doubt his seriousness of fight against corruption.”
The coalition also urged President Buhari and all governors to prioritise governance over politics in order to safeguard trust in democracy.