The Infamy of Abubakar Malami, By Yemi Adebowale

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When President Muhammadu Buhari, in a nationwide broadcast on February 9, confidently directed that only the old N200 note should co-exist with new Naira notes till April 10, while he invalidated the old N500 and N1000 notes effective February 10, I knew he had been so-advised by our notorious Minister of Justice/Attorney General, Abubakar Malami. Following a suit by the governors of Kaduna, Zamfara and Kogi states against the Naira swap deadline, the Supreme Court had clearly in an interim injunction on February 8 ordered the suspension of the February 10 Naira swap deadline, and also directed the continued use of all the old notes.

The court’s interim order was a simple one: Put on hold the implementation of the Naira redesign policy pending the hearing and determination of the case brought by the state governors. But Nigeria’s clumsy Attorney General advised Mr. President to breach the Supreme Court’s interim order. Even lawyers freshly called to Bar would know that Buhari’s February 9 directive on the Naira swap deadline was a breach of the interim order of the apex court. Malami obviously knows this but because of his disdain for rule of law, encouraged the President to commit contempt of court and abuse the rule of law.

At the 67th Ministerial press briefing at the State House in Abuja (this was a few days after Buhari’s Naira farce) Malami shamelessly defended his warped advice to Buhari on the Naira swap deadline, arguing that the president had not acted in breach of the February 8 injunction of the apex court regarding the Naira redesign and swap deadline. So, our Minister of Justice is saying Mr. President can unilaterally vary the apex court’s extant order on maintenance of status quo? What garbage!

As senior lawyer Mike Ozekhome rightly stated, Buhari’s imperious February 9 nationwide address on Naira swap “was a frontal call to chaos, anarchy and national upheaval. It was a direct assault on the authority of the Supreme Court, the highest court of the land and also the head of the entire Judiciary, the 3rd arm of government under the doctrine of separation of powers.”

Ozekhome adds: “To have whimsically and capriciously varied the order of the Supreme Court was to pick and choose what order to obey or disobey. These breaches the supremacy of the 1999 Constitution provided for in section 1(1) thereof. It also frontally assaults the provisions of section 287(1) of the Constitution which provides that the decisions of the Supreme Court shall be enforced in any part of the Federation by all authorities and persons, and by courts with subordinate jurisdiction to that of the Supreme Court.”

Well, the apex court eventually delivered judgment in the suit challenging the legality of the Naira redesign policy/swap deadline on March 3, declaring the policy as unconstitutional and a violation of the fundamental rights of Nigerians as provided under the 1999 Nigerian constitution as amended. It held that the directive by President Buhari to the CBN for the redesigning and withdrawal of old notes of N200, N500 and N1,000, without consultation with the states, the Federal Executive Council and the National Council of State and other stakeholders, was unconstitutional. The apex court observed that no reasonable notice was given before the implementation of the policy as provided under the CBN Act and therefore ordered the use of the old Naira notes alongside the new notes till December 31 of this year.

Justice Emmanuel Agim, who delivered the judgment, held that President Buhari cannot unilaterally take currency redesign decision without consulting stakeholders which the plaintiffs are a part, and to that extent, his actions are invalid.

For me, the other key point in the Supreme Court’s Judgement was where the panel in its unanimous decision berated President Buhari for disobeying the interim orders of the court halting the banning of the old Naira notes. “The disobedience of the orders of the Court is a sign of the failure of rule of law”, the apex court held. It’s a confirmation that Buhari acted in breach of the February 8 injunction of the apex court regarding the Naira swap deadline. This is the level Nigeria has degenerated with Malami’s unending selfish and useless legal advice to the President.

APC’s National Vice Chairman (North-West) Dr. Salihu Lukman was apt when he called for the resignation of Malami (and Godwin Emefiele, CBN governor) for misleading Buhari into acts of illegality and abuse of executive powers as pronounced by the Supreme Court. Lukman stressed that in advanced democracies, public officers who commit such acts of illegality voluntarily resign from their appointments, adding, “the rule of law is fundamental to democracy and individuals who flagrantly violate the laws or promote acts that breach the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria must not be tolerated.”

Yes, Malami must not be tolerated in beloved Nigeria. Unfortunately, he has been enjoying free rein for almost eight years. Our Minister of Justice is never on the side of the people. The interest of the larger Nigerian society is never a priority in the course of his duty. Malami has a long list of atrocities along this line. I will never forget how he transformed into the Attorney General for the six consultants aiming to grab a massive US$418 million state and local government money, supposedly for facilitating refunds of the over-deductions on their accounts by the federal government in obligations to Paris Club. Malami relied on a dubious consent judgement to recommend that the claims be paid to the firms. This minister is the state agent backing the consultants with all his might for selfish reasons.

Malami has been flagrantly campaigning for the payment of $418 million fees to these deceptive Paris Club loan refund consultants, even after state governors went to court to challenge the payment. He is functioning as the lead advocate of the dubious consultants. As Attorney-General of the Federation, the interest of the public ought to be uppermost. This has not been the case with Malami.
Even when President Buhari directed that the payment be stopped until the case is decided by the court, the AGF is still canvassing for the consultants. Malami has been raucous, insisting that the state governors had no right to complain about the planned deduction of $418 million from states and local government funds. He should at least shut up if he is not prepared to defend public interest.

Malami’s role in the return of Abacha loot from Switzerland in 2019 also shows that he is averse to defending public interest. There was duplication of legal fees in the recovery of the $321 million from Switzerland. Fees amounting to $2 million were allegedly paid to two Nigerian lawyers for the recovery of $321 million stolen by former military ruler, Sani Abacha. Malami allegedly engaged the two lawyers after the job had been completed by Enrico Monfrini, a Swiss lawyer hired by a previous government to work on the recovery.

The Obasanjo administration had engaged the services of Monfrini in 1999 to help trace, identify, freeze and recover all looted funds linked to Abacha. After seven years of work, including investigations and litigation across various countries, Monfrini traced and recovered $321 million from Luxemburg banks. The funds were domiciled with the government of Switzerland in 2014 pending a final request for transfer from Nigeria.

However, Malami, rather than write directly to the Swiss authorities to seek the transfer of the funds to Nigeria, engaged the two Nigerian lawyers for the purpose. Monfrini openly declared that fresh lawyers were absolutely unnecessary because he had concluded all legal work.

So, whenever I say Malami is always against public interest, I know what I am saying. The facts and figures are there for all to see. One thing is certain: Malami will one day account for these infractions.

Source: First published in Thisday Newspaper

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