There are reports of a growing conflict between the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
But the anti-graft agency in a statement issued on Thursday by its spokesman, Wilson Uwujaren, denied any conflict.
The Minister of Justice, Malami, had on Tuesday told the EFCC to always submit to his office details of its investigations into ‘serious cases’. He said the directive is in compliance with the Economic and Financial Crimes (Enforcement) Regulations, 2010.
According to The Cable, the Justice Ministry made the request on Tuesday, via a letter dated August 1, and signed by a lawyer, Abiodun Aikomo.
A report by The Nation states that the letter is suspected to be a booby trap for Magu to show whether or not he will disrespect the directive of the AGF. The newspaper further reports that at the EFCC, officials are concerned that the AGF may use his constitutional powers to determine which cases to prosecute or discontinue.
In the letter, the ministry accused the commission of failing to comply with section 10 of the said regulation and demanded compliance going forward.
“I am directed by the Honourable Attorney- General and Minister of Justice to refer to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Enforcement) Regulations 2010 (the Regulation) published in the Federal Republic of Nigeria Official Gazette No.61 Vol. of 21st September 2010, particularly the obligations of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC/the Commission).
“I am directed to refer specifically to Section 10 (1) which mandates the Commission to forward to the Attorney-General, in respect of a case of complaint which is serious or complex within the context of the Regulation, the outcome of its investigation(s) with its recommendations on whether there are sufficient grounds to initiate prosecution.
“The Honourable Attorney-General observes that the Commission has been in breach of the above cited provision of the Regulation for some time, hence this reminder to the Commission to ensure compliance going forward.
“Accept please, the assurances of the best of the Honourable Attorney General,” the letter said.
Reacting on Thursday, EFCC spokesman, said the commission was “compliant with all provisions of law and has no intention to stoke a misunderstanding over requests from the office of the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice”
The statement also reads: “Furthermore, the Commission’s mandate, operational philosophy and the conduct and pronouncements of its officials do not countenance any activity on the fringes of the law. It is therefore untenable for there to be any suggestion that the EFCC or the Commission’s principal officials are either in conflict with or readying for a “showdown” with the AGF or other officials of government”.
The Nation newspaper had quoted a source, who spoke in confidence, as saying: “We suspect that the AGF now wants to determine which serious cases to prosecute and those to discontinue.
“This is a replica of what we experienced about 10 years ago when a former Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mike Aondoakaa(SAN), was trying to exercise his prosecutorial powers by cutting the former EFCC Chairman, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, to size.
“We are all downcast because what we consider good cases might be rejected by the AGF. Yet, the Acting EFCC chairman cannot disobey the AGF.
“This is the second time the EFCC will go through this type of hurdle during the tenure of Magu. At a point, the National Prosecution Committee demanded for similar case files but we could not afford such a risk.”
But Uwujaren insists reports of conflict or crisis were “false narratives” being pushed into media headlines by “some unscrupulous persons”.
He wrote: “Any such “conflicts” being paraded in the media exist only in the apparently fertile imaginations of corrupt elements angling to knock heads together in furtherance of their own pro-corruption agenda. All the brouhaha raised in recent days over a non-existent conflict between the EFCC and the office of the AGF only go to underline the fact that corruption can and is fighting back in a variety of ways.
“The Commission wishes to underscore that the EFCC is a creation of statute and its operations and officials being as they are, guided by the firm, unambiguous provisions of those laws and regulations, are not and can never be in contravention of the law or opposition to constituted authority”.