Against the expectations of Nigerians, the Federal Government on Thursday said it was not ready to prosecute individuals and firms indicted in the N1.7tn oil subsidy scam.
The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke (SAN), who spoke government’s mind in a statement, said it would be guided by the dictates of due process and the rule of law in its handling of the report of the House of Representatives AdHoc Committee on Fuel Subsidy Regime.
Apparently responding to widespread calls, particularly from civil society, for government to take an immediate decisive action on the report, the AGF said the probe was “mainly fact-finding.” He stressed that the Federal Government would conduct thorough investigations in the matter before commencing prosecution.
He hinted that a forensic audit of the accounts of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, directed by President Goodluck Jonathan in 2010, was part of the ongoing investigations that would result in the possible prosecution.
He re-echoed Jonathan’s declaration that the Federal Government was determined to prosecute all those indicted in the report, no matter how highly placed.
However, the AGF noted that the report as well as the resolutions of members of the House on the document were yet to be transmitted to the executive.
He said when received, the report and the resolutions would be passed to the anti-graft agencies for perusal. He stated that the anti-graft agencies would then be expected to assemble ingredients required to raise criminal charges that might be filed against the indicted persons.
The statement reads in part, “The attention of the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice has been drawn to recent calls by some groups and well-meaning Nigerians for the prosecution of those allegedly indicted in the Report of the House of Representatives AdHoc Committee on Fuel Subsidy Regime.
“It is pertinent to reiterate government’s position as aptly captured by Mr. President’s initial reaction to the report of the fuel subsidy probe to the effect that any person found wanting will be prosecuted, irrespective of the person’s standing in the society.
“Nigerians must, however, appreciate that in discharging this onerous responsibility, government must be guided by the dictates of the rule of law and due process as required of any democratically elected and responsible government.
“In this regard, the need to ensure that thorough investigations are carried out by relevant law enforcement agencies cannot be overemphasised.
“This is more so, as the exercise carried out by the House of Representatives is mainly fact-finding.
“I also wish to point out that the report of the ad hoc committee and the resolutions adopted by the House of Representatives have yet to be transmitted to the executive arm of government.”
Adoke cautioned against stampeding the anti-graft agencies into embarking on a hasty prosecution.
“Experience has shown that whenever our law enforcement agencies are stampeded to arraign suspects, the end result is usually the discharge of such suspects by the courts ostensibly for want of evidence.
“Nigerians must, therefore, allow our law enforcement agencies to conduct painstaking investigations that will ultimately satisfy the standard of proof required in criminal cases,” he said.
He drew attention to a forensic audit of the accounts of the NNPC, directed by Jonathan in 2010, and urged Nigerians to wait patiently for the outcome of the investigations and subsequent prosecutions that may arise from the subsidy probe conducted by the House, as well as a similar probe by the Senate.
He said, “I, therefore, humbly urge Nigerians to have faith in the processes being undertaken and to patiently wait for the outcome of the investigations and subsequent prosecutions that may flow from the fuel subsidy probe conducted by the House of Representatives and the ongoing probe by the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
On the threat by the Save Nigeria Group to mobilise Nigerians for a protest if action is not taken on the report after the expiration of a two-week ultimatum, Adoke said, “In this respect, I wish to observe that the ultimatum being given by some groups and the threat to embark on demonstrations and strike actions will only compound the problem and divert attention, as well as, the energy that would otherwise have been channelled into productive use by law enforcement agencies.”
Source – The Punch