N2.5bn DSO Scam: HURIWA cautions AGF on interference

Posted by News Express | 23 April 2019 | 714 times

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•AGF Abubakar Malami

A non-governmental organization, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), has warned the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Alhaji Abubakar Malami, to steer clear of the on-going prosecution of the Director-General of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Modibbo Kawu.

HURIWA accused the Federal Government of letting the political and selfish interests of the members of All Progressives Congress (APC) in government to becloud the sense of their constitutionally-bound duty to preserve and maintain the constitutional provisions.

HURIWA recalled that Moddibo Kawu was charged by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission (ICPC) for allegedly misappropriating N2.5billion, a scandal that could slow down the nationwide rollout of the digital transmission of home television signals.

Besides, the ICPC is also prosecuting Lucky Omoluwa, Dipo Onifade and their firm, Pinnacle Communications Limited, for allegedly conspiring with Mr. Kawu.

However, the rights group said it was worried that the rabidly partisan Minister of Justice could undermine and water down the prosecution of the duo because the DG is a strong member of his political family, the APC, going by the revelation by an online medium that the minister had recently sent out a March 26 letter in which he demanded that the case should be immediately transferred to his office “for further review.”

The rights group said the minister “has the notoriety of scuttling anti-graft crusade especially if the suspects are members of APC.”

Although HURIWA acknowledged that while the Attorney General has the legal authority to take-over or even terminate any criminal case instituted by the Nigerian government in the public interest, it is for greater public good and national interest that the D-G of the NBC and the private businessman who allegedly benefited from the alleged diversion of public fund to the tune of N2.5billion under nebulous grounds are vigorously prosecuted to a logical conclusion at the High Court by the ICPC and affiliated offences commission rather than let the All Progressives Congress warlord like the current occupant of the office of the Federal Attorney General to ruin the matter.

HURIWA stated that Modibbo Kawu had recently aspired for the of governorship candidate of the APC in Kwara State and failed and had surreptitiously and illegally been allowed to retain the position of the chief regulator of the broadcasting industry, a position that ought to have being occupied by a core professional and an expert with no political baggage or affiliation to any of the political parties.

HURIWA said that the fact that Modibbo Kawu could be allowed to proceed to run for a political office whilst retaining his place as DG of the NBC shows that he has extensive contacts with the officials of the current APC-led Presidency in Abuja and therefore the suspiciously partisan and illegal attempt to scuttle his prosecution for corruption as is being railroaded by the Minister of Justice may be connected to a plot to undermine the anti-graft crusade which in any event has always being a one-sided fight against perceived political opponents of the President and not necessarily a patriotic crusade against the scourge of corruption and economic crime.

HURIWA stated as follows: “The disclosure by the highly respected investigative online newspaper that the anti-graft detectives are furious that this letter from Minister of Justice to ICPC on the anti-corruption case of Modibbo Kawu and another might be an attempt to frustrate another high-profile corruption case and vowed to resist it, we are calling on all Nigerians to mount pressure on President Buhari to stop the Minister of Justice from the actualization of this plot to undermine this very prosecution just like he had always done when the EFCC or ICPC are willing to charge APC leaders for one crime of corruption or the other.

“We agree that also, what is in contention is the timing of Mr. Malami’s request, as stated by officials to the online medium, because getting this case muddled up at the twilight of his four-year controversial occupation of the office of justice minister and at the eleventh hour when all cabinet ministers would be relieved of their duties is meant to undermine and destroy the case made out by ICPC against Modibbo Kawu and another.”

HURIWA recalled that Mr. Kawu, a staunch APC activist, is scheduled to be arraigned on Wednesday, after missing court appearances on alleged health grounds when the case was last heard, a situation that infuriated the presiding judge who had ordered that even if he is on a wheelchair or stretcher he should be produced in court.

“The letter purportedly seeking to interfere in this matter is a direct affront to the independence of the judiciary in addition to all that the executive arm of government headed by President Muhammadu Buhari through security forces and the corrupt Code of conduct Tribunal to degrade and undermine the court systems in Nigeria.”

It also noted that the APC-led Federal Government has succeeded in using the Code of Conduct Tribunal, headed by a man with an alleged criminal case of bribery pending with Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), as an instrument of destruction of the independence and integrity of the judiciary in the recently choreographed prosecution and hurried conviction of the first (in over 30 years) non-Northern and non-Moslem Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, and the inauguration of Justice Tanko, a Moslem from Bauchi State same as that of the tainted Chairman of the CCT, in acting capacity in violation of the constitution.

The rights group has therefore expressed regrets that the AGF who supervised the execution of the demolition of the independence of the judiciary is now hiding under some inexplicable reasons to attempt to undermine the anti-graft crusade by providing soft landing for his party man Modibbo Kawu who should be allowed to face the full weight of the law for allegedly allowing the diversion of public fund to a private firm who won a license as one of the two national carriers of signals of digital switch-over in the broadcasting industry alongside the publicly-funded Nigerian Television Authority (NTA).

HURIWA said the case of diverting the huge public fund to a private company must be prosecuted to its logical conclusion so Nigerians are told how a private firm that paid licensing fees of over N600 million and awarded the licence based on the assessment that it has the technical and funding capacity to roll out the process of digital switchover can also at the same time be seen collecting N2.5 billion from public fund and this cash, as disclosed by the prosecutor, was allegedly traced to private accounts of individuals.

“Why does the Minister of Justice plan to undermine this matter because of his political interest which is absolutely against public interest? The national security adviser was recently quoted in the media of also seeking to grant soft landing to Modibbo Kawu and Pinnacle communications both of whom are facing a case of corruption before a competent court of law?

“Nigerians must speak out to demand that President Buhari stop these extensive and aggressive attempts to destroy the judiciary.”

HURIWA recalled that the ICPC announced Mr. Kawu’s scheduled court appearance on Monday, indicating that it was unwilling to comply with the directive it received from the Attorney-General three weeks ago.

A spokesperson for the ICPC said she was not aware that Mr. Malami had asked for the case file. But Mr. Kawu admitted to the online medium on Monday that he petitioned the Attorney-General to review the case “because the ICPC had been untidy with it.”

Anti-graft officials, speaking under strict anonymity because they were not cleared to disclose details of the investigation to anyone, said they feared that handing over the case to Mr. Malami could effectively put Mr. Kawu’s prosecution in jeopardy just as HURIWA said precedence exists to show that the current minister of justice has always undermined the anti-corruption war to favour his political friends.

Specifically, the Justice Minister courted controversy when he advised the administration against further prosecution of prominent suspects in the $1.3 billion Malabu Oil scandal.

But the EFCC disagreed with the Justice Minister and proceeded with the case.

Source: News Express

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