The Attorney-General of the Federation, AGF, Abubakar Malami (SAN) has responded to some serious allegations levelled against him by media firms, SaharaReporters and PUNCH Newspaper.
According to the publication, Malami, last year, granted approval to some operators in the oil industry to sell five sea vessels holding crude oil and diesel forfeited to the Nigerian Government.
The crude-laden vessels valued at millions of naira were seized by security agencies from illegal oil bunkering operators during different operations.
Allegation 1: Giving approval to Oil firms standing trial in Court to sell Crude oil forfeited to the Government
Documents showed that the AGF directed Omoh-Jay Nigeria Ltd to dispose of the crude oil and diesel in four sea vessels through an open bid, despite the fact that the firm and its Managing Director, Mr Jerome Itepu, stood trial at the Delta State High Court, Asaba, for allegedly stealing about 12,000 metric tonnes of crude oil loaded in a vessel, MT Akuada a.k.a. MT Kua, valued at N384m in 2009.
The auctioneer was to get three per cent of the sale.
In 2015, the EFCC arraigned four persons on charges of conspiracy, stealing and receiving stolen goods.
The accused included a businessman and chieftain of the All Progressives Congress in Edo Central Senatorial District, Chief Francis Inegbeneki; Chief Executive Officer of Omoh-Jay Nigeria Ltd., Mr Jerome Itepu; Omoh-Jay Nigeria Ltd. and Ine Oil Ltd. owned by Inegbeneki.
According to the particulars of the offence, they allegedly stole about 12,000 metric tonnes of crude oil loaded in a vessel, MT Akuada a.k.a. MT Kua, valued at N384m in 2009, being the property of the Federal Government of Nigeria.
Findings by the media firm indicated that Malami authorised Omoh-Jay Nigeria Ltd to auction the forfeited vessels.
In a letter dated April 3, 2019, with reference no.
HAGF/ARMU/RMDOVSC/2018/T addressed to the Chief of Naval Staff, Nigerian Navy, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas, the AGF said Omoh-Jay Ltd. had been granted approval to conduct an open bid and solicited the cooperation of the navy.
The letter signed by Malami, titled ‘Re: Suit no. FHC/ABS/CS/742/2017 FRN and Anor. vs unknown persons (arrested vessels), was received by the CNS on the day it was signed.
The letter read in part:
“Please be informed that Omoh-Jay Nigeria Ltd. has been granted approval to conduct an open bid for content only for the following vessels: MT Asteris with crude oil, MV PSV Derby with Automated Gas Oil (diesel), MV Zahra with AGO and MV Long Island with AGO (with leave of court).
“For the purpose of disposal of the products under reference, the Office of the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice requests the Chief of Naval Staff to kindly grant access and necessary support as always for the whole process.”
In another approval, Malami directed Omoh-Jay Nigeria Ltd to conduct another open bid for five sea vessels, three of which were laden with crude oil and diesel.
“Be informed that the success fees remain three per cent of the total value recovered from the auction. You are, therefore, expected to submit acceptance letter within 72 hours of the receipt of this instruction.”
Allegation 2: Chartering private jets to convey guest to his son’s wedding
SaharaReporters alleged that Malami was living above his means and using public funds to fuel his opulent lifestyle. The publication, in photo news, accused the AGF of hiring several private jets to fly in family members and important guests to the lavish ceremony, which took place inside the Kano State Government House on Saturday.
According to SaharaReporters:
“Malami, who was a little known lawyer before being appointed into the government of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015, had maintained an opulent lifestyle fuelled by public funds despite displaying a saintly posture before the public.
“He also purchased a N300m mansion in Abuja and erecting another N100m property in Kebbi State for his newly married son.
“Besides the opulence on display, the event breached the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control’s guidelines on Coronavirus prevention as over 20 persons were in attendance against what the rule stipulates.
“A previous leg of the ‘multi-layered’ wedding ceremony saw wads of naira and United States dollars being sprayed on Abdulaziz and his bride, Khadija Danbatta, thereby violating the Central Bank of Nigeria’s rule, which forbids the country’s currency from being sprayed or abused in any form in public.”
Malami’s Response to the Allegations
The AGF responded to allegations levelled against, saying it has caused him serious trauma, distress and also damaged his reputation.
This was contained in a statement by his spokesperson, Umar Gwandu, on Monday.
The statement read in part:
“Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, vowed to take legal action against Sahara Reporters on account of defamatory publications made against him.
“Malami said, the consequence of the criminal defamation published by Sahara Reporters, has subjected him to considerable distress, psychological trauma, anxiety and greatly injured his character and reputation, which is capable of lowering his estimation in the eyes of right-thinking persons in the society.
“He said since the 10th of July 2020 when the defamatory articles were first published, he has been receiving several telephone calls and visits from well-meaning Nigerians, his friends, well-wishers and associates from all over the world including those he has dealt with/still dealing with in his official capacity as Nigeria’s chief law officer, many of whom have expressed serious concerns over the publication.
“Malami gave the medium a seven-day ultimatum to retract all the libellous and criminally defamatory publications against him and issue a public apology to be published on the platform and on the front pages of three national newspapers for three consecutive days.
“A senior lawyer has already been briefed to deal with the matter as may be appropriate, in the event of failure to retract the publication in question and offer the requested apology within the stipulated time.
Similarly, the AGF also responded to the allegation of hiring private jets to convey his family members and other guests to his son’s wedding.
A statement by his spokesperson, Umar Gwandu read:
“The allegation of hiring private jets for the marriage was preposterous. It is common knowledge that the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice had neither a father nor mother anywhere in Nigeria to be conveyed to Kano for the wedding.
“Who, then is the Attorney-General using the chartered flight to convey? Which jets are chartered? Who paid for the charter? Through which means was the money paid?
“It is one of such libellous publications of which Sahara Reporters is commonly known for targeted at selected few for unsubstantiated fabricated allegations while overlooking more serious reasonable allegations visibly open against favoured sectional kingsmen.”