More light was on Friday was thrown into the continued incarceration of the leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) Ibrahim El-Zakzaky and former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki.
The immediate past Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, told the Senate that El-Zakzaky, Dasuki and others were being held in the overall national interest.
The Kebbi State ministerial nominee also told the upper chamber that under his watch as AGF, the Federal Government secured 59 terrorism-related convictions.
Malami, one of the re-nominated ministerial nominees, spoke in the Senate chamber while answering questions for confirmation for as a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Although Malami did not mention El-Zakzaky and Dasuki, he pointedly stated that those granted bail and yet to be freed were being held in the overall interest of the country.
The Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, had asked Malami to explain to Nigerians why the rights of those granted bail by the court were still being violated by keeping them in custody.
Abaribe noted that despite being granted bail by competent courts of justice, some Nigerians were still incarcerated, yet to be freed, in compliance with the right of every citizen of Nigeria.
The Abia South Senator reminded Malami that it was his responsibility as the chief law officer of the federation to protect the rights of every Nigerian.
Malami agreed that he had the responsibility to protect individual rights but quickly added that it was equally his responsibility to protect the corporate interest of the country.
Relying on Section 174 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), Malami noted that his responsibility was also to protect public interest.
The former AGF noted that it is trite that where the interest of an individual conflict with the corporate interest of the country, public interest will naturally prevail.
Malami said: “Abaribe asked his question relying on Section 36, 37 and 38 of the Constitution as they relate to the rights of the individual. I concede that I have had the responsibility to protect the rights of every Nigerian.
“The office of the AGF is made to protect the rights of individuals and the corporate rights of the nation. Section 174 of the Constitution is explicit that where the individual interest conflict with public interest, public interest prevails.”
He said that Asari Dokubo’s case gave credence to his assertion that national interest supersedes individual interest.
Malami also told the Senate that under his watch as AGF and minister Justice, over 63-terrorism related cases were instituted against suspects terrorists.
He noted that 59 convictions were secured out of the 63 cases within the four years.
Malami informed the lawmakers that over 4,400 criminal cases were also filed against suspects in parts of the country.
“About 59 terrorism convictions out of 63 cases within a space of four years were secured when I was the Minister of Justice. Over 4,400 criminal cases were prosecuted within a space of four years.”
Malami stressed the need for collaboration between the Executive and the Legislature to ensure that bills passed by the National Assembly receive Presidential assent.
The Executive, he said, must be consulted before bills passed if they were expected to receive the president assent.
On why the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB) was rejected by President Muhammadu Buhari, he said:
“The interest of host communities was compromised. Self-serving portions were brought into the bill. So much power was conferred on an individual instead of an institution.
“If there was an understanding with institutions that had direct bearing with the Bill, it would not have been rejected by the president.”
Malami said, ‘Under me, the following bills were brought National Financial Intelligent Unit (NFIU) bill, Proceed of Crimes bill, Mutual Assistance and Legal matters bill, Anti Terrorism bill and others. Nigeria was at a time facing an expulsion threat.
“At the international forum, we have joined open government partnership under a president that told us that we should not only be seen fighting corruption locally but transparent internationally.
“In terms of the fight against terrorism, we have succeeded within the time I was made Attorney General. We worked on 63 terrorism cases and secured 59 convictions. We took effective measures.
“I am happy to report we have succeeded in helping the government to save N145 billion and in dollar $5 billion within a period of 3 years.
“We increased the recovery account from N19 billion to N279 billion as at November 2018.
“It is my desire to operate within the spirit of constitution of Nigeria that established the need for integration.
On bills vetoed: “In the course of my submissions, I have highlighted that whatever problems we have is indeed embedded in collaboration and corporation.
“What I can do differently is to establish a culture of deep rooted collaboration and not collaboration as we see it today. “What we have today is a public hearing arrangement. We have a credible government that will allow integration of ideas.
“The PIGB was fundamentally rejected because the interest of the host community was compromised and self serving sections were brought into it conferring powers on an individual.
“The key to the successes of the bill is indeed between the institutions of government.
On the judiciary: “We are making progress on interfacing on effective delivery and seen in the enhancement of the budget of the judiciary. It was never there case of the state judiciary to enjoy some level of autonomy.
On what to be remembered for: “I want to be remembered as one who intensified the fight against corruption and made our system of governance effective and efficient.
On the continental Shelf: Five times the size of Lagos State has been secured from the UN and we are seeking more extension. (The Nation)