By Ebere Agozie
Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami said that he did not stop anti-corruption agencies from investigating alleged fraud in Nigeria Incentive-based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL).
Malami in a statement on Saturday in Abuja by his Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations, Dr Umar Gwandu, described any claim to the contrary as a baseless falsehood and mischievously spread in order to tarnish the minister’s reputation.
‘‘For the records, we quote verbatim, the directive of the AGF, from the letter dated 4th day of February, 2020, reads:`After a careful study of the petition, we found that NIRSAL is being investigated by several agencies to wit.
“‘The Nigeria Police, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).
“‘The State Security Services (SSS), and Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), in respect of the same subject-matter which is not only an unhealthy competition among the agencies of the same Federal Government of Nigeria, but a sheer waste of government resources.
“`In view of the foregoing, you are requested to conclude your own investigation on the matter and forward the outcome of your investigation on the matter to the Office of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation for legal advice and further necessary action’,” Gwandu said.
He said it is pertinent to submit to all intent and purposes that the statement does not convey the conclusion of stopping of the investigation of NIRSAL; as portrayed by an online medium.
“The clear and unambiguous directive of the Minister was that the other agencies conducting parallel investigations on NIRSAL in respect of the same subject matter should stay action to allow the Nigeria Police to continue and conclude the investigations it had started.
“The directive is by implication that of continuation and not stoppage of the investigations,” Gwandu said.
He said the directive was inspired by the desire to avoid multiplicity, confusion and wastage of scarce resources.
“After all, only one charge can be competently filed against the entity in respect of the same subject/facts being investigated by the multiple agencies, if NIRSAL is found wanting at the end of the investigations.
“The office of the Attorney General wishes to point out that the Police, which was directed to take control of the investigations is a body legally recognised and empowered under Section 214(1) and Section 29 of the Constitution of Nigeria and the Police Act, respectively,” he said.