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kakagida-Abu Mohammed
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...Protesters disagree with FG, take to the street

The Federal Government on Wednesday withdrew from prosecuting the son of Former Military President, Mohammed Abacha over allegedly stealing N446.3 billion from the national treasury.
Following this withdrawal, Prominent Nigerians and Law Practitioners took to the streets to protest against the FG's decision to withdraw all charges levelled against the former Military dictator's son.
Those who flayed the action which took place at the Federal Capital Territory High Court, Abuja, included Femi Falana, Jiti Ogunye, Fred Agbaje and Femi Aborisade and the Chairman of the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, Mr. Debo Adeniran; alongside his Civil Society Network Against Corruption counterpart, Mr. Lanre Suraj.

Some of the lawyers argued that the government action had grave negative implications on the nation’s anti-graft campaign, while Adeniran and Suraj said it had a political undertone.

The federal government had levelled a  nine count charge of stealing against Mohammed sometime in February 2014 and had accused him of illegally receiving about N446.3bn allegedly stolen from its coffers between 1995 and 1998.

But on Wednesday, the court was left in awe when the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Adoke, asked Justice Mamman Kolo of the FCT High Court to strike out the charges on the grounds of “fresh facts” that had just emerged about the case but didn't say whether new charges would be filed against Mohammed or not.

It would be recalled that efforts to arraign Mohammed on two previous occasions were unsuccessful because of his persistent absence from court, But surprisingly, things took another turn, as he was present in court on Wednesday when a private prosecuting counsel, Daniel Enwelum, informed the court of Adoke’s instruction to discontinue the case.

Enwelum who applied for the withdrawal of the case said, “I have been instructed by the AGF and Minister of Justice to withdraw the charges as presently filed before this court, because there are fresh facts and documents available to him. In this circumstance, he instructed me to file a notice of withdrawal without prejudice to future cause of action to be taken by his (AGF’s) office. In the light of that, I have filed a notice of withdrawal dated June 17, 2014. I humbly apply to withdraw the charges accordingly.”

Mohammed‘s lawyer, Abdullahi Haruna, did not oppose the application for withdrawal asJustice Kolo subsequently made an order striking out the charges against the accused.

In the nine counts, the Federal Government accused Mohammed of “dishonestly receiving stolen property” and “voluntarily assisted in concealing money.”

The charge replaced a previous one of 121 counts, in which Mohammed   was charged with Atiku Bagudu. The government excluded Bagudu from the fresh charge, leaving only Mohammed.

With reference to the charge, marked CR.21-24/2008, the stolen money allegedly received by Mohammed included $141,100,000 and $384,353,000 made up of cash and travellers’ cheques.
But Femi Falana said the withdrawal of “such grave corruption charges has serious implications for prosecuting anti-graft cases.”

“On the basis of equality before the law, anyone being prosecuted for fraud or corruption can file applications to have their cases withdrawn and struck out by all criminal courts in Nigeria. By the way, has the loot of N400bn been refunded by Mr. Mohammed ?" The Human Rights Lawyer asked

On his part,  Ogunye, said this withdrawal was a shocking embarrassment to the Supreme Court, which had earlier ruled that Mohammed had a case to answer over the same charges.He said, “The development is very sad for the rule of law, the administration of criminal justice system and the fight against corruption in Nigeria. With the withdrawal, which followed the recent verdict of the Supreme Court that Mohammed has a case to answer.

“The message that is being sent to the judiciary is that ‘we are at home with corruption, we are government of corruption and we promote corruption.’” Ogunye added that the withdrawal was “a crude and rude slap on section 15(5) of the constitution which says that the state shall abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power.”

He noted that Adoke had by his action violated the philosophy of equality before the law, as many   Nigerians facing charges for petty theft “have no such opportunity of the charges against them being withdrawn.”

Also, Agbaje described the withdrawal as a political decision taken as part of President Goodluck Jonathan’s strategy to win Kano State at all costs in his re-election bid. He said, “It is a political decision. It is all an attempt by the ruling party to win Kano State at all costs in the election.

“In fact, condemned armed robbers could even be granted political amnesty towards 2015 general election.”

Aborisade, who admitted that the AGF had power to withdraw such cases under 174(1)(c) of the 1999 Constitution, said,   “I hold the opinion that the withdrawal of the charge is not in conformity with section 174(3) of the same constitution.”

Adeniran, who described the action by Adoke as embarrassing, also added that it was  “another graphic example that the present administration takes sides with corrupt elements in the society.”
He said that the decision was a product of a bargain with Mohammed for the success of President Jonathan in 2015.

He said, “They would not have done that for nothing. It could have been done to promote a political agenda of the President Jonathan administration. President Jonathan should not use the future of Nigeria to bargain for his ego or political interest.”

He called on the anti-corruption agencies in the country to be bold enough to “dissociate themselves from the embarrassing intervention by the Attorney General of the Federation.”

Suraj, in line with the others, said the development was the most unpatriotic action of the government.
“It is the most unpatriotic action undertaken by this government reputed for encouraging corruption and negotiating shady deals with local and international criminals who have defrauded the country.
Stakeholders are therefore charged to explore available options to ensure the retrieval of the money.”

Was the FG right or wrong to withdraw a theft case of over 440 billion Naira levelled against Mohammed Abacha? Do you agree that this withdrawal is for a political reason and geared towards winning the 2015 elections?
What would be the adverse effect of the FG's decision to withdraw from prosecuting Mohammed Abcha?

Share your views.

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