Group decries AGF’s alleged plan to take over case 6 years after commencement 

Group decries AGF’s alleged plan to take over case 6 years after commencement 
May 23 12:06 2024 Print This Article

A rights group, Center Against Injustice and Domestic Violence (CAIDOV), in collaboration with Advocate for Social Justice and Defence of Rule of Law, has condemned alleged plan by the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Mr Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, to take over prosecution of a case six years after the matter commenced.

The group, which raised the alarm at a press briefing in Ikeja, said the case involved a foreign oil company and five others accused of $8.4million fraud.

It would be recalled that Trafigura Beheer BV Trafigura PTE Ltd is facing trial alongside two oil marketers – Osahon Asemota and Yusuf Kwande as well as Mettle Energy and Gas, Renbrandt Ltd and Jil Engineering and Oil Services Ltd.

The defendants had been, for six years, facing a three-count charge of conspiracy, stealing and receiving stolen property preferred against them by the Police Special Fraud Unit (SFU) before Justice Mojisola Dada of the Ikeja Special Offences Court.

The prosecution had accused the foreign oil company, alongside its four co-defendants, of stealing 6.4 metric tonnes of diesel oil worth $8.4million belonging to Nadabo Energy Ltd sometimes in October 2008.

During the six-year’s trial, 17 witnesses testified on behalf of the prosecution before the agency closed its case while the defendants have so far, called four witnesses.

Speaking, the Convener of the group, Gbenga Soloki, said the trial took a puzzling turn when the Director of Public Prosecution of Federation, Federal Ministry of Justice, Mr M.A Abubakar, by a letter dated Feb. 29, 2024, announced the takeover of the prosecution by the office of the AGF.

“According to the letter, the takeover of the prosecution of the case was in exercise of AGF’s powers under Section 174(1)(b) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) which provides to take over and continue any such criminal proceedings that may have been instituted by any other authority or person,” Soloki said.

He said based on the group’s investigations, AGF took over the prosecution of the case as a result of the complaints to his office sequel to a letter dated Nov. 7, 2023.

He said the takeover of the matter by the office of the AGF would only lead to more delays.

According to him, the same Section 174(3) of Constitution of the 1999 Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) which empowered AGF to takeover prosecution of matters also provided that the AGF of the federation should have regard to the public interest, the interest of justice and the need to prevent abuse of legal process.

He queried why other options as provided by law which would not cause further delays in the case were not explored before the aggrieved parties in the suit resorted to writing to the office of the AGF.

According to him, it is our humble view that there are quite a number of options available for any of the parties before the court that has any complaint against the handling of such matter by the judge.

“Such parties can complain directly to the National Judicial Council (NJC), a body responsible for discipline of judicial officers or lodge a complaint with the Chief Judge of the State who has the administrative power to look at such complaint and reassign the matter to another judge or asked the trial judge to continue if such complaint usually initiated via a petition is found unmeritorious.

“However, in the instant case, fear is been expressed in some quarters that the matter may have been infested with virus of delay.

“The AGF is a quiet achiever and the group is also aware that he is a stickler for rule of law and a notable combatant in the defence of justice,” Soloki said.

He, therefore, made a plea to the AGF to ensure fairness and justice to all parties by allowing the trial court to decide suit base on merit and evidence before it.

“We are calling on the AGF to always look at the larger picture of his office as commanded by Section 174(3) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).

“We urge the Honourable Attorney- General to continue to work as he has started well on restoration of public confidence in the system and etch his own name in gold anytime the history of administration of criminal justice system of the country is being told.

“There is no doubt, history beckons on the AGF and this is the time to make the difference as no affinity to any institutions, persons or group should stop him from making history at this period of time in our nation,” he concluded.

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