The Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN), on Tuesday said he acted in compliance with the extant laws including the provisions of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)
Establishment Act 2004 in setting up the recently inaugurated Inter-Ministerial Asset Disposal Committee.
Malami argued that Section 31(1-4) and Section 43 of the EFCC Establishment Act 2004 not only justified his action but also cleared doubts on “the misconceived and shallow legal analysis in the public space on the legality or otherwise of the committee”.
The AGF, in a statement by his media aide, Dr Umar Gwandu, noted that lack of understanding of the law was imminent in the wrong impression being created, which according to him, was fuelled by the faulty assumption that only the EFCC is engaged in asset recovery and forfeiture proceedings. Hence the challenge to the setting up and mandate of the committee.
He insisted that in issuing regulations and setting up Committee for Asset Disposal, he was guided, amongst other statutory provisions, by the wordings of Sections 31(4) and 43 of the EFCC Act, “which confers the Attorney-General of the Federation with the powers to make rules or regulations with respect to the exercise of any of the duties, functions or powers of the EFCC (inclusive of asset disposal)”.
For the avoidance of doubt, Section 43 of the EFCC Act provides thus: “The Attorney-General of the Federation may make rules or regulations with respect to the exercise of any of the duties, functions or powers of the commission under this Act.”
The minister, who noted that it is elementary law that the process of asset forfeiture and disposal constitutes part and parcel of criminal prosecution, stated that it is trite in law that all prosecuting agencies derive their powers to prosecute from that of the constitutional and statutory powers of the AGF.
“The powers of the EFCC is constitutionally subject to the overriding powers of the Attorney-General of the Federation.
“It is important to note that asset forfeiture and disposal is a continuation of criminal proceedings and in furtherance of the powers conferred on the Hon. Attorney General of the Federation under Section 150(1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) as the Chief Law Officer of the Federation, Section 174(1)(b) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) grants him the exclusive power “to take over and continue any such criminal proceedings that may have been instituted by any other authority or person.
“The Hon. Attorney General of the Federation is therefore on firm
legal grounds to regulate the process of asset forfeiture and disposal from the EFCC or any other agency,” the statement read in part.