By Olalekan Awojodu
The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN on Tuesday reacted to a suit filed before the Supreme Court by the 36 states Attorneys General seeking a sharing formula for the N1.3 trillion(cash), and N450 billion(non-cash) funds recovered from treasury looters as proceeds of crime, amongst the federating states.
Malami in a statement described the suit was “myopic and narrow in understanding” as the recovered stolen funds are governed by “international laws, principles and not local legislation, saying its workability entails multiple sovereignties.
The State governments through their lawyer, Femi Falana SAN in a class action had asked the Apex Court to determine a 12 point issues that bothers on whether the looted funds should be deposited in the Federation accounts as stipulated by Sections 162(1), 162(10) of the 1999 constitution (as amended), and section 2 of Finance(control and management) Act of 1958; or the consolidated account of the Federal government meant solely for the government at the centre.
Falana’s application was supported by a 71 paragraph affidavit deposed to by Asishana Okauru, the Director General of Nigeria’s Governors Forum that stated the position of the state governments.
Reacting to the suit, the AGF in a statement made available to newsmen by the Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations to the AGF, Dr. Umar Jibrilu Gwandu, in Abuja on Tuesday said the international recoveries are more or less governed by international conventions, negotiations and agreement of parties. It is never a straightjacket application of local legislation.
He dispelled the insinuation that Revenue Mobilization and Fiscal Commission Act has nothing specific on funds recovered from indicted public officers, adding that It merely mentions accruals and disbursement of revenue from the Federation Account.
So, questions of recovery of stolen funds from indicted public officers are appropriately dealt with by other relevant laws.
He said, “It is, therefore, misleading to give the impression that such recoveries and usage of stolen funds and stashed abroad are provided for by the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission Act.
“One cannot situate rights and entitlements on looted funds and recovered assets with myopic and narrow understanding of concepts of the application of local legislations.
“For the avoidance of doubt and the purpose of setting the record straight, the application of the looted funds can only be factored within the context of mutual understanding and negotiations of international and multifaceted jurisdictional and territorial legislative issues;
“The recovery of stolen assets and the subsequent uses to which these funds may be employed are subject to international agreements between Nigeria and the affected countries, thereby bringing conflict of laws into contemplation. Importantly also, these repatriated funds are based on cooperation and mutual assistance agreements, especially the United Nation Convention against Corruption and Implementation of the Global Forum on Asset Recovery (GFAR) Principles on the Repatriation of Stolen Assets,”
Domesticating the issue, the AGF noted that the African Union and the ECOWAS Protocols on recovery of illicit funds are equally relevant when it comes to the role of the Nigeria in relation to its other partners.
As a member of the committee of nations and a respectable international partner, the minister added that Nigeria must always strive to fulfill its international commitments in the repatriation and use of stolen funds and assets.
The statement read further: “As a way of example, the Federal Government of Nigeria has entered into numerous agreements such as the one with the United States and the Island of Jersey in 2020, and including with other countries around the world.
“Where the agreements assume an international character, the specifics of the agreement often dictate the trajectory of recovery, sharing, transfer and implementation. Some element misunderstood the issue of international recoveries and locally generated funds in relation to monies belonging to the Federal Government that are locally generated. It is not to be confused with stolen funds and assets domiciled in foreign jurisdictions whose recovery and subsequent repatriation are based on international legal arrangements between the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the foreign custodians of these funds.
“It needs to be further noted that even recoveries of local assets are in most cases regulated by the applicable legislations and judicial pronouncements associated with these legislations and not Revenue Mobilization and Fiscal Commission Act exclusively. One can cite for the purpose of clarity recoveries done by the NDLEA, EFCC, ICPC among other,”