#BringBackOurGirls Engagement with the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF)/Minister of Justice
29 December 2015
Since 30 April 2014, the #BringBackOurGirls movement has been demanding for accountability and transparency in governance; the failure of which led to the abduction of 276 Chibok schoolgirls, none rescued, with 219 missing till date 624 days later.
The thrust of our engagement with the AGF is to raise the questions that bother us, to share suggestions and solutions on how he can use his good offices as Nigeria’s Chief Law Officer to bring about a Justice Sector reform to ensure effective and efficient delivery of social and substantive justice for all. To institutionalise and enforce accountability and transparency in governance, etc.
Our conviction is that ours is a nation where there is little or no consequence for actions (or inactions). There is hardly any deterrence for wrong behaviour. And unless this is in place, we can never have a decent and well-ordered society. Good governance can never be attained. Therefore the importance of this meeting.
1. There is the report of the Presidential Fact-Finding Committee on the Abduction of the Chibok Schoolgirls. We have also been calling for an in-depth inquiry into the abduction and failure to rescue them.
How do we ensure the prosecution of those complicit or negligent in the abduction of our Chibok girls, and the failure to rescue them timely?
2. In light of the revelations of how monies meant to prosecute the war on terror was shared, will it be fair to enter into plea bargain arrangements and allow the offenders go scot-free to enjoy what we (our movement) calls ‘blood money’?
b. Can those who partook in the sharing of this blood money, thereby actually compromised the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our fatherland be charged with more serious crimes like treason, instead of just financial crimes?
c. Under financial crimes, can they be charged under more stringent laws like the EFCC and Money Laundering Acts, rather than the Penal Code as it has been reported in the media?
d. We suggest that all the companies Col Dasuki, the ex-NSA shared money through for instance, be investigated. If for example their taxes aren’t up to date, they and their directors should be gone after.
For example, mafia leaders are often nailed in the US for tax evasion when charges of their criminal activities can’t be proven.
e. We see efforts at reducing the number of charges in corruption cases, which is commendable. We are of the opinion that it is better to bring a few meaningful charges than so many which end up not achieving much.
3. On 24 December, Mr President confirmed on a BBC Hausa Service interview that our troops were sent to the war front without arms and ammunition, leading to some disobeying orders.
Although we concede that refusal to fight is a exacts capital punishment in military law, the circumstances is this matter are peculiar as admitted by the president. We therefore appeal that you use your good offices to ensure that all charges against all those standing trial are dropped and that they are returned to service.
b. It is ironic that those who misappropriated the funds leading them to commit the offences they are accused of IF convicted under the present charges will get a maximum of 7 years. It isn’t fair that our patriotic, gallant troops be made to spend even a day for refusing to commit suicide fighting with their bare hands, and on empty stomachs.
4. James Ibori was acquitted in Nigerian courts, but declared himself guilty in a UK court and is presently serving a jail term.
What institutional and human weaknesses allow for foreign jurisdictions to convict people set free by our own courts.
What can be done to reverse this ugly status quo?
b. In the UK for instance, clever lawyers who try to manipulate the system to waste time and/or to subvert the cause of justice are punished.
How can we have such a culture in place such that clever senior advocates et al can be punished/jailed for manipulating the system?
5. Nigeria is the only country as far as we know where interlocutory appeals are taken in criminal matters thereby allowing otherwise straightforward cases drag on sometimes for 10 years or more.
How can this obvious aberration be corrected?
b. A Supreme Court judgment contradicted the Administration of Justice Act 2015, which seeks to correct this defect.
How can you use your good offices to persuade the Supreme Court to reverse its judgement to give full effect to this law?
6. Justice in Nigeria is skewed against the poor. The poor steal vegetables to eat and are given long jail terms. The rich steal billions of naira depriving thousands of their livelihood and are asked to pay an infinitesimal percentage of what they stole and go free.
The likes of Dasuki are speedily granted bail, while the poor are kept languishing for years in detention awaiting trial.
In addition to possibly carrying out massive prison decongestion across the nation, what can be done to ensure that all are seen to be equal before the law, as it ought to be?
7. Can a system be worked with other law enforcement agencies especially such that all cases are treated speedily to avoid keeping suspects on awaiting trial for years?
A suggestion would be to have officers from the Director of Public Prosecutions’ offices deployed to every Divisional Police Headquarters (like District Attorneys in the US) who have the authority over criminal cases in the jurisdiction, and to be the human rights watch, ensuring that all accused persons are treated humanely and with dignity.
8. The Chief Justice of Nigeria recently accused state prosecutors of doing shoddy jobs in otherwise very good cases, which ties the hands of the courts to dispense justice as they should.
How can you use your good offices to ensure that state prosecutors do diligent jobs such that the offenders are always punished to the full extent of the law?
Can state prosecutors who bungle cases be punished?
9. Some previous AGFs used their exalted offices to facilitate unethical if not illegal transactions. The Malabu scandal, the acquittal of Ibori, etc.
The civil servants who worked under these AGFs are the very same ones. What can the AGF do to change the status quo, and professionalise the ministry such that such abuses of office may never happen again?
10. We consider it gross miscarriage of justice and rewarding evil when people found guilty of electoral malpractice are not punished/jailed, but allowed to not only go scot-free but to also re-contest.
How can electoral offences be punishable like any other crimes?
11. In all the above, what role can citizens play?
Thank you very much.