Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Section on Public Interest and Development Law (NBA-SPIDEL) Chairman, Dr. Monday Ubani has revealed why he did not indict Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami SAN over the invasion of Supreme Court jurist, Justice Mary Odili’s residence.
CITY LAWYER recalls that Ubani was appointed by NBA President, Mr. Olumide Akpata as a “Special Investigator” to unravel the circumstances surrounding the invasion of Odili’s premises by persons suspected to be security operatives.
In his report to an Emergency Meeting of NBA National Executive Council (NBA-NEC), Ubani narrated how he grilled the justice minister over the matter, adding however that he could not use “tainted” evidence to indict the nation’s chief law officer.
His words: “The truth of the matter is that all accusing fingers initially pointed at the Minister when the invasion occurred, moreso as the news media reported that the culprits were from the Federal Ministry of Justice. This notion becomes more compelling when it is realized that the Honourable Attorney General admitted that he authorized the invasion of judges’ homes in 2016. It was argued that if he authorised the invasion of 2016, then he must have authorised this latest raid by persons allegedly linked to the Ministry of Justice which he heads. The Minister therefore needed to offer elaborate explanation to exculpate himself and his office from the latest invasion.
“The Honourable Attorney General started by stating that there is a unit in his ministry called Asset Tracing, Recovery and Management Committee established sometime in 2019 pursuant to the Asset Tracing, Recovery and Management Committee Regulation 2019. It is an inter-ministerial committee comprising of representatives from ministries, departments and agencies of Government. The committee coordinates the asset recovery and management system on properties of the Federal Government of Nigeria both locally and internationally. If the committee receives any information about illicit property or money of the Federal Government hidden anywhere, the Ministry will forward the information to the appropriate security agencies or law firms to handle. The committee, according to him, does not on its own handle any sting operation. He therefore disassociated the Ministry from any alleged Ghost Account, Local Whistle-blower, Joint Panel Recovery Unit or similar name the perpetrators may have called themselves.
“Mr. Malami also denied signing the Identity card of the said CSP Lawrence Ajodo. He stated that the Identity cards of those who work in the Ministry of Justice are signed by the Director of Human Resources or his delegate and not by him. He denied that any unit in his ministry work with the Nigerian Police officers especially in the way and manner the present invasion took place. He denied knowing Lawrence Ajodo or having any private or official dealings with him. He challenged Lawrence Ajodo to produce any letter given to him officially either by himself or any of his subordinates to carry out any official duty on the Ministry’s behalf.”
Passing his verdict, the NBA-SPIDEL helmsman said that Ajodo’s testimony was unreliable in many respects, adding: “Having arrived at this conclusion, it will be untenable to use his tainted and mostly oral evidence to implicate anyone without any corresponding documentary evidence.”
Ubani also exonerated the under-fire Chief Magistrate Emmanuel Iyanna who signed the controversial search warrant, adding that the jurist took rigorous steps to document the procedures leading to the grant of the warrant, aside from immediately annulling it when Ajodo failed to return to regularize the documents.
His words: “There is perhaps no way the learned Chief Magistrate could have deciphered the alleged criminal intent of the deponent, same having been concealed from him. When the Chief Magistrate’s eyes were opened to the nefarious intent of the invaders, they refused to honour his invitation to clarify the issue of conflicting addresses. They proceeded to carry out their intended action even when the search warrant had been revoked. The revocation on record was done the same day, signifying promptness in addressing the grave error His Honour committed in signing a search warrant with vague details.
“The legal implication of executing a revoked search warrant and a search warrant on a property different from the address on record should be a culpability attributable to those who executed it and not to the person that issued and signed it, moreso when the issuer discovered his own mistake and took immediate steps to correct it.”
Ubani therefore recommended that “The Chief Magistrate should be cautioned to be more circumspect whenever signing processes that may be subjected to abuse. There were red flags inherent in the affidavit and inconsistencies that should have put him on enquiry and made him to be a bit more careful before signing the Search Warrant.”
The senior lawyer stated that “pure greed” was at the heart of the invasion, noting that “Mr. Lawrence Ajodo got an unverified information that large sums of money – perhaps in billions of Naira – were at No. 9 Imo Street, Maitama, Abuja. To make the story palatable, they informed Mr. Ajodo that the whistle-blower had gotten an affidavit backed with EFCC, sworn to at the High Court of FCT, Abuja. Mr. Umar Ibrahim was introduced to Mr. Lawrence Ajodo, the ‘hitman’ who obviously was known in the circle of whistle-blowers. He took over from there and became the kingpin.”
The Nigeria Police has charged several suspects to court over the invasion.
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