Malami under fire for receiving N135m, car gifts | latest news from nigerian newspapers today

Malami under fire for receiving N135m, car gifts

Friends and loyalists of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), have donated exotic vehicles of different brands to support his ambition of becoming the Kebbi state governor in 2023.

The AGF’s media aide, Umar Gwandu, said the ministers’ friends also supported his governorship ambition with N135m.

According to him, the friends of his principal gifted the vehicles to “long-term workers in the Khadimiyya Foundation.”

The AGF is reported to be one of the stakeholders of the foundation, a non-governmental organisation, which is based in Kebbi.

The viral pictures of the vehicles, including Lexus SUV, Mercedes Benz GLK, Toyota SUV and other brands were shared on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms on Tuesday.

Malami, a two-term member of the cabinet of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), has reportedly declared his intention to contest for the Kebbi state governor in the 2023 elections under the All Progressives Congress.

But Senior Advocates have faulted the donations which they said violated the Electoral Act, 2022 and the Code of Conduct for public officers.Senior lawyers, including Femi Falana, Ifedayo Adedipe, and an activist lawyer, Tosin Ojaomo condemned the donations which they described as illegal.

In his statement on the donations, Gwandu said, “It is abundantly clear that the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN has teeming supporters from home and beyond.

“This has been demonstrated not only by the calls from far and near for him to vie for Kebbi gubernatorial seat in the forthcoming election but also by donations from friends, associates and supporters of N135m. The recent donation of N135m has opened doors for donations and support of many items including vehicles by well-wishers.

“The story attributing vehicle distribution to Malami was mischievous and misconstrued information. It was friends and associates of Malami who donated and distributed vehicles to long-term workers in the Khadimiyya Foundation.

“The occasion was not for distribution of vehicles to any APC stakeholder. None of the APC stakeholders or delegates in Kebbi State was given any vehicle by Malami.”

But faulting the donations, the lawyers said the AGF had breached Paragraph 6 of Part 1 of the 5th Schedule to the Constitution and the Code of Conduct for public officials.

Specifically, Falana stated, “He has breached the provisions of Paragraph 6 (1) of the Code of Conduct for public officers which provide that: ‘A public officer shall not ask for or accept property or benefits of any kind for himself or any other person on account of anything done or omitted to be done by him in the discharge of his duties.’”Speaking in the same vein, Adedipe faulted Malami for receiving the donations, describing it as wrong and illegal.

Stating that it was contrary to constitutional provisions, the SAN averred that such illegalities thrive in the country because of lack of political will to enforce the laws.

With this development, the senior lawyer said the President should no longer talk about the anti-corruption campaign of his regime if he failed to sack the AGF.

He stated, “The challenge we have in this country is that we have refused to obey our laws. Apart from leadership, the major secondary reason we are backward is the lack of political will to enforce our laws as done in other climes“Imagine the Attorney-General of the United States while still in office declaring that he would be contesting for the governorship of say, Arizona or any other state and then saying unabashedly that his friends; faceless, nameless friends have donated vehicles. Look, he would face prosecution.”

The senior lawyer said it was left for Buhari to either overlook the AGF’s action or fire him for violating the law.

He added, “We are used to very poor standards, very low standards that nothing shocks us. For a government that came into office on the mantra of change, I would have thought we would change our ways of doing things for the better.“Can we say this particular development (vehicle donation) is yet another attestation to the fact that when the APC people gathered together, it was just to collect power, not to change our life for the better? It is sad.

“For me, it is wrong for a public officer to attract the donations of that nature contrary to the extant provisions of the constitution. It is left for his appointer, the President, to either accommodate him and stop talking to us about corruption or ask him to resign.”

Citing section 121 of the Electoral Act 2022, Ojaomo described the receipt of the donations by the AGF as bribery and conspiracy.

Ojaomo noted, “Going by the turn of events, it is honourable for the President to order an immediate investigation into this allegation going by the sensitivity of the office being held by Malami.

“We saw what happened to Attorney General Madu of Canada who was investigated for allegedly interfering with the administration of justice. If the President is sincere about giving Nigerians free and fair elections, adherence to the Electoral Act must be the first litmus test to assure Nigerians that a level playing ground would be given to all candidates.”

But a former General Secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association, Afam Osigwe SAN, disagreed that Malami had violated the law, insisting that he could receive political donations as an aspirant.

The Life Bencher stated, “I have not read the current Electoral Act but I know the law permits people to accept donations but I don’t know what limit or the value of the vehicles. Now, the law also permits people to donate to political objectives.“In law, there is no discrimination between public officers and a non-public officer and the constitution allows the public officer to remain in office while seeking election, for at least 30 days to the election. If you are making a contribution to a person who has expressed interest in seeking an office; I think that distinction should be made.”

Osigwe further said that issues such as the value and limit of political donations to candidates needed to be cleared, adding that certain campaign expenses appeared not to be captured by the law.

He said, “What is the threshold? What is the value and what limit has the law placed on individual contribution and what is the maximum amount the current Electoral Act has set for the candidates in an election cycle? At what time does that money start counting?

“There are campaign expenses that appeared not to be captured by the law; there is the one that until you become a candidate, this money would not start counting. So, these are issues we need to clear first. But I do not think that making contributions to a person who holds a public office is barred by the code of conduct for public officers.”

Copyright PUNCH.

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