By Tunde Adetunji, Abuja
The Senate on Tuesday expressed disappointment over what it termed unimpressive attitude of the Attorney –General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, towards the anti- corruption war,particularly in the area of collaboration with the National Assembly.
The upper legislative chamber’s anger against the AGF was expressed by its Joint Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters; Anti Corruption and Financial Crimes during a public hearing on two critical bills meant to boost the current administration’s anti-corruption crusade.
The two bills are Proceeds of Crimes Bill 2017 and Nigerian Assets Management (Establishment etc) Bill 2017.
Trouble started for the AGF at the public hearing when an officer from his office, Anthony Abah introduced himself as his representative and informed the committee that the AGF could not attend the session on account of other pressing official engagements he had for the day.
Abah who went further to inform the committee that the AGF’s office had no written memorandum on its position on the two bills, informed lawmakers that an executive bill combining the two proposals would soon be forwarded to the National Assembly for legislation.
Irked by the submission, the Committee Chairman, David Umaru, said his submission was unfair and unacceptable to the committee.
“This is unacceptable to us. One, you have no written memorandum on your position on the bills. Two, your principal, the AGF who was recently reported in the media to have castigated the Senate and by extension, the National Assembly for allegedly sitting on anti-corruption bills sent by the executive is not here and three, your submission is neither here nor there.
“What is expected from the Office of the Attorney- General on these bills are clearly written positions saying ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ and not verbal proposition or information on another bill,” he said.
Also condemning the attitude of the AGF, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Anti-corruption and Financial Crimes, Senator Chukwuka Utazi (PDP Enugu North), described the excuse given for his absence at the session as lame and unacceptable.
According to Utazi, the committee should make the AGF’s glaring laxity on required laws for the anti-corruption war and his disrespect for the Senate as parts of its final report to the Senate.
The knocks came harder for the AGF when the committee discovered that Abah who represented him was a Chief State Counsel in the Legal Drafting Department of the Ministry of Justice and neither a Director nor Assistant Director.
Senator Isa Misau (APC, Bauchi Central) said the AGF‘s action must be condemned in its strongest term, wondering why he sent to the committee somebody officially not qualified for that purpose and lacking the required capacity in that regard.
“This attitude of the AGF to this committee is nothing but apparent disdain which must not be overlooked but handled very seriously since this Senate is seriously on the same page with President Muhammadu Buhari on the war against corruption”, he noted.