By Umar Jibrilu Gwandu
One of the major responsibilities of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice consist in counselling the state in all legal matters. He has the major role of promoting and enhancing justice for all, the rule of law and good governance.
The year 2021 was a remarkable year in the justice sector in Nigeria. AGF Abubakar Malami, SAN, gave sound and qualitative legal opinions to President Muhammadu Buhari, especially in the areas economy, politics, health, security, signing of mutual agreements, memoranda of understanding and international cooperation. But for some of his sound legal views on issues, especially on sensitive matters, the country may have found itself in chaos.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced many countries around the world to adopt a new way of doing things, which were never envisaged before. One of them was the introduction of virtual court sittings in the country, through collaborations with local and international stakeholders.
Virtual court sitting facilities were inaugurated in the Correctional Centre in Kuje, Abuja, last year by Malami. According to Malami, the deployment of a virtual court sitting technology in correctional facilities was aimed at ensuring speedy dispensation of justice and decongestion of custodial centres in the country.
“It would also eliminate the issue of difficulties in conveying the inmates to court and would further ensure the safety and security of the inmates and law enforcement officers. We are no longer constrained by mobility, space and time in justice delivery on account of accommodation of the virtual court sitting facilities and deployment of incidental technology,” Malami said.
Another milestone achievement lauded by Nigerians was the determination of Malami to support and address crises at Lake Chad Region as Nigeria vowed to partner in the collaborative efforts to see to the end of the multidimensional crises facing the Lake Chad Basin states.
While receiving a delegation of the United Nations and Lake Chad Basin Commission, who were in Nigeria for a high-level political advocacy visit, Malami noted with dismay that, judging from the security challenges presently confronting Nigeria and some of the Lake Chad Basin states, several lives have been lost, including the lives of soldiers, and millions of dollars of properties have been either vandalised or completely destroyed.
The level of transparency in the sector made the administration of President Buhari top global ranking in Open Government Partnership (OGP).
Nigeria won the global award announced in Seoul, South Korea, at the opening ceremony of the summit of OGP member countries. Nigeria beat other countries in Africa and the Middle East that are implementing the OGP.
The review tracked and assessed milestones achieved by the Nigerian government in setting up a Beneficial Ownership registry to end anonymous companies in the country, a statement by the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) has said.
The office of the AGF coordinated the activities of OGP.
The government, through the office of the AGF, was able to build global consensus on assets recovery.
Malami, during the ninth session of the Conference of State Parties to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) that took place in Sharm El Sheik, Egypt, last year, said, with support from the 19 countries across different continents of the globe, Nigeria got support in its submitted draft resolution, titled “Enhancing access to and the use of beneficial ownership information to facilitate the identification, recovery and return of assets,” to further highlight the importance of beneficial ownership transparency.
Malami said significant progress has been recorded in the efforts to combat corruption in Nigeria: “We have continued to make significant progress in our efforts to prevent and combat corruption, block leakages and recover our stolen assets.”
As of a week to 2022, being a workaholic, Malami received and treated 18,388 mails last year. The total sum of mails received from government agencies, from January to December 2021, amounts to 5,719, while 5,031 mails were received from law firms, 6,478 mails from private individuals and 1,160 from civil society organisations.
A point of interest associated with the volumes of the mails treated is the fact that, in addition to the quantum, enormity of the mails received and treated, the opinions, decisions and actions of the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, arising from the mails, has translated into major policy impact on the position of the Federal Government relating to justice sector reform, security, economy and the fight against corruption, among others, in the country.
The reward for hard work could translate into honours, awards, commendations and recognitions. In 2021 alone, no fewer than 79 organisations and corporate bodies conferred awards of honour for patriotic service, humanitarian intervention and nation-building to Malami.
The nominations for the awards and honours received are a testimony to Malami’s selflessness and relentless commitment to public interest, rule of law and dispassionate approach to dispensation and administration of justice in the country.
The organisations comprised national and international institutions, from governmental to non-governmental organisations, anti-corruption and forensic investigation bodies, professional associations, student unions, media-based groups and traditional institutions.
In their separate letters, the organisations said they considered Malami for his landmark achievements and successes in carrying out national assignments, especially the fight against corruption.
Malami has played very crucial roles in protecting Nigeria’s public interest. Many governmental institutions attested to the inspiring strides of Malami in ensuring that Nigeria’s public interest is always protected in all transactions. This was described as a demonstration of realization of the essence of governance.
Also in this regard was the inauguration of the committee to checkmate illegally refined petroleum products recovered around the creeks of the Niger Delta.
In addition to the fact that Malami worked assiduously to address the issues of sexual and gender-based violence, another remarkable milestone was the inauguration of the Justice for Children Coordination Forum Committee.
While maintaining that the Federal Government remains dedicated to improving children’s access to child-friendly justice system, Malami said, through age and gender-sensitive juvenile justice mechanisms and alternatives to detention for children on the move and vulnerable children, the Nigerian child would benefit from the child-friendly justice sector. Still many steps were taken by the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice to address the issues of juveniles in the Nigerian correctional centres.
From the above, it is evidently clear that the year 2021 was an eventful one, especially in the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice.
Malami proved to have judiciously utilized the year by being patriotically committed to marvelous and remarkable activities, in a bid to enhance nation-building and better the fortunes of our dear nation.
•Dr. Gwandu sent this piece from Abuja