The attorney-general of the federation and minister of justice, Mr. Mohammed Adoke (SAN), yesterday said that the midweek order of a Federal High Court in Abuja that restrained the federal government from taking further action on the House of Representatives ad-hoc committee report on subsidy regime was only applicable to Integrated Oil and Gas Limited.
The AGF added that the federal government would go ahead with the prosecution of indicted firms and individuals through the anti-graft agencies.
The AGF, who spoke through his lawyers, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN) and Damian Dodo (SAN), said that ‘’the order of the court in the case of Integrated Oil and Gas Limited against the House of Representatives and five others binds parties to the suit only and not general marketers as erroneously reported in the newspapers’’.
The AGF, who was reacting to a publication in one of the national dailies (not LEADERSHIP) which claimed that the “indicted oil marketers will not be prosecuted by the AGF”, insisted that such a statement was not true but rather misleading.
‘’The federal government will prosecute all those found culpable of corrupt practices on the basis of the investigations of competent statutory agencies vested with powers to conduct criminal investigations and prosecution will commence thereafter.
‘’The present suit instituted by Integrated Oil and Gas Limited does not in any way fetter the powers of the agencies investigating the matter; it does not restrain the government from prosecuting and recovering money due to the federal government by marketers found culpable of violating the laws of the land.
‘’The federal government will not condone corruption and illegality but will always stand by the rule of law and due process at all times,” the senior advocate said.
Awomolo stressed further that the government was rather following the principle of rule of law and added that “no-fact finding committee can indict a person except the police, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC)”. Instead, he said, the report of the Hon. Farouk Lawan-led House Committee, “is not useless but a foundation for further investigation by the relevant agencies of government like the police, EFCC and the ICPC”.
The minister said that any person who commits any criminal offence would be investigated and, if found wanting by any of the investigating agencies, would be prosecuted by the federal government in the court of law and, if found guilty, same would be jailed.
He said, “If by next week the report of the investigating agencies on any of the oil companies indicted by the House of Representatives committee is out and it is reliable and conclusive, the federal government will go to court and prosecute the company.”
However, the AGF said that he would not take any step that could go contrary to the rule of law, even as he said that the federal government took the issue of corruption seriously and must not compromise on fraud matters where they exist.
He said, “The principle of rule of law which is a strong pillar upon which this government operates and that means that where parties have turned their case to a court of law, parties will not take law into their hands but stay actions till the final determination of the case by the court.”
Jonathan sets up fuel subsidy payment verification committee
Meanwhile, President Goodluck Jonathan has appointed Mr. Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede to head a new committee he set up to verify and reconcile the findings of the technical committee set up by the Federal Ministry of Finance to conduct a detailed review of all subsidy claims and payments made in 2011.
Accordingly, he has directed the 15-member committee to begin work immediately and conclude its assignment by 5pm on Friday, July 13, 2012, as a prelude to immediate action on all identified cases of fraud.
The special adviser to the president, media and publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, who stated this in a statement yesterday, added that it was “a further move towards the fulfilment of his pledge to Nigerians that no person or organization guilty of fuel subsidy fraud or corruption will escape justice”.
He stated that the attorney-general of the federation, the inspector-general of police and the director-general of the State Security Service will also be represented on the committee.
The committee has the following terms of reference: “To further verify and reconcile all claims made in the report of the Technical Committee on Fuel Subsidy Payments; to properly identify all cases of overpayment and/or irregular payment; to accurately identify all likely fraudulent cases for criminal investigation; and to review any other pertinent issues that may arise from its work and make appropriate recommendations.
“On receiving the Verification and Reconciliation Committee’s report, President Jonathan will order whatever action he deems necessary to ensure justice and the full recovery of all fuel subsidy funds that may have been illegally paid,” Abati stated.
Members of the new committee include: Dr. Abraham Nwankwo (DG, DMO), Mr. Bernard Otti (GED, Finance & Accounts, NNPC), Mrs. Onyinye Ahuchogu (CBN), Mrs. Sola David-Borha (MD, Stanbic/IBTC, representing the banking community), Mr. Mike Osatuyi (national secretary, IPMAN), and Mr. Obafemi Olawore.
Others are Mr. Jonah Otunla (accountant-general of the federation), Mr. Bright Okogwu (DG, Budget Office), Mr. Reginald Stanley (executive secretary, PPPRA), Mrs. Aisha Waziri-Umar, and Mr. Jalal Arabi.