Immediate Past Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, yesterday gave an insight into why the Muhammadu Buhari led government will continue to detain some high profile and politically exposed individuals in its custody despite court rulings asking them to be released on bail.
Speaking yesterday in Abuja when he appeared before the Senators at the hallowed Chamber for the on-going Ministerial Screening, Malami, a Ministerial Nominee from Kebbi State explained that it is the responsibility of the Attorney-General to protect individual rights; when such rights conflict with public interest the larger interest naturally prevails.
Malami said this yesterday while answering a question by the Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, PDP, Abia South.
Abaribe had in what seemed a veiled reference to the likes of the leader of Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), Ibrahim El Zakzaky, Former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki and a few others; asked what the immediate past Attorney-General did when he served to protect the rights of citizens still being kept in custody even when courts granted them bail. According to the former Attorney General of the Federation, the continued detention of leader of Islamic Movement of Nigeria ( IMN) , Ibrahim El- Zakyzaky and former National Security Adviser ( NSA) , Col Sambo Dasuki (rtd), were in public interest.
Recall that while Sambo Dasuki has been in perpetual detention at the instance of the Federal Government since December 2015 on alleged corrupt practices, El- Zakyzaky has also been in similar position along with his wife since December of the same year on alleged treasonable offences.
Malami who noted section 174 of the 1999 constitution ( as amended), made provisions for public interest to take preference over private interest, said, "I concede as argued by the Minority Leader , Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe ( PDP Abia South ), that a Minister of Justice and Attorney General as stipulated by sections 36, 37 and 39 of the constitution , is supposed to protect the rights of any citizen from being violated even by the state , but where such right conflicts with public interest , the latter overrides the former .
"Office of the AGF has exclusive responsibility of upholding the public interest above personal interest of anybody.
"I have a responsibility as Attorney General of the Federation looking at section 174 of the Constitution. I want to reiterate that the office is meant to protect public interest where individual interest conflicts. The interest of 180m Nigerians must naturally prevail."
The former Minister of Justice further buttressed his argument by citing the ruling of Supreme court on Federal Government vs Asari Dokubo where on the grounds of public interest, the court refused him bail.
The nominee who may go back as the Chief Law Officer of the Federation, told the Senators that culture of deep rooted collaboration between the Executive and the legislature must be cultivated for bills passed by the latter to enjoy the assent of the former.
He said : " Absence of collaboration and cooperation between the legislature and the executive , accounted for high rate of bills rejection by the Presidency from the last Assembly."
"For such scenario not to repeat itself during the current 9th National Assembly , culture of deep-rooted collaboration between the two arms , has to be built.
" The culture of collaboration between the two arms has to be demonstrated right from the stage of conception or formulation of a bill , up to the level of public hearing and eventual passage.
" For example, the Petroleum Industry Bill ( PIB), was fundamentally rejected by the executive for lack of this required collaboration especially as regards the interest of host community perceived by the executive to have been compromised through provisions of the bills."
Before the question and answer session, Malami also said that as a Minister, Nigeria obtained 59 convictions out of a total of 63 cases he prosecuted when he served as Attorney General and Minister of Justice, just as he said that the Recovered Looted Funds during the last administration increased from N19 billion as obtained in 2015 to N279 Billion and that the Government has saved $5 billion (N145 billion) in three years.
According to him, through the enforcement of the Treasury Single Account ( TSA), 23,000 ghost workers were weeded out of the system, 63 terrorism cases were prosecuted and 59 convictions gotten, adding that a total of 12, 412 criminal cases were tried during the time and N59.163billion was recovered from some of the prosecuted looters.
He stated that if given the opportunity to serve in similar capacity after his confirmation by the Senate , he would operate within the context of integration in line with section 15 of the 1999 constitution.