HomeCourt room newsRights Group Express Concern Over AGF’s Move To Takeover of $8.4m Fraud...

Rights Group Express Concern Over AGF’s Move To Takeover of $8.4m Fraud Case

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The Centre Against Injustice and Domestic Violence, along with the Advocate for Social Justice and Defence of Rule of Law, has expressed worries regarding the move by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), to take control of a significant prosecution involving a foreign oil company and five others accused of an $8.4m fraud

Trafigura Beheer BV and Trafigura PTE Ltd are on trial alongside oil marketers, Osahon Asemota and Yusuf Kwande, as well as Mettle Energy and Gas, Renbrandt Ltd., and Jil Engineering and Oil Services Limited.

They are charged with conspiracy, stealing, and receiving stolen property, related to the theft of 6.4 metric tonnes of diesel oil valued at $8.4m from Nadabo Energy Limited in October 2008.

The trial, ongoing for six years before Justice Mojisola Dada at the Ikeja Special Offences Court, faced delays as the AGF’s office intervened, citing constitutional powers under Section 174(1)(b) to take over criminal proceedings.

So far, 17 prosecution witnesses have testified with four defence witnesses presented.

CAIDOV, through its conveners, Gbenga Soloki and Niyi Adekanla, stated that the trial took a new twist when the Director of Public Prosecution, Mr M.A. Abubakar, announced in a letter dated February 29, 2024, that the AGF’s office would take over the prosecution.

It said the investigation suggested that the AGF’s intervention stemmed from a complaint, dated November 17, 2023, potentially prolonging a case that had been delayed for over six years.

Section 174(3) of the Constitution, which empowers the AGF, states that in exercising these powers, the AGF must consider the public interest, the interest of justice, and the need to prevent abuse of the legal process.

CAIDOV questioned why alternative measures were not explored, including making complaints to the National Judicial Council or the state’s Chief Judge.

“It is our humble view that there are quite a number of options available for any of the parties before the court that has any complaint against the handling of such matters by the judge.

“Such party(ies) can complain directly to the National Judicial Council, a body responsible for discipline of judicial officers or lodge a complaint with the Chief Judge of the state, who has the administrative power to look at such complaint and reassign the matter to another judge or ask the trial judge to continue if such complaint usually initiated via a petition is found unmeritorious,” the group said.

While describing Fagbemi as a dedicated advocate for the rule of law and justice, the group urged him to allow the trial court to resolve the case based on its merits and evidence.

“We are calling on the AGF to always look at the larger picture of his office as commanded by Section 174(3) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).

“We urge the Attorney-General to continue to work as he has started well on the restoration of public confidence in the system and etch his name in gold anytime the history of the administration of the criminal justice system of the country is being told.

“There is no doubt that history beckons on the AGF and this is the time to make the difference. No affinity to any institutions, persons or groups should stop him from making history at this period in our nation,” CAIDOV added.

Punch

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