Restructuring: AG Malami Faults Governors’ Demand, Says Agitation Does Not Hold Water

  • Southern Governors’ Clamour Lacks Legitimacy
  • Political Elite Instigating, Celebrating Insecurity
  • FG To Challenge Proposed Establishment of Lagos Anti-Corruption Agency
  • Volume of Terror Funding Amazing, Huge
Abubakar Malami Photo
The attorney general of the federation and minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami,

Agitators for restructuring should perish the thought of its happening under the present political dispensation of President Muhammadu Buhari. This indication was given on Wednesday by the attorney general of the federation and minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN who spoke to Channels Television on its programme, Politics Today monitored by TELL. Malami, who upbraided the 17 Southern governors for “shouting” restructuring when they have denied the legislature, judiciary and local governments their constitutionally guaranteed autonomy, declared that their clamour for restructuring lacked legitimacy.

The nation’s number one law officer also blamed the state of insecurity on political elite whom he accused of instigating, promoting, supporting and indeed celebrating insecurity in the country. Malami, who also spoke on progress made in investigations into terror funding, posited that “the funding is amazing in terms of volume; it’s indeed quite huge in terms of the discoveries …”. He hinted that the federal government would be challenging at the Supreme Court, the recently enacted Lagos State anti-corruption law which he argued, cannot prevail over the federal law.

Asked if the agitation by the southern governors for restructuring was dead on arrival given opinion canvassed, Malami retorted: “I don’t even understand what they are talking against the background of denial of the other existing structures to operate”. Suggesting that nothing should be expected from the federal government in this regard, the minister said “The federal government has been working wonderfully in that direction in terms of ensuring the autonomy of perhaps the state legislature, the autonomy of the judiciary, and indeed the optimal operation of the local government as a tier of government. So, until such a time when other political elements, political leaders, come to terms with the reality of the situation of allowing these institutions to operate optimally, any idea of restructuring is indeed a kind of, I do not know how best to describe it, but certainly, it does not hold water”.

The minister asserted that he would not be advising the president to heed the calls for restructuring. Further berating the governors, Malami said “They should address it at their own level first and then let us see what happens before now coming over to the president. It’s not about the president; it’s about denial of the functionality of the structures at the lower level, and that is what indeed restructuring is all about. If you allow the state legislature to operate optimally, the checks and balances required will be there. If you allow the local government councils to operate optimally, the necessary development in terms of devolution of powers are there. But once you deny them the resources to operate, the autonomy to operate, certainly you do not have a legitimate right to clamour, or perhaps to agitate for restructuring because you are not a believer in allowing the process to operate optimally in terms of taking its natural course”.

Explaining federal government’s perspective of restructuring, Malami said “As far as this government is concerned, restructuring is allowing the functionality of the democratic structures. You cannot be clamouring for restructuring in a system whereby you have a responsibility to allow the existing tiers of government to operate, you are denying them functional operation and you are shouting restructuring. You cannot clamour for restructuring in a situation whereby three arms of government, you have the responsibility to allow them to flourish and operate optimally, you are undermining their operations by denying them the autonomy granted constitutionally and yet be clamouring for restructuring. So, within the context of restructuring, what matters most is allowing the democratic structures, allowing the federal structures to operate optimally. Until we now allow these structures to operate optimally, there is no way we can have the benefits associated with those structures”.

Attacking the governors on the ban on open cattle-grazing in their areas, the minister likened it to northern governors coming together to prohibit sale of spare parts in the north. In his words, “It is about constitutionality within the context of the freedoms enshrined in our constitution. Can you deny the rights of a Nigerian? For example, it is as good as saying, perhaps, maybe, the northern governors coming together to say that they prohibit spare parts trading in the north.

“Does it hold water? Does it hold water for a northern governor to come and state expressly that he now prohibits spare parts trading in the north?” He challenged the governors to facilitate the amendment of the 1999 constitution (as amended) to prohibit open grazing, positing that “If you are talking of a constitutionally guaranteed right, the better approach to it is to perhaps go back to ensure the constitution is amended.

“Freedom and liberty of movement, among others, are established in the constitution. If by an inch you want to have any compromise over it, the better approach is go back to the national assembly to say open grazing should be prohibited and see whether you can have the desired support for the constitutional amendment in that respect.

“But it is a dangerous provision for any governor in Nigeria to think that he can bring about any compromise on the freedom and liberty of individuals to move around.”

Giving his views on what could be responsible for the worsening insecurity in the country, Malami said it had political undertone. Positing that “The factors could be multifaceted and multi-dimensional”, he said “But one factor that you cannot rule out as a possibility is the political undertone”. He said “It is unfortunate that, our political elite are perhaps of the opinion that the best way to force concessions politically, is to instigate, promote and support insecurity. Here we are, having political elite celebrating insecurity, celebrating destruction of lives and properties without them coming together to now address it. They are more or less celebrating the insecurity as perhaps a factor of incapacitation on the part of the ruling government”.

On terror funding, and the need to name and shame those involved, Malami insisted that it’s not about naming and shaming exclusively, but about the consequences. He said, “Within the context of the consequences, we shall certainly act, within the context of acting, we shall certainly prosecute, and within the context of prosecution, we have taken steps to ensure that terrorism funding is indeed squarely addressed within the context of the law.

“So, what we have succeeded in doing is, one, effective investigation; two, establishing effective connection; and then three, taking steps to block the funding while we take further steps to prosecute. So, it is no longer about the issue of naming and shaming, but there must naturally be consequences, and the consequences are naturally following.”

He however refrained from mentioning names, but pointed out that “The investigation quite alright, is ongoing and has reached an advanced stage in terms of establishing the necessary connections. And within the context of the investigation, we have taken steps to block the funding as it relates… individuals and perhaps institutions as well. But I wouldn’t like to be preemptive in terms of to what extent we have gone because it may end up undermining what we are doing. But then certainly, in a couple of days, you will hear from us as to what we are doing”.

Assuring that no one would be spared, the federal attorney general promised that “we would certainly deal with it squarely, without fear or favour; that I can assure you”. Malami said he wouldn’t like to disclose anything associated with the investigation and the volume of the investigation as it is, “but certainly, it is going to be made public at the appropriate time.

“Investigation has reached an advanced stage in terms of establishing the connections…One thing I can assure you, a lot of disclosures were made, a lot of findings were made, and then in fact, the funding is amazing in terms of volume; it’s indeed quite huge in terms of the discoveries, the revelations and indeed the investigative reports that have been unfolded arising from the investigation”.

Reacting to the proposed establishment of an anti-corruption agency by the Lagos State government, the minister said “The position of the federal government is the position that borders on law, and the law is clear. Where there is inconsistency between a federal law and the state law, the state law naturally gives way. So, I think it’s a function of law; we look at it, we have been looking at it from the perspectives of law, and we shall certainly do the needful within the context of consistency or otherwise”.

He submitted that “there is no way you can make federal law subservient to local law,” stressing that “the states must naturally operate within the constitutional bounds. So, where there are breaches that are indeed against the tenets of the constitution which we call the grundnorm, certainly, the state law cannot prevail over the federal law, and that is the position of the law, and that is the position we maintain as the federal government, and we will certainly do the needful to ensure due compliance with the constitutional tenets as far as this country is concerned”.

He said while he was not giving a clear-cut position, “but no possibility is out-ruled as far as ensuring the supremacy of the federal legislations. Certainly, we are taking it up”.

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