Nigeria’s Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami has reacted to a lawsuit filed by 36 state Attorney-generals over the government’s failure to remit funds into the federal account.
They also prayed the court to declare that “it is unconstitutional for the President, through the federal Minister of Finance, the AGF, or any other authority whatsoever, to utilise, apply, allocate, expend and appropriate same to itself or distribute same in any other manner howsoever without due allocation from the federation.”
They declared that all the assets recovered from 2015 till date have not been remitted as required by the Constitution.
The suit marked, SC/CV/395/2021, is before the Supreme Court and seeking “a declaration that by the provisions of Section 162(1) and Section 162(10) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), all income, returns, proceeds or receipts howsoever described derived from confiscated, forfeited and/or recovered assets constitute revenue of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which must be remitted to federation account for the collective benefit of the federal, state and local governments.”
According to a statement signed by his media aide, Umar Gwandu, the AGF argued that international recoveries are governed by “Conflict of laws” principles and not local legislation given multiple sovereignties involved, POLITICS NIGERIA reports.
It said, “International recoveries are more or less governed by international conventions, negotiations, and agreement of parties. It is never a straightjacket application of local legislation.
“Revenue Mobilization and Fiscal Commission Act has nothing specific on funds recovered from indicted public officers. It merely mentions accruals and disbursement of revenue from the Federation Account. So questions of recovery of stolen funds from indicted public officers are appropriately dealt with by other relevant laws.
“It is, therefore, misleading to give the impression that such recoveries and usage of stolen funds and stashed abroad are provided for by the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission Act.
“One cannot situate rights and entitlements on looted funds and recovered assets with myopic and narrow understating of concepts of the application of local legislations.
“For the avoidance of doubt and the purpose of setting the record straight, the application of the looted funds can only be factored within the context of mutual understanding and negotiations of international and multifaceted jurisdictional and territorial legislative issues.
“The recovery of stolen assets and the subsequent uses to which these funds may be employed are subject to international agreements between Nigeria and the affected countries, thereby bringing the conflict of laws into contemplation.”
The statement continued, “Importantly also, these repatriated funds are based on cooperation and mutual assistance agreements, especially the United Nations Convention against Corruption and Implementation of the Global Forum on Asset Recovery (GFAR) Principles on the Repatriation of Stolen Assets. The African Union and the ECOWAS Protocols on recovery of illicit funds are equally relevant when it comes to the role of Nigeria in relation to its other partners.
“As a member of the committee of nations and a respectable international partner, Nigeria must always strive to fulfill its international commitments in the repatriation and use of stolen funds and assets.
“By way of example, the Federal Government of Nigeria has entered into numerous agreements such as the one with the United States and the Island of Jersey in 2020 and including with other countries around the world. Where the agreements assume an international character, the specifics of the agreement often dictate the trajectory of recovery, sharing, transfer, and implementation.
“Some element misunderstood the issue of international recoveries and locally generated funds in relation to monies belonging to the Federal Government that are locally generated. It is not to be confused with stolen funds and assets domiciled in foreign jurisdictions whose recovery and subsequent repatriation are based on international legal arrangements between the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the foreign custodians of these funds.
“It needs to be further noted that even recoveries of local assets are in most cases regulated by the applicable legislation and judicial pronouncements associated with this legislation and not Revenue Mobilization and Fiscal Commission Act exclusively. One can cite for the purpose of clarity recoveries done by the NDLEA, EFCC, ICPC among others.”