Nigeria’s federal government is open to all kinds of considerations, including a political solution, as parts of efforts to resolve the crisis surrounding separatist agitations in the Southeast and the Southwest parts of the country.
Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, on Wednesday, hinted at this possibility in a chat with select journalists in Abuja.
The AGF, who insisted that criminal conducts would never go unpunished, however, remarked that the government had been using the amnesty policy to tackle some security challenges in the country and as such, the possibility of a political solution could not be ruled out.
Malami spoke on many other issues, including the current controversy between the federal government and the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), the international arbitration involving Nigeria and Process and Industrial Development (P& ID) company on the one hand and Sunflower firm over the Mambila power projects on the other.
Asked whether the federal government was not disposed to a political solution to the cases of the leader of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu and leader of the Yoruba Nation, Sunday Adeyemo otherwise called Sunday Igboho, as being canvassed by some leaders and other stakeholders in the country, Malami noted that although such consideration was not yet on the table, would however not mind taking a shot at it once there was an approach on how to go about it.
“As far as security situation is concerned and as far as governance and this administration is concerned, you cannot rule out all possibilities”, he said, adding: “But then, there has to be an approach for government to consider.”
He explained that he could not be preemptive at this stage by stating clearly and outright that reconciliation was being considered without an approach been made.
According to him, it was the approach if at all any was made, that the government “will look into for the purpose of looking at its weight, the authenticity of it, the good faith associated with it and then bring about the considerable factors relating to the negotiations or otherwise.
“So, it is not a conclusion that one can outrightly make without juxtaposing associated facts relating to the reconciliation, there has to be an approach and then a counter consideration”.
Malami was however quick to add that no approach in that respect was on the table for consideration yet, it was something the government might take a shot at when it gets to that stage.
“So, no approach in that respect is on table for consideration yet. So, we’ll cross the bridge when eventually we get to that – when perhaps a type of request is made, we’ll consider,” he said.
While the federal government had been involved in legal battle with Nnamdi Kanu in Nigeria, it’s been battling to extradite Igboho from Benin Republic to face criminal charges.
Both Kanu and Igboho have been in the forefront of agitations for breakaway from Nigeria.
The government, in fresh charges filed against Kanu last month, at the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, had linked him with the wanton destruction of lives and properties as well as attacks on security operatives and government infrastructure in the South east of Nigeria.
But some leaders from the two geopolitical zones have been seeking a political solution to the situation.
Meanwhile, on the payment of consultancy fees to contractors, who allegedly helped the 36 states government to recover excess deductions from the account during the payment of the Paris Club loans, Malami berated the governors for “aprobating and reprobating at the same time”.
He explained that the governors could not come to deny a liability in 2021 having consented to it and made several payments.
Arguing that the federal government was obligated to obey orders of courts and carry out executions of court judgment, he claimed that the governors’ current litigation over the payment of consultancy services fees was belated.
“I have told you earlier that the judgment in contention was a 2013 judgment and it was a consent judgment in which ALGON and governors’ forum consented to a judgment.
“So, what judgment are you talking about in 2021 against the background of the fact that they consented to the judgment in 2013, against the background of the fact they have been effecting payment as far back as 2013, against the background of the fact that they have written in their right, under their respective hands, committing to the payment of this consultancy fee we are talking about.
“So, I think it is logical for all to see that they were indeed, submissive and they were indeed in agreement, and they have indeed conceded and consented to a judgment that created the liability they are now complaining about.
“They have probated at a point in 2013 by way of submitting to judgment and then effecting payment over time. And, in fact, among the claims relating to Paris Club that has been presented before the federal government over time is a component relating to consultancy fees.
“So what they are doing is as good as aprobating and reprobating at the same time –conceding in 2013, and objecting 2021”.
He denied any relationship with the contractors or having any personal interest, except for his duty to protect the federal government from unnecessary liabilities.
According to him, since the federal government was made a party to the suit, there was the possibility that the assets of the federal government could be seized to pay the debt.
“So, as far as the payment is concerned, the office of the attorney general is not in any way involved. But the fact remains, judgments are meant to be enforced and then you are not expected to be speculative as far as the enforcement are concerned.
“When in the case of P&ID, an award was made against Nigeria, what we did was to approach the court of law for the purpose of setting aside the enforcement proceedings. It was only when the proceedings were set aside that we now have respite in terms of ensuring that no asset of the federal government is attached.
“So, the fact that they are in court, belatedly, again against the background that they have three months within which to appeal against the 2013 judgment, which they kept sleeping from 2013 until 2021 makes it illogical that they expect the federal government or perhaps any institution of government faced with a judgment and order of the court to await their belated approach to court, which is indeed a forum shopping”.
He further clarified that following complaint from the governors at a time, the administration had involved the EFCC and DSS to authenticate the project; as well as what was done and how much.
He said the total Judgment debt was put at about $3.2 billion out of which the governors did not only agree to pay but actually have been making payments until recently.
Alex Enumah in Abuja