Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has dragged the Federal Government to court over the withdrawal of N446.3bn corruption charges/suit against Mohammed Abacha.
Joined in the suit are President Goodluck Jonathan and the Attorney General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke.
In the suit number FHC/L/CS/1007/2014 filed yesterday before the Federal High Court, Lagos, by Adetokunbo Mumuni and Oyindamola Musa on behalf of the organization, SERAP argued that, “Section 15 (5) of the 1999 Constitution provides that, “The State shall abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power.” This means that the Defendants are to prevent the exploitation of Nigeria’s human and natural resources for any reasons other than for the good of the community. It also means that in cases of corruption the Defendants will ensure diligent and effective prosecution of suspected perpetrators.”
“The philosophical foundation for the inclusion of the Fundamental objectives in the Constitution is government’s powers are not exercised to disregard the very institution and citizens they ought to protect,” the organization said.
The organization also said that, “By Section 13 of the 1999 Constitution persons exercising legislative, executive and judicial powers in Nigeria are bound to observe and apply the provisions of Chapter 2 of our constitution. Because those persons are so duty-bound, it follows that they have a responsibility to do those acts or else be accountable for their failure to act.”
According to the organization, “Section 174(3) of the 1999 Constitution provides that, “In exercising his powers under this section, the Attorney-General of the Federation shall have regard to the public interest, the interest of justice and the need to prevent abuse of legal process. The constitution provides that public interest, the interest of justice and abuse of the legal process be protected. This provision should be interpreted within the other broader principles and values in the administration of justice. Justice is open, transparent and should be responsive and accountable. These are not fashionable terms any more, but a reality under the 1999 Constitution.”
“If the Defendants want to exercise the power of withdrawing corruption charges/suit, it is mandatory that they meet the threshold of public interest, interest of justice and ensure non abuse of the court process. Thus, justice is required to be done in any case regardless of the status of anyone involved. It is submitted that the Defendants in this case over overstep on the powers contained in Section 174(3) of the 1999 Constitution,” the organization also argued.
SERAP also argued that, “The overarching objective in the administration of justice that is to do justice to all, irrespective of status, is a cardinal value of any civilized nation. The Defendants have a constitutional responsibility to adhere to the principles set out in the constitution. In other words, the exercise of this power is not absolute. And this cannot be especially in corruption cases, and given the debilitating effects of corruption on the rule of law, good governance and the entire fabric of the Nigerian society.”
The organization also argued that, “Nigeria has ratified the UN Convention against Corruption, which in several of its provisions obligate the country to effectively prosecute allegations of corruption, recover stolen assets, and end the impunity of perpetrators. Several articles of the convention emphasise the importance of promoting, facilitating, and supporting international cooperation to effectively combat corruption. This good faith obligation requires the Defendants to submit cases of corruption to a State’s competent authorities for the purpose of prosecution.”
The organization is asking the court for the following relief:
A DECLARATION that the withdrawal by the Defendants of N446.3bn corruption charges/suit against Muhammed Abacha is illegal and unconstitutional having regard to Section 15(5) of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria, which provides that the state shall abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power.
A DECLARATION that the withdrawal by the Defendants of N446.3bn corruption charges/suit against Muhammed Abacha is illegal and unconstitutional having regard to Section 174(3) of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria, which provides that the Second Defendant in the exercise of his power to undertake criminal proceedings shall have regard to the public interest, interest of justice and the need to prevent abuse of legal process.
A DECLARATION that the withdrawal by the Defendants of N446.3bn corruption charges/suit against Muhammed Abacha is illegal having regard to Nigeria’s international obligations under the UN Convention against Corruption, which requires Nigeria to apply in good faith its domestic law and in manner that does not frustrate or defeat the object and purpose of the Convention to end impunity for large-scale corruption
AN ORDER directing the Defendants to reinstate the corruption charges/suit against Muhammed Abacha forthwith
“The good faith nature of the obligations assumed by Nigeria under the UN convention does not grant discretion to the Defendants to refuse to prosecute, recover stolen assets and end the impunity of perpetrators. It is submitted that there are no exceptional circumstances warranting the withdrawal of the corruption charges/suit against Muhammed Abacha by the Defendants. It is further submitted that by withdrawing the charges/suit, the Defendants have denied the appropriate authorities the opportunity to hear evidence and decide whether or not a case of corruption is established against Muhammed Abacha,” the organization further argued.
“The exercise of withdrawal power is not compatible with the need to avoid impunity for corruption prohibited under the UN Convention against Corruption.”
No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.
SERAP Executive Director