29th July, Abuja, Nigeria Mr. Abubakar Malami’s return as a returning federal ministerial nominee casts serious doubts on President Muhammadu Buhari anticorruption posturing. The last four years, Mr. Malami constituted himself as the “barrier-in-chief” to the President’s corruption campaign, failing to provide much needed leadership, frustrating several high-profile corruption cases, blocking requests for international cooperation for the prosecution of high-profile cases and frustrating civil society’s effort to elicit compliance with the Freedom of Information legislation. Mr. Malami’s uncharacteristic lack of interest and deliberate frustration of anticorruption the last four years quickly squandered the initial optimism and public support that greeted the administration’s emergence in 2015 leaving a hollow anticorruption campaign and distrusting public in the count down to the 2019 elections.
Nigeria’s reputation as exemplar for corruption failed to record any significant improvement under the watch of Mr. Malami, as the chief lawmaker and attorney general of the federation. Back to back ranking by Transparency International showed no improvement in public perception of corruption in Nigeria. Mr. Malami failed to pull the full-weight of the Executive behind critical anticorruption bills, while the country fumbled and wobbled in her obligations under international transparency and anticorruption frameworks, including the UN Convention Against Corruption, and Open Government Partnership, to mention just a few. The mid-term report of the Open Government Partnership showed the effect of the near-absence of leadership across board, under Mr. Malami. There was hardly any significant progress in any of the 14 national action plans. Similarly, Mr. Malami failed to show any support to the work of the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, despite revelation of the financial haemorrhage and leakages in oil production costing the country billions of unremitted dollars.
It is on record that Mr. Malami superintended the illicit payment of over $15million in illegal fees to his compatriot lawyers through a phoney recovery contract, contrary to publicly available records which showed that all negotiations and payment in respect of the return of the $323m Abacha loot had been concluded long before the phoney contract. It is also on record that the United States Government has repeatedly insisted never to return the outstanding $500 million dollars, another Abacha loot, to Nigeria as long as Mr. Malami is in office as Attorney General of the Federation.
The undersigned civil society organisations express utter disappointment in the nomination of Mr. Abubakar Malami for a ministerial position by President Buhari. We are convinced that with Mr. Malami as Minister, in whatever capacity, the fight against corruption is doomed. Therefore, the undersigned civil society organisations have resolved to approach the court to stop the nomination of Mr. Malami as a federal minister. We shall continue to pay closer attention to Mr. Malami and document every action of his office in order to inform and mobilise Nigerian public as well as our international allies in order to salvage the anticorruption campaign.
We would also use the opportunity to comment on nomination and procedure for screening ministerial nominees in our country.
It is double tragedy for democracy in Nigeria when current electoral processes not only limit the options of candidates available to the public for elective offices but also refuses any window for citizens voice in the nomination and/or screening of public appointees. Current process of unilateral selection of nominees by the President and screening by the Senate is expression of the current total political capture of the public administration system which bodes no good for Nigerians and our nascent democracy! It is on record that the underlisted civil society groups submitted a petition to the Presidency calling for the withdrawal of Mr. Malami’s nomination, after the ministerial list became public. We wish to note that our petition was blatantly ignored by the Presidency. Not surprising, the office of the Senate President behaved likewise; choosing to ignore the letter and failing to reach the sponsors of the petition and going ahead with the screening of Mr. Malami in a publicly televised show. We hereby restate our call to the Presidency to reconsider the nomination of Mr. Abubakar Malami by dropping him to prevent a certain catastrophe facing the anticorruption campaign. We urge Mr. President to immediately begin consultation for more appropriate replacement with a trusted personality and history of impactful public service.
Consequently, we, the underlisted organisations hereby appeal to the Presidency, and all well-meaning Nigerians and development partners to work collaboratively to find new, inclusive, transparent and accountable formula for recruiting, screening, assigning and assessing performance of public officials. The world over, the role of the media and civil society as major partners in progress have been established. Therefore, we urge the Presidency, as well as governors, across states to find balance between politics and the need for service delivery in the process of recruiting and constituting their cabinets; afterall the second most important role of government, after provision of security for all, is service delivery. We urge the President and other sub-national governments to create workable systems for regular performance assessment of appointees. It is a dangerous practice, in our humble opinion, where nominees have guaranteed tenure no matter the poor performance and debilitating effect on national development.
In conclusion, the last twenty years of democracy could have been better. Therefore, we urge President Buhari and all governors to prioritise governance above politics in order to safeguard public trust in democracy and ensure democracy works for all.
Thank you all!
May God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Peering Advocacy and Advancement Centre for Africa (PAACA),
Civil Society Legislative and Advocacy Centre (CISLAC),
Centre for Transparency Advocacy (CTA),
The African Centre for Media and Information Literacy (AFRICMIL),
Protest to Power (P2P),
Keen and Care Initiative,
Connected Development (CODE),
Lawyers Network Against Corruption (LAWNAC)