|Bello Adoke, Justice Minister|
1. The attention of the office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice has been drawn to recent calls by some groups and well-meaning Nigerians for the prosecution of those allegedly indicted in the Report of the House of Representatives Ad-Hoc Committee on Fuel Subsidy Regime.
2. It is pertinent to reiterate government’s position as aptly captured by Mr. President’s initial reaction to the Report of the Fuel Subsidy probe to the effect that any person found wanting will be prosecuted irrespective of the person’s standing in the society. Nigerians must however appreciate that in discharging this onerous responsibility, Government must be guided by the dictates of the rule of law and due process as required of any democratically elected and responsible government. In this regard, the need to ensure that thorough investigations are carried out by relevant law enforcement agencies cannot be overemphasized.
3. This is more so, as the exercise carried out by the House of Representatives is mainly fact-finding. I also wish to point out that the Report of the Ad-Hoc Committee and the Resolutions adopted by the House of Representatives is yet to be transmitted to the Executive arm of government. Nevertheless, when the report and accompanying resolutions are received, the relevant law enforcement and anticorruption agencies will commence the tedious process of sieving through the report, with a view to assembling all the essential ingredients required to sustain criminal charges that may be filed as a result of such investigations.4. I therefore call on Nigerians who are understandably concerned about the revelations arising from the Fuel Subsidy Probe to be patient and exercise restraint while these difficult, but essential processes are carried out by appropriate agencies. As Attorney General of the Federation, I swore to uphold the Constitution and I am therefore not oblivious of the constitutional responsibility placed on my shoulders to ensure that those who contravene our laws are held accountable through the legal process.
5. However, experience has shown that whenever our law enforcement agencies are stampeded to arraign suspects, the end result is usually the discharge of such suspects by the courts ostensibly for want of evidence. Nigerians must therefore allow our law enforcement agencies to conduct painstaking investigations that will ultimately satisfy the standard of proof required in criminal cases.
6. The foregoing notwithstanding, we must accept that the allegations contained in the Subsidy Probe Report deserve serious action on the part of all those with oversight responsibility over the agencies and persons concerned. Aware of this responsibility, Mr. President had as far back as 2010 ordered a forensic audit of the accounts of the NNPC with a view to sanitizing the oil sector. Since then, other processes have been put in place to enhance accountability and transparency levels in the oil sector even before the commencement of fuel subsidy probe.
7. I therefore humbly urge Nigerians to have faith in the processes being undertaken and to patiently wait for the outcome of the investigations and subsequent prosecutions that may flow from the fuel subsidy probe conducted by the House of Representatives and the ongoing probe by the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. In this respect, I wish to observe that the ultimatum being given by some groups and the threat to embark on demonstrations and strike actions will only compound the problem and divert attention, as well as, the energy that would otherwise have been channeled into productive use by law enforcement agencies.
8. I thank you for your understanding.
MR. MOHAMMED BELLO ADOKE, SAN, CFR
Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice