Justice Ambrose Lewis-Allagoa of the Federal High Court, Lagos, on Tuesday nullified the sale of assets recovered by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), under the Asset Tracing, Recovery and Management Regulations, 2019.
The judge gave the ruling in a suit filed by the Incorporated Trustees of the Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA) Resource Centre against the AGF.
He also declared that the Asset Tracing, Recovery and Management Regulations, 2019 as an invalid statutory instrument, saying the powers of the committee headed by Malami were beyond the legal powers of the office of the AGF.
The AGF had on November 9, 2020, inaugurated the Inter-Ministerial Committee on the disposal of assets forfeited to the Federal Government.
The establishment of the committee, according to the minister, was in line with the President’s directive of October 2018 following recommendations of the Presidential Audit Committee on Recovery and Management of Stolen Assets and a need for efficient management of the assets.
But HEDA through its counsel, Omotayo Olatubosun, challenged the AGF’s power to set up the committee, arguing that the regulations conflicted with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Act, Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Enforcement and Administrative Act, 2015, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) Act, 2004 and Independent Corrupt Practices Commission Act (ICPC), 2000, among others, on the disposal of forfeited assets.
In filing the suit, the plaintiff sought nine reliefs including the nullification of all disposals of assets by the committee.
In his judgment, Justice Lewis-Allagoa dismissed the AGF’s preliminary objection argued by the committee’s counsel, Tolu Mokunolu, and granted all of HEDA’s reliefs as prayed on the motion paper.
He said: “I am entirely in agreement with the submission of counsels to the plaintiff that the Asset Tracing, Recovery and Management Regulations, 2019 are contrary to the statutory provisions of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission EFCC Act, Trafficking in Persons Cohabitation Enforcement and Administration Act, NDLEA Act and Immigration Act.
“A careful perusal of the above statutory provisions will show the provisions for the Attorney-General of the Federation to make regulations for the agencies for disposal of assets under the various enactments listed above.
“The above statutory enactments are therefore the enabling source of the Attorney-General of the Federation to the regulations.
“Consequently, the administrative powers to be exercised by the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation must flow from the enabling statutes.
“It is pertinent to state that the powers of the Attorney-General of the Federation do not override the provisions of the enabling statutes stabilising the powers of the law enforcement agencies and anti-corruption agencies and consequently the powers referred to in the commencement clause of the regulations merely are to be exercised in accordance with the Acts not to usurp the mandatory powers vested in the law enforcement agencies and the anti-corruption agencies.”
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