The Ministry of Justice has proposed N2 billion in the 2021 budget for the prosecution of suspected Boko Haram members, administration of criminal justice system, payment for international legal obligations, decongestion of prisons in the country as well as covering cost for legal services.
The Solicitor-General of the Federation, Dayo Apata, who appeared before the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Legal and Human Rights Matters on Monday, to defend the ministry’s 2021 budget proposal, described the amount “as small when compared to what it is meant to do.”
Out of the amount, Apata, who was in the company of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, at the meeting, said N350 million was budgeted for the trial and prosecution of Boko Haram suspects.
However, the Senate spokesman, Ajibola Basiru, noted that some items listed under overhead cost also appeared in the capital budget and demanded an explanation on the duplicity in the budget.
He said the N2 billion proposed for legal services was not definitive enough to avail auditors at the committee the purpose of exercising oversight functions.
The spokesman said: “Under overhead cost, you presented that the sum of N2 billion will be used to pay for the ministry’s legal services. And the legal services are listed to be civil litigation, prison decongestion, trial and prosecution of Boko Haram members, administration of criminal justice system and payment for international legal obligations.
“There appears to be an overlap with what has been provided for the sum of about above N2 billion for generated items under overhead cost and some of the items listed as capital expenditure.
“For instance, there is provision of N350 million for administration of criminal justice on Page 4. What is the relationship between that N350 million budgeted and the projected sum under the heading of legal services in the overhead cost proposal?
“The same thing on prison decongestion. If you look at the capital expenditure proposal, the sum of N380 million was highlighted for prosecution of prison inmates and decongestion of correctional centres nationwide.
“How much of that will then not be overlapped between what has been budgeted for over N2 billion as part of legal services?”
In his response, Apata explained that the N2 billion has been budgeted for several expenses, adding that since 2015, the Office of the AGF has been doing almost all the cases in-house without going for external solicitors.
“If we are looking at the N2 billion, it cannot be compared with what it is saving for the government. Presently, from the last performance we had, we saved over N600 billion because we now do cases in-house.
“So, part of this N2 billion is essentially to get the lawyers, this is because all the cases were spread among the 36 states.
“On the trial and prosecution of Boko Haram members, you will recall that last year, we had to create a jurisdiction in Kanji Dam in which 3000 inmates were prosecuted. How do you prosecute 3000 inmates in a place? We had to bring four judges from the Federal High Court, and pay the legal aides.
“When we look at the N2 billion, it’s a tip of the iceberg of what it intends to do. Presently, there is a camp in Maiduguri where we are going for another prosecution. This is what the N2 billion is going to do. So, there is no overlapping,” the solicitor-general added.
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