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My approval for auction of seized vessels legal —Malami

The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), said on Sunday, his approval for the sale of five sea vessels holding crude oil and diesel forfeited to the Federal Government had legal backing.

A report had detailed how the AGF directed a firm, Omoh-Jay Nigeria Limited to dispose of the crude oil and diesel in four sea vessels through an open bid.

The report added the Malami also mandated the firm to sell five vessels through another approval knowing that the firm and its Managing Director, Mr. Jerome Itepu, had been arraigned for alleged theft of crude oil at the Delta State High Court, Asaba.

However, in his reaction to the report, Malami said in a statement issued by his Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations, Umar Gwandu, he committed no infraction by granting the auctioning approval to Omo-Jay and its officials despite their prosecution for alleged theft of crude oil.

The statement read:

“The issue of interest to the public, of which a serious journalist need to support the general public to know is whether Omoh-Jay being a duly registered company can be denied the opportunity to participate in the auction bidding process on a purported account that the company is standing trial (not convicted) by a competent court of the land if indeed as claimed by Sahara Reporters, the company is being criminally tried.

“The position of the law is clear by virtue of Section 36 (5) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) that a person is presumed innocent until the contrary is proved. ‘Every person who is charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed to be innocent until proved guilty.

“Assuming, without conceding that Omo-Jay is being tried for a criminal offence, if indeed any, does that take away the constitutional presumption of innocence in their eligibility to apply and be considered for auction?”

“If the allegation is that of breach of process and procedures of disposal of assets, Sahara Reporters need to clearly state which processes and procedures were breached.”

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