The office of the attorney-general of the federation is heading for a showdown with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for allegedly breaching the rules in its prosecutions, TheCable understands.
An EFCC official, who declined to be named, told TheCable that Ibrahim Magu, the acting chairman of the EFCC, was on Tuesday served a letter from the office of the AGF seeking compliance with the regulation on the prosecution of “serious” cases, usually understood to mean high-profile investigations.
Specifically, the attorney-general, Abubakar Malami, is accusing Magu of breaching section 10(1) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Enforcement) Regulations 2010.
The regulation mandates the EFCC to forward the outcome of investigations along with its recommendations to the AGF in cases or complaints that are “serious or complex”.
A case is considered “serious or complex” if it has significant international dimension, involves money or assets of a value exceeding N50 million or requires specialised knowledge of financial, commercial, fiscal or regulatory matters such as the operations of the markets, banking systems, trusts or tax regimes.
It is also considered serious if it involves allegations of fraudulent activities against numerous victims, involves a significant loss of money by a ministry or department or public body, is likely to be of widespread public concern or involves an alleged misconduct which amounts to economic sabotage.
After the EFCC must have conducted the investigations, it is then left to the office of the AGF to decide whether or not there are sufficient grounds to initiate prosecution, according to the regulation.
EFCC officials believe Malami is seeking to take over the prosecution of cases handled by the commission in order to water down the anti-graft war, but sources at his office said he is trying to reassert himself “having been persistently sidelined by the anti-graft agencies under his supervision”.
There was a similar showdown between the AGF and EFCC in 2007 when Michael Aondoakaa, then the attorney, sought to take over the prosecutorial powers of the anti-graft agency, headed by Nuhu Ribadu at the time.
Ribadu was eventually removed as the EFCC chairman.
Last weekend, Okoi Obono-Obla, special assistant to the president on prosecutions, threatened that Malami would report Magu and Ekpo Nta, chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), to the presidency for breaching the rules.
He accused the agencies of withholding the case files of more than 35 former governors and senators from the AGF.
Obono-Obla said the failure to forward the files to the AGF since July 2016 when the request was made had caused a setback to the anti-graft war, blaming the strings of losses recorded in high-profile cases on the “breach”.
He also accused the EFCC and ICPC of failing to cooperate with Malami, which had led to the loss of some high-profile corruption cases.
But EFCC’s head of legal department, GK Latona, has since denied claims of not cooperating with the AGF, maintaining that “we are not working at cross purposes with the office of the attorney general of the federation; we are cooperating with them. We have a wide range of corruption cases in concert with state agencies.”
He also said the attorney-general’s office has the right to initiate new high-profile corruption cases and investigate them without waiting for cases initiated by the EFCC.