President Muhammadu Buhari has inaugurated a national prosecution coordination committee to handle high profile criminal cases in Nigeria.
Inaugurating the committee at the presidential villa in Abuja on Friday, Buhari expressed his administration’s commitment to tackling corruption, other economic crimes and terrorism.
He urged the committee members to resist external influence and discharge their responsibility with fairness.
Buhari was represented by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo.
“It is a very important committee because the administration itself is committed to ensuring that we are able to deal with not only with question of corruption which is a big item on our agenda but also other economic crimes, terrorism which has assumed different shapes and proportions of late,” he said.
“The vandalism that we see in parts of the Niger Delta, which has affected so many different things, including oil production, power supply etcetera.
“We are in a very crucial time in our social development and a committee such as this is very necessary and historic because I do not know of any other of such committee in the history of this country.
“Those of you who are members must feel specially privileged because you are in many ways charting a new course for the country’s criminal justice system.”
Buhari pledged to support the committee to function effectively and urged the members to live above board.
“Given the nature of economic crimes and the enormity sometimes of the money that is involved and the influence of those who may have to be prosecuted, you need more than legal skills,” he said.
“You need men and women of strong character and courage who will not only be able to turn down inducement of any kind but also act without consideration for tribe, friendship, religion or any other parochial considerations.”
Buhari recalled that he had allowed the varoius anti-corruption agencies to work with full independence, adding that he would not ask any of such organisations to go after any person or spare another.
“When you look at the way that the EFCC and other law enforcement agencies have acted in recent time you will notice that they are not under any kind of direction or influence of the president,” he said.
“They are given the independence to act; they are given the authority and backing to act on their own and to use their own discretion appropriately at all times.
“You don’t get any situation where the president says `go and look for that person or back off that person’.”
He said members have been selected on the basis of their integrity and that the committee will chart a new course in the country’s criminal justice system.
The president advised the committee to ensure that those being prosecuted were not “unnecessarily harassed”.
Responding, Abubakar Malami, chairman of the committee, said the panel comprised 12 ex-officio members and eight external members of proven integrity and competence.
Malami, who is also the attorney-general of the federation and minister of justice, said his ministry had created 20 prosecution teams made of four members each, while all agencies exercising police powers would recommend five experienced investigators.
“I assure that with the establishment of the committee, we shall be more effective and efficient in prosecution of cases,” he said.
“I will ensure early contact and synergy between investigators and the prosecutors, manage information to the public on the handling of the cases and strict compliance with the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015.”