*AGF had no capital vote last year
By Sandra Onyekwere
Attorney General of the Federation [AGF] and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) has revealed that the Federal Ministry of Justice in line with the anti-corruption war, had recovered N57.9 billion as well as $US666.676 million from fines and corporate organisations and corrupt individuals in the country.
Malami’s made revelation while defending 2017 Appropriation bill of the Federal Ministry of Justice before the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters at the National Assembly Complex last Thursday in Abuja.
He said that, “N50 billion was the fine paid by MTN Telecommunication Company while N7 billion and $10 million US Dollar was recovered from private residence, N40 million and N50 million were voluntarily returned.
According to him, $250 million under interim forfeiture was alleged proceeds of oil bunkering and also $136.676 million awaiting actual remittance and $270 million was FGN fund recovered from commercial bank.”
Isah added that the Minister explained that his ministry operated through 2016 without capital budget. “Our budgetary proposal of N18, 528,093,480.00 was not appropriated thereby compelling the Ministry to operate on a zero capital budget”, he informed the Senate Committee.
The AGF expressed satisfaction for the uncommon achievements recorded by the Ministry as a result of the recoveries made which culminated to increased revenue of the Federal Government.
He said, “I am happy to state however, that we as a Ministry recorded modest achievements in the act of contributing to the revenue generation of the Federal Government notwithstanding the zero capital budgets.”
The budget frame being defended by the Minister depicts that the Ministry budgetary allocation received a boost as against 2016 appropriation.
In line with the budget document, the total sum of N 6,914,774,768.00 (Six billion, nine hundred and fourteen million, seven hundred and seventy four thousand, seven hundred and sixty eight naira) only was earmarked for the Ministry in the 2017 budget appropriation as against N3, 921,612,815 (Three billion, nine hundred and twenty one million, six hundred and twelve thousand, eight hundred and fifteen naira).
From the N6,914,774,768.00, personnel cost would engulf the largest chunk of N4,278,824,404.00, legal services a whooping amount of N1,000,006,899.00 followed by overhead N946,834,670.00 and the least capital budget of N689,108,794.00.
He pointed out that the personnel cost, covers the allowances of Nigerian lawyers providing legal services within the sub region and also reflects the harmonization of the salaries of State Counsel in the Ministry.
“The personnel cost of N 4,278,824,404.00 (Four billion, two hundred and seventy eight million, eight hundred and twenty four thousand, four hundred and four naira) includes the allowances for the Ministry lawyers serving in the Gambia and reflects the harmonization of the salaries of the State Counsel in the Ministry as approved by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2016, after over twenty years of agitation by state counsels in the Ministry.”
Malami also stressed that the legal services subhead caters for the core mandate of the Ministry including payment of legal fees to external solicitors engaged by the Ministry.
“This sub head has been allocated the sum of N1, 000,006,898.00 (One billion, six thousand, eight hundred and ninety nine naira) as against N843, 563,146.00 allocated in 2016, representing an increase of N156, 443,753.00”, about 18.5% increase.
He however stated that the budget of the legal services sub head that witnessed about 18.5% increase could not still enable them grapple with the challenges that may be arising from the sub head overtime.
According to him, “given the enormous additional responsibilities on the Ministry arising from the passage of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015 as well as the increase in the quantum of other activities currently being pursued by the Ministry, this amount is unarguably, grossly inadequate and will unfortunately over stretch the Ministry capacity to cope to the maximum in the light of the prevailing realities”.
He nevertheless expressed optimism that, the sum of N689, 108,794.00 (Six hundred and eighty nine million, one hundred and eight thousand, seven hundred and ninety four naira) allocated to the Ministry for 2017 capital projects will boost the Ministry’s performance index.
“The projects, if implemented, will greatly enhance our capacity for effectiveness and improved service delivery and undoubtedly encourage and motivate our lawyers to give their best in the service of our dear nation”, the AGF maintained.
In his response to Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, representing Delta West, on payment of outstanding judgment debts, Malami explained that he was conscious and perturbed.
He added that concerted efforts are ongoing to offset the outstanding and probably abate future debts.
“I have a cause to sign a letter sent to the Budget Office this morning before leaving my office to attend to this national calling and constitutional responsibility.
“If the desired response was not gotten from the Budget Office between now and Monday next week, I will fall back on the committee for emergency executive meeting on the way out of the judgment debts outstanding.”
Members of the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, chaired by Senator David Umaru, representing Niger East Senatorial District expressed satisfaction with the articulate budget presentation by the AGF and unanimously applauded the uncommon recoveries made by the Ministry under zero capital budget allocation in 2016 fiscal year.