President Muhammadu Buhari has inaugurated the National Prosecution Coordination Committee (NPCC) for effective prosecution of high-profile corruption and criminal cases in the country.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, on Buhari’s behalf, inaugurated the 20-man committee headed by Attorney-General of the Federation Abubakar Malami, at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The vice president assured that Buhari was not interested in teleguiding the various anti-corruption agencies and prosecution authorities
He said: “When you look at the way the EFCC and other law enforcement agencies have acted in recent times you’ll notice that they’re not under any kind of direction of influence of the president. They’re given the independence to act; they’re 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 get that person or back off that person. All of us know that the president is completely committed to fighting corruption and economic crimes and terrorism.”
The vice president noted that he and the president and expected the anti-graft agencies to use their powers with fairness and without prejudice, saying the same responsibility had been given to the committee.
“That’s the sort of responsibility placed on your own shoulders as well; the responsibility to exercise prosecutorial power independently and without any direction except of course from the learned Attorney-General who is the constitutional and prosecutorial authority in the country.
It’s a very serious responsibility because it also involves making sure that people are treated fairly or that people are not pursued by reason of bias or any other such consideration,” Osinbajo said.
The vice president stressed that it was important that those being prosecuted were not embarrassed needlessly by the prosecutors.
“It’s important everybody observes that the system is fair and that the system works in the interest of the Nigerian people. When the system is fair, everybody buys into it and it’s not difficult for people to relate with it and support it. Every prosecuting organ or agent has the responsibility to put in place a system that we ourselves would not be afraid to be subjected to,” he added.
He said in selecting members of the committee, consideration was given to their legal skills and learning as well as their integrity and strength of character in order to chart a new course in the nation’s criminal justice system.
The vice president stated that while the legal background was important, particular consideration was given to those who have courage and would not allow themselves to be cowed or influenced by tribe, religion, and friendships.
According to him, the composition of the committee is notable “as they take on their tasks at a time of an upsurge in pipeline vandalism among other criminal acts.”
He said: “Given the nature of economic crimes and the enormity sometimes of the money involved and the influence of those who may have to be prosecuted, you need more than legal skills. You need men and women of strong character and courage who will not only be able to turn down inducements of any kind but also act without consideration for tribe, friendship, religion or any other parochial considerations.’’
“This is a very important committee because the administration itself is committed to ensuring that we are able to deal with not only question of corruption which is a big item on our agenda but also other economic crimes. Terrorism has assumed different shapes and proportions of late, and the vandalism that we see in parts of the Niger Delta, which has affected so many different things including oil production, power supply,” says Prof. Osinbajo.
“We’re 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,” he said.
Osinbajo expressed the hope that the committee would make a huge difference “not only in headlines, but in actual delivery of results in in the next few months.”
Earlier in his remarks, the Attorney General said that the committee comprised 12 ex-officio and eight external members of proven integrity and competence.
He said that to fast-track the work of the committee the ministry had created 20 prosecution teams with four members each and had requested the all agencies exercising police powers to recommend five experienced investigators to support the committee’s work.
“The aim is to ensure effective investigation and prosecution of high profile criminal cases in Nigeria,’’ he stated.
He said the committee was not a duplication of the existing anti-corruption agencies, but that it would collaborate with such agencies for effective service delivery.
Members of the committee are:
Mr. Taiwo Abidogun, Solicitor-General/Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice;
Mr. Dipo Okpeseyi, SAN;
Mr. Chukuma Machukwu, SAN;
Professor Bolaji Owasanoye, the Executive Secretary of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption,
Mr. M.S. Diri; Director of Prosecution, Ministry of Justice;
Mr. Pius Oteh;
Mrs Juliet Ibekaku;
Mr. Abiodun Aikomo;
Mr. Kehinde Oginni;
Mr. Salihu Othman Isah; Special Adviser, Media and Publicity to the Attorney-General
Al-Amin Ado Ibrahim; from the Office of the National Security Adviser
Eric Onokif Ifere;
Mrs Diane Okoko;
DIG Abdulrahman Yusuf and
Sylvester Imhanobe as secretary.