The Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation (HAGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN has disclosed that last year’s approval to some operators in the oil industry to sell five sea vessels laden with crude oil and diesel forfeited to the Federal Government was legal.
The Minister’s Special Assistance on Media and Public Relations, Dr. Umar Gwandu, made this known in a statement during the weekend, reacting to reports that the HAGF was said to have granted approval to Omoh Jay Nigeria Limited to dispose of the sea vessels laden with crude oil and diesel through an opening bid.
The statement reads, “The attention of the Office of the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation (OHAGF) and Minister of Justice has been drawn to a maliciously concocted publication in some media outfit particularly Sahara Reporters and Punch dated 12th July, 2020 alleging that the AGF has granted approval to a firm (Omoh Jay Nig Ltd) purportedly standing trial in court for stealing crude oil, diesel to auction goods seized from it. The misleading reports aimed at confusing the public and tarnishing the good image of the HAGF”.
However, Malami has justified his approval of the auction, insisting that he committed no infraction by granting approval to Omoh Jay Nigeria Limited and its officials even if they were being prosecuted for alleged theft of crude oil.
“Omoh Jay Nigeria Limited was granted approval vide Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) letter DPR/DSM/ROM/OPS/COL 2/285 dated 11th August, 2009 to evacuate the products onboard of MT AKUADA and MT HOPE. That was four years before the coming of President Muhammadu Buharis government and long before Malami was appointed as the Attorney General of the Federation”.
The OHAGF confirmed that following the president directive to clear territorial waters and highways of obsolete and unauthorized vessels, barges, ships, boats, trucks vehicles amongst others, it obtained Final Forfeiture Orders dated 16th January, 2018 and 15th April, 2019 from the Federal High Court on behalf of the Federal Government of Nigeria in Suit N0 FHC/ABJ/CS/741/2017, FHC/ABJ/CS/742/2017 and FHC/ABJ/CS/237/2019.
Malami explained that the disposal of the vessels were done following the final forfeiture obtained by the OHAGF and the Presidential Directive of 25th October, 2018 directing the OHAGF to put in the interim before the passage of the Proceeds of Crime Bill, appropriate transitional arrangements for the management and expeditious disposal of the realizable assets so as to preserve their economic value.
“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 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 that the Company is being criminally tried”.
He stated that the disposed of the vessels under reference were conducted with due process following a report submitted by the Federal Ministry of Works, Power and Housing on the value of these assets.
“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 criminal offence, if indeed any, does that take away the Constitutional presumption of innocence in their eligibility to apply and be considered for auction?”, he explained.
The disposal of the vessels was done following Final Forfeiture Order obtained by the OHAGF and recovered monies are paid into the FGN Recovery Account.
Malami argued that 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? Sahara Reporters is challenged to come out with answers.
The statement emphasized that, Omoh-Jay Nigeria Limited was in no way known, associated or related to the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, either in his official or personal capacities.
It should be noted that Omoh Jay Nigeria Limited is one amongst the Thirty-Eight (38) auctioneers appointed by the OHAGF after being selected during the opening of the pre-qualification Bid.
Deputy Director (Information)