President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday in Abuja signed some strategic bilateral agreements aimed at boosting the Federal Government’s anti-graft policy.
The president specifically signed eight documents, with four bordering on the ratification of agreements with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to cover mutual legal assistance in criminal, civil and commercial matters as well as extradition of sentenced persons.
Other documents signed were on the Charter for the Lake Chad Basin between Nigeria, Cameroun, Central African Republic, Libya, Niger and the Republic of Chad and also African Tax Administration Forum Agreement on Mutual Assistance in Tax Matters.
Meanwhile, during the signing of the documents, the strained relationship between Abubakar Malami, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, and Ibrahim Magu, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), acting Chairman, was laid bare, as the former accused the latter of not helping the Federal Government’s anti-graft war.
The president also ratified the World Intellectual Property Organisation Performances and Phonograms Treaty, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Treaty on Audio-Visual Performances as well as Marrakesh Treaty to facilitate access to published works for persons who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise.
While all the documents were signed and ratified in the presence of key stakeholders in Buhari’s government, Magu was conspicuously missing. The stakeholders present during the signing included Kemi Adeosun, the minister of finance, Lawal Daura, director general of the Department of State Service (DSS), Abba Kyari, chief of staff to the president, Ita Enang, senior special assistant to the president on National Assembly matters, Geoffrey Onyeama, minister of foreign affairs, Babagana Mungunu, national security adviser and Garba Shehu, senior special adviser to the president on media and publicity, among others.
The differences between Malami and Magu became obvious when the former’s ministry released a statement accusing Magu of frustrating the Federal Government’s anti-graft war.
The AGF accused Magu and the EFCC of working to prevent the lifting of the suspension slammed by the global financial intelligence gathering body, Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units.
It was uncovered that their relationship became strained because the AGF wanted the creation of an autonomous Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), detached from the EFCC, and has forwarded a bill to the National Assembly to that effect but Magu preferred NFIU to remain part of EFCC with mere re-organisation of its operations.
Nigeria’s representation in Egmont Group through the NFIU was suspended on June 1, 2007 because the NFIU was said to lack independence and was subject to the control of the EFCC via the provision of the Section 1(2) (c) of the EFCC Act. Egmont demanded autonomy for NFIU as a condition for the country’s readmission, failing which it would be expelled.
Meanwhile, Buhari said that he was pleased to append his signature to the documents as it represented a very important milestone in the quest to fulfill Nigeria’s international obligations for the benefit of the economy, security and the anti-corruption war within and outside Nigeria.
“I am delighted to perform the duty of executing Instruments of Ratification of certain Agreements on behalf of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, pursuant to the powers conferred on me by Section 5(1) (a) and (b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) and Article 7 of the Vienna Convention on the law of treaties of 1969.
“With this sovereign act, which has been replicated in the United Arab Emirates by their responsible authorities, we are now in a position to utilize these Agreements fully to foster cooperation between our respective authorities particularly for the purpose of prosecuting the anti-corruption campaign of this Government,” the president said.
Malami explained that the agreement on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters between Nigeria and United Arab Emirate would create a broad legal platform for cooperation between both countries and the administration of criminal law generally and also would cover matters related to the investigation and prosecution of crimes and sharing of information and experience between both countries.
According to the AGF, the agreement would also constitute a co-component of Nigeria’s anti-corruption strategy giving the prominence of the UAE as an investment destination for many Nigerians some of whom have unfortunately seen that country as a safe haven to invest wealth illicitly acquired from Nigeria.
“The second agreement is an agreement on mutual legal assistance in civil and commercial matters; these agreements create a platform for assistance between both countries in civil and commercial matters which will in essence assist to institutionalise support for the Nigerian business community through commercial and civil protection and engender massive growth on both sides.
“This agreement has a strong potential to promote growth, trade and commerce between both countries by strengthening the legal framework for the settlement of legal disputes and the execution of court judgements in civil and commercial matters.
“The third is an agreement for transfer of sentenced persons between Nigeria and UAE as well. It will grant our country the privilege of bringing back sentenced persons of Nigerian origin serving their terms in UAE, to serve the same term in Nigerian prisons and where applicable face investigation and prosecution for the crimes, inclusive of financial crimes they may have committed in Nigeria before their apprehension in UAE.
“The final agreement between Nigeria and the UAE is on extradition; this agreement will create the legal platform for either country to make request for the extradition of fugitives from justices found within each other’s territory. It will, therefore, give us the necessary legal basis to request the extradition of Nigerian citizens who may have absconded to UAE after committing crimes in our country thus ensuring that they face appropriate investigation and prosecution.
“Recall that the present administration prioritizes the conclusion of the above four agreements with the UAE upon the assumption of office of this government in the light of the strategic importance of the UAE in relation to financial frauds from Nigeria.
“You will also recall that Mr. President led a delegation to the UAE in January 2016. During the deliberations, the two countries recognised the positive relations between both countries and agreed that there was the need to encourage and indeed boost legitimate commercial transactions between Nigeria and the UAE through all legitimate channels”.