Justice Odili’s ordeal and men that play God

By Osmund Agbo

On Friday October 29, 2021, some heavily armed persons suspected to be security operatives, invaded the official resident of Hon. Justice Mary Peter Odili, located along Imo Street, Maitama, Abuja. The raid was carried out Gestapo style, not minding that Mary Odili, JSC, CFR is the second most senior justice of Nigeria’s apex court and the wife of a former governor of Rivers State. The magistrate who issued the controversial search warrant reportedly revoked it later that day, stating that he was misled.

In the aftermath of the show of shame, what Nigerians witnessed was a flurry of denials by the Police, DSS, EFCC. None among Nigeria’s hydra-headed security agencies claimed responsibility.  From available report, however, one Lawrence Ajodo, a chief superintendent of police, had applied for and obtained a search warrant at Wuse Zone 6 magistrate’s court in Abuja. Mr. Ajodo claimed to have acted on behalf of a certain joint asset recovery team allegedly coordinated by Abubakar Malami’s Ministry of Justice. As Nigerians await the findings of an investigative panel on the raid, we are reminded that this would not be the first or second time the Attorney-General’s name would come up in such controversial circumstances.

On 6 July 2020, Ibrahim Magu, the acting chairman of Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) since November 2015 was arrested for corruption bothering on embezzlement of public funds. Specifically, be was accused of failing to properly account for the “N431 million naira security votes released to the office of the Executive Chairman of EFCC between November 2015 and May 2020” and was taken into custody.

Later that week, an investigative panel led by Justice Ayo Salami was convened by President Buhari to look into the allegations. Magu’s trouble started when Attorney-General Malami sent a letter to President Buhari, alleging “Flagrant abuse of public office and other infractions committed by Mr Ibrahim Magu”. In the letter, he accused the spy chief of corruption, official misconduct and insubordination. I have no idea what the outcome of the presidential investigation was and harbor no interest in defending Mr. Magu, but if he was guilty as charged, he shouldn’t be left to enjoy billions of ill-gotten money. The question remains, was it really about the AGF doing his job or just a plot hatched in pursuit of a personal vendetta? Before then, the two had been at loggerheads on how to handle some seized assets. It was alleged that Malami authorized a private company with a shady past that included theft allegation, to auction several seized sea vessels holding crude oil and diesel, an attempt that officer Magu vehemently opposed.

The House of Representatives held a hearing on the issue of those recovered funds and assets and at one point said it uncovered the illegal payment of N2 billion made by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to the Attorney General of the Federation as legal fees for the prosecution of some terrorism suspects. You wonder if these were the same terror suspects, some of whom were identified by The Emirates but whose identity the AGF refused to disclose for the reason that “naming and shaming suspects in the Nigerian context must be rooted in constitutionalism”. Such provision of course, does not apply to the accused sponsor of Oduduwa Republic who he alleged is a member of the National assembly.

Peoples Gazette earlier this year, secretly obtained an eight-page memo of May 4, 2021 where AG Malami was urging the President to declare a nationwide state of Emergency. He reportedly cited widespread insecurity which he blamed on the activities of separatist agitators like Sunday Igboho and Nnamdi Kanu. AGF Malami had also on October 6, threatened that the Buhari’s government would impose a state of emergency in Anambra if the security situation did not improve. God forbid that Boko Haram in the Northeast and widespread banditry in the northwest should pose any security problem to this country. The irony of Nigeria is that those in the political echo chamber of an indivisible, non-negotiable entity are also the ones totally consumed by bigotry and regional politics.

The whole idea of setting aside the constitution and ruling by Martial laws was to get around the constitutional and legal bureaucratic bottlenecks in matters of National Security with particular regards to fundamental human rights. Just to be clear, what is at play here is that the one whose job is to protect the Nigerian constitution at all cost, allegedly wanted a crucial aspect of that constitution to be suspended. Bizarre.

In all the cases described above, Abubakar Malami, the man who superintends over the Federal Ministry of Justice denied any culpability and washed his hands clean. What is not clear, is why Buhari’s Attorney-General continue to feature in every major controversial issue plaguing this administration, whether it’s the unceremonious exit of Magu from EFCC, the raid on the home of Justice Odili, asset recovery scandal or the extra-ordinary rendition of Nnamdi Kanu. To his staunch supporters, especially from the north, there is also the human side of the AGF which is not known to so many.

We were told that a charity Malami co-founded called The Khadimiyya for Justice and Development Initiative (KJDI) has been instrumental in providing basic social amenities especially in the rural communities of his native Kebbi state. Aside from distributing foodstuffs and medical supplies, his foundation was reported to have secured credit facilities worth billions of dollars to thousands of people in all the 21 local governments of Kebbi state as part of Covid-19 palliative. Malami was also alleged to have made a personal donation of 16 million naira to the flood victims of Kebbi State. Obviously that kind of money is not coming from his savings as a salaried federal minister. We have to assume that the man was swimming in wealth, way before joining Buhari’s supposedly austere government.

An investigative report carried out by Sahara Reporters however, suggested otherwise. They detailed how Malami and his family accumulated huge fortune since his becoming Nigeria’s Attorney-General. The privileged family was even reported to have flown on chartered private jet while attending a wedding event in Birnin Kebbi sometime ago.

There is no doubt that very few people in this administration have the power and clout that match that of AGF Malami. He is regarded as one of the untouchables in Buhari’s kitchen cabinet who literally can get away with murder. The quickest way to fall out of favor with the Aso Rock cabal is to cross an imaginary line drawn by their hatchet man. Imagine if such enormous power and influence is deployed to quench the inferno swallowing up what is left of this country.

Few days ago, I chanced upon an interesting list making the round in social media. In that list were the political juggernauts and gladiators of the second republic including President Shehu Shagari, Vice President Alex Ekwueme and the 19 Governors. Interestingly, only the duo of Auwal Ibrahim and Jim Nwobodo, none of whom are relevant in the current political dispensation are still alive. The rest, like the way of all flesh, have since joined their ancestors. That should serve as a sobering lesson to those who today are in control of the levers of power. Regrettably, many in this part of the globe continue to carry on as though they have conquered death.

Dr. Agbo, a Public Affairs analyst is the coordinator of African Center for Transparency and Convener of Save Nigeria Project. Email: [email protected]