The Federal High Court in Abuja on Monday barred the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission from prosecuting a former Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Alhaji Abdullahi Dikko.
Delivering a judgment in the suit instituted by Dikko, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba held that the non-prosecution agreement entered between the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, and the plaintiff was binding on the EFCC.
The agreement was said to have been based on the return to the coffers of the Federal Government the sum of N1.5bn, proceeds of the crimes Dikko allegedly committed while in office.
The AGF, the Director-General of the Department of State Services, the EFCC and its chairman were the defendants in the suit instituted by Dikko.
Malami and the DSS boss did not oppose the suit, a development which the judge said indicated that they subscribed to Dikko’s case filed on June 4, 2018.
The EFCC and its acting Chairman, Ibrahim Magu, had in the course of hearing of the suit denied the existence of the agreement.
They maintained that if such an agreement was reached, it was in bad faith. The AGF and the Department of State Services did not file any court processes to oppose Dikko’s suit.
Justice Dimgba, in his judgment, said the plaintiff presented indisputable evidence to back his claim about the existence of the non-prosecution agreement between him and the AGF.
“There is a need for government to speak with one voice and not in different tunes that appear to be discordant,” the judge said.
He held that by virtue of the provisions of Section 174 of the Constitution, the AGF, being the chief law officer of the federation, had wide powers and discretion on prosecution of matters.
He held, “First, I must say that the 3rd and 4th defendants’ contention that the 1st defendant cannot enter into binding agreements of this nature is wrong.
“The 1st defendant is the chief law officer of the Federation and the Constitution in Section 174 has already accorded wide powers of discretionary nature, of a very wide character in matters of criminal prosecution to him.
“In my view, such discretions include the entry into a non-prosecution or a deferred prosecution agreement with criminal suspects, and which agreements shall be binding on all prosecutorial agencies including the 3rd and 4th defendants (EFCC and its Chairman).
On the existence or otherwise of a non-prosecution agreement between the plaintiff and the AGF, the judge noted that the evidence presented by the plaintiff was not denied by the AGF and the DSS.
He also referred to a letter by the Special Assistant to the President on Financial Crimes, Kehinde Oginni, acknowledging the existence of the agreement.
He added, “A court can even infer the existence of an agreement through the conduct of parties, because agreement may not always be in writing.
“This said, I am persuaded to believe that there is in existence an agreement for the plaintiff to make restitution in lieu of prosecution. Exhibits MAM15-MAM18 laid credence to this.
“In any event, it is my view, and I hold, that the 3rd and 4th defendants cannot on the basis of a petition which is faceless because it is anonymous, seek to override the exercise of the discretionary powers conferred on the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation by Section 174 of the Constitution.”