The Attorney General of Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), has called on the Senate to intervene in the issue of payment of Judgement Debt.
Malami made the call at the 2020 Budget defence before the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal matters, which took place at the National Assembly, Abuja.
According to him, the Ministry has taken the inventory and explored avenues for the payment of judgement debt and it was only in 2017 that N10 billion was disbursed for the payment as appropriated, whereas the country has an outstanding of N150 billion unpaid, causing the beneficiaries of the sum to keep mounting pressure on the Ministry.
He therefore implored the Committee to intervene in the long standing issue by appropriating N30 billion annually to end the challenge and also to forestall possible friction, accrued interests and unwarranted litigations arising from the failure to effect payment.
The Attorney General also asked for the Committee’s approval for 2.5 per cent as requisite commission arising from recovery of stolen assets.
According to him, the Assets Recovery Unit of the Ministry had done so much and with evidence had deposited all recoveries so far into the Federal Government’s treasury.
As a result of the legal procedural requirements for the recoveries, which most times require the engagement of well-grounded lawyers and consultants services to recover the assets, Malami solicited for the 2.5 per cent as requisite commission arising from the recovery Assets.
Malami also notified the Senate Committee on the Ministry’s proposed Executive Bill for the Establishment of Administration of Criminal Justice Act Monitoring Commission/Agencies.
He explained: “ACJA has since been in force and the Ministry now operates Administration of Criminal Justice Department, which has been empanelled by the ACJ Committee to work closely with the Department.”
He added that recently they realised that the mandate and operational framework of the committee are tasking and wide ranging, requiring enhanced funding that would facilitate the operations.
As a result of these they were of the view that the Committee should be transformed into a Commission or an Agency under the Ministry.
Malami said: “To drive our point home, the management of Ministry shall convey to the National Assembly after endorsement by the Federal Executive Council, an Executive Bill for the establishment of Criminal Justice Administration Commission for your consideration and passage.”
Malami appealed to the Senate Committee to give the Law profession the funding teeth to effectively entrench the rule of law and mature democracy in line with international best practices.
The Chairman of the Senate Committee, Senator Michael Opeyemi Bamidele (Ekiti Central), said in line with the constitution, President Muhammadu Buhari had laid the 2020 Budget before the Senate for consideration and passage and they understand the importance of National Budget with the legislative agenda and the committee would perform its legislative oversight over the Ministry and its Parastatal.
He also said the Committee was aware of the additional responsibility placed on the Ministry with regards to the Freedom of Information Act, which empowered the HAGF in section 29 sub section 1 of the Constitution.
Senator Bamidele also said the Committee was concerned about the Judgement Debt that Government failed to service as expected.
He promised that the Committee would try its best to assist the Ministry.
Senator Chukwuka Utazi in his Observation lent his full support to the Ministry on the 2.5 per cent commission arising from Stolen Assets Recovery.
Utazi said it would enable the Ministry to carry out its activities.
Other Senators present at the Budget defence were Gabriel Suswam (Benue North East) and Adamu Abdullahi (Nasarawa West).