Some lawyers and a civil rights group have criticised the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), over the absence of case files to prosecute killer herdsmen.

Malami had said that his office was unable to prosecute alleged killer herdsmen, owing to the absence of case files.

Malami stated this in a document with reference number: MJ/LIT/ABJ/HRWAN/440/2020, dated October 7, 2020, obtained by Sunday PUNCH on Saturday.

The AGF document, which was signed by the Acting Director, Civil Litigation and Public Law Department, Mrs Maimuna Shiru on behalf of the minister, was in response to a letter written by an Abuja-based civil rights organisation, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria.

HURIWA had in a letter signed by its National Coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, asked the minister to prosecute “armed Fulani killers.”

However, the minister in his reply claimed the cases in question had no case files and as such he could not prosecute them.

In his reply to a request by the civil rights group’s demand for the prosecution of the suspects, the minister instructed an acting director in the ministry to write, “I am directed by the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice to acknowledge receipt of your letter dated August 13, 2020, on the above subject matter and to inform you that your letter has been noted.

“I am further directed to inform your office that the alleged crimes cannot be prosecuted without case files. Please, accept the assurances of the best regards of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice.”

After receiving the AGF’s reply, HURIWA wrote a letter to the Ambassador of the United States of America, Mary Beth Leonard.

The letter titled, ‘Take note that (the) Nigerian Government is unwilling to prosecute mass killers,” was received by the American Embassy in Abuja, on October 14, 2020.

The letter partly reads, “Our appeal is that you use your good offices to demand that the Nigerian President take action to prosecute these mass killers who are roaming about freely even after they were paraded by the Inspector-General of Police.”

Meanwhile, a public interest lawyer, Mr Kunle Edun, noted the AGF had the duty to ensure widespread crimes were checked and to coordinate the prosecution of such offenders.

Edun said, “The AGF being the chief law officer of the federation has a duty to ensure that widespread crimes like the incidents of attacks on farmers by herdsmen are checked. Their activities are not limited to any particular state.

“The AGF is expected in situations like this to partner with the Attorneys General of the various states to ensure that the herdsmen involved are arrested and prosecuted for the offences committed.  I am yet to see such coordination or intervention from the office of the AGF.”

Also, an activist and lawyer, Mr Inibehe Effiong, said although the offences the armed herders committed could only be prosecuted by the states, there were roles the AGF ought to play.

He said, “Essentially, murder is a state offence, it is not a federal offence. The Attorney General of the Federation cannot even prosecute murder or herdsmen involved in killing people. He can recommend, he can advise, but he cannot file charges.

“But that does not exculpate the AGF. He can ensure that proper investigation is done, and he can ensure the culprits are arrested.”

Also, the Director of the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, a civil society, Mr Debo Adeniran, said, “The AGF is the number one public defender who ought to compel the police to produce the case files and channel them to the appropriate places for prosecution.

“The killings are rampant in every part of the country and the government must not wait for the police to bring case files before prosecution. The AGF should not be lackadaisical about criminal offences in the country. He should play the supervisory role.”

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