Scholarship

Saluting Malami and the courage to stand by Nigeria

By Rotimi Ola

The Justice Minister, Abubakar Malami, has been in the news of late. There have been scathing remarks on his personality in recent times. That the attacks have been sustained vigorously smacks of a sinister motive either to score a cheap political point or to cause a payback for some of the policies introduced by the Justice Ministry, especially the assets recovery initiative that has recorded tremendous success.

Therefore, it is not surprising that the Justice Minister has been in the news of late through a well-conceived effort at rubbishing his image, casting shadows on the gains recorded in assets recovery. This is understandable given the parlance that when you fight corruption, it fights back more vigorously.

I followed the events closely and concluded that to be able to stand firm in addressing some of the issues affecting our growth and development, such individuals must be prepared for fire and brimstone. Therefore the Abubakar Malami episode didn’t come to me as a surprise. However, his continuous push has continually impressed me despite the challenges encountered.

I must add that it takes courage to achieve what he has achieved so far. It also takes an individual that has elected to stand on the side of the truth to be still standing tall despite the barrage of attacks on his person.

Most times, I wonder what his staying power is. I am sad because of our disposition to issues in the country. We are quick to pull down even when we know that such would take the country back donkey years. We are also not mindful that for us to make progress as a country there are certain attributes we must jettison.

For Abubakar Malami, he is paying the price for standing by Nigeria. The price is heavy and indeed a great sacrifice that must be made when one imagines the recoveries that have been made so far, which is mind-boggling.

The Justice Minister has been outstanding in discharging his duties as the Chief Law Officer of the country. His avowed stance on protecting the spirit of the constitution has been remarkable. This has fetched him numerous accolades across the country and outside the country’s shores.

Still, on the contentious assets recovery, one initiative that I found brilliant is the idea to establish an assets recovery management agency. Accordingly, the agency is expected to manage all recovered assets. What has been the practice was that the proceeds of crime were scattered all over and mainly in the hands of different and multiple agencies of government, inclusive of the Police, the Directorate of State Services, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission, including the Ministry of Justice.

According to the Justice Minister, “what this law seeks to do is to move the fight against corruption to the next level; next level of transparency; next level of accountability and in essence, have in place an agency of government that is exclusively responsible for anything proceeds of crime.” If this is not brilliant, I don’t know what else to call it.

I am glad that Nigeria is blessed with an individual whose knowledge of the law is outstanding. I dare to say his appointment as Justice Minister is one of the best decisions of the Muhammadu Buhari administration. His commitment has been unflinching, as well as the emphasis on transparency and accountability.

It is thus my considered opinion that those that have elected to throw caution in the wind by sponsoring the smear campaign against him should have a rethink. Instead, they should channel their energies and resources into charitable enterprises that would benefit the ordinary citizens in the country.

I do not think the Justice Minister would succumb to the blackmail and intimidation. More as it seems a waste of time, issues must be placed in proper perspectives because the reason for the Justice Minister’s attack is that it is no longer business as usual.

We need to be circumspect and be careful not to ruin whatever is left of this country. if the proceeds of crime that have been recovered so far do not give us a reason to believe in the country, at least those that have elected to stand by the country should be spared the trauma of character assassination.

I can only wonder if the Justice Minister had continued with the previous trend where everything goes. This country would have evaporated. The last time I checked, it was estimated that the Muhammadu Buhari administration, through concerted efforts, had recovered about 1 trillion naira of stolen funds and assets since 2015. All final forfeitures are being deployed in the Government’s special Infrastructure and Social Investment Programmes.

We must admit that these are no mean feat and the man behind the drive is the Justice Minister. Little wonder why he has been the subject of veracious attacks in recent times? Whether we like it or yes, one thing remains, which is the fact that Abubakar Malami has displayed an unalloyed commitment to the Nigerian cause.

I can go on non-stop on some other notable interventions by the Justice Ministry under Abubakar Malami, whose impact has been far-reaching in addressing most of the issues confronting us as a nation. He has been a nightmare to those who have corruptly themselves through the assets recovery initiative. He has ensured transparency in the conduct of government business. And the list goes on.

My advice to the Justice Minister is to continue to stand tall even in the face of adversaries. He should not lose sight of the goal. Those that have elected to be unreasonable should continue with the tirade. The interest of Nigeria comes first, and that is what Abubakar Malami has demonstrated so far.

Lest we forget, the race is not for the swift but brave hearts. I salute his courage, discipline and strength of character. These are indeed attributes of a leader.

Ola is a public affairs analyst based in Lagos.

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