Abubakar Malami, Justice Minister: NIRSAL still under probe

The Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami said Nigeria Incentive-based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) remains under probe for fraud by the Nigerian Police.

Malami in a statement on Saturday in Abuja by his Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations, Dr Umar Gwandu, made the clarification following reports that he had stopped the investigation.

What Malami did was to stop a multiplicity of probes by government anti-graft agencies and the DSS.

Gwandu described any claim to the contrary as a baseless falsehood and mischievously spread in order to tarnish the minister’s reputation.

Before Malami’s intervention, NIRSAL was being investigated by several agencies, apart from the police.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), the State Security Services (SSS), and Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) were all involved in a probe of the fraud, working separately.

This is not only an unhealthy competition among the agencies of the same Federal Government of Nigeria, but a sheer waste of government resources, Malami noted in a memo of 4 February.

Gwandu said Malami’s memo, to all intent and purposes, did not convey the conclusion of stopping of the investigation of NIRSAL; as portrayed by an online medium.

“The clear and unambiguous directive of the Minister was that the other agencies conducting parallel investigations on NIRSAL in respect of the same subject matter should stay action to allow the Nigeria Police to continue and conclude the investigations it had started.

“The directive is by implication that of continuation and not stoppage of the investigations,” Gwandu said.

He said the directive was inspired by the desire to avoid multiplicity, confusion and wastage of scarce resources.

“After all, only one charge can be competently filed against the entity in respect of the same subject/facts being investigated by the multiple agencies, if NIRSAL is found wanting at the end of the investigations.

“The office of the Attorney General wishes to point out that the Police, which was directed to take control of the investigations is a body legally recognised and empowered under Section 214(1) and Section 29 of the Constitution of Nigeria and the Police Act, respectively,” he said.