The Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, has dismissed insinuations in some quarters that soldiers implicated in the killing of police officers on duty by a kidnap kingpin, Bala Hamisu, are deliberately being shielded from prosecution.
Malami, who made the statement when he fielded questions from State House correspondents at the end of the virtual meeting of the Federal Executive Council (FEC), said the government was only giving time to allow the established processes to be consummated.
The meeting was presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Council Chamber of the State House, Abuja on Wednesday.
The minister, who presented the score-card of the ministry at the meeting, said that the affected soldiers were currently being charged before a court-martial in accordance with established laws in the country.
The kidnap kingpin, popularly known as Wadume, is facing a 16-count charge, bordering on terrorism, murder, kidnapping and gun-running along with Tijjani Balarabe, an army captain and 18 others.
Also on the list of defendants are Staff Sgt. David Isaiah; Sgt. Ibrahim Mohammed; Cpl. Bartholomew Obanye; Pte. Mohammed Nura and Lance Cpl. Okorozie Gideon.
Others are Cpl. Markus Michael; Lance Cpl. Nvenaweimoeimi Akpagra; Staff Sgt. Abdullahi Adamu; Pte. Ebele Emmanuel; ASP. Aondona Iorbee and Insp. Aliyu Dadje and Auwalu Bala, aka Omo Razor.
The minister stated, however, that before the military could release their personnel for prosecution, they must also go through their in-house processes.
He said: “Now, coming to the issue of the soldiers, it is important for you to note that within the context of the Nigerian law, there are certain provisions that are exclusive to the military within the context of law on court martial and then, the internal discipline associated with the military.
“The soldiers can now be charged before court martial, and then for the military to release their personnel for prosecution, ordinarily, there are in-house processes and procedures that are to be consummated.
“So those that are handy for the purpose of prosecution cannot be held in custody for unduly longer period of time on the account of the absence of the military.
“So that is how the idea of severing the charge to allow those that are handy to stand their trail arose.
“That does not mean that by any means that the military are shielded and cannot be prosecuted.
“But if they have to be prosecuted, they have to be prosecuted within the context of the law. What is the law here? They are military personnel, first they are to go through the in-house processes.
“There are two options, either to charge them before the court martial which is a special court established by law for the trial of soldiers or in the alternative for the military after consummation of the in-house processes should consider handing them over for trail.”
On the activities of the ministry in the past 10 months, Malami disclosed that the ministry had succeeded in the recovery of millions of dollars of looted assets while efforts had been intensified to recover more of such funds abroad.
According to him, legislative bills aimed at checking frauds and unhealthy practices as well as to enhance the economic fortune of the country are being pursued at the National Assembly.
The Minister of Water Resources, Alhaji Suleiman Adamu, who also spoke to the correspondents on the outcome of the meeting, disclosed that the council approved N634.2 million for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Lankang Irrigation Project in Pankshin Local Government Area of Plateau.
He said the ministry was working to increase the nation’s irrigation capacity from 130,000 to 500,000 under a scheme meant to run from 2016 to 2030.
He said: “The Ministry presented a memo to council today on the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Lankang Irrigation Project in Plateau State.
“This contract was approved in the sum of N634, 184,783.93, inclusive of 7.5% VAT, with the completion period of 18 months.
“It comprises the rehabilitation of 100 hectares of an existing pilot irrigation scheme and the expansion of that irrigation scheme by additional 500 hectares.
“It also includes the reconstruction of existing damage water control and conveying structure, preparation of fields and fishponds and provision of adequate water for irrigation.
“It was approved in line with government’s policy to boost food production and security and in the coming months.
“We’ll be seeing quite a number of projects, related to irrigation that we’ll be presenting, in line with our irrigation and drainage project, in what we call the National Irrigation and Drainage Programme, 2016 to 2030.
“We hope to increase total acreage for irrigation in the country from the existing 130,000 hectares to 500,000 hectares.
“From the period that we started to date, our target was to have 100,000 hectares by 2020. As at January, we had about 85,000 hectares, which is already completed.
The minister announced that the country was on target towards attaining the 100,000 hectares by 2020, under the National Irrigation and Drainage Programme.
Similarly, the Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, disclosed that the council approved N10.6 billion for project cost revision of two projects.
“Today, what we had were two memoranda for revision of project cost and all of this is in aid of completion of the projects involved.
“The first project is the Koton-Karfe-Lokoja section of the Abuja-Abaji-Lokoja highway. That cost was revised upwards by N3.076 billion.
“The second road is the Cham-Numan section of the Gombe–Yola highway.
“The revision of the cost is by N7.607 billion. This is to cover the cost of replacing about 11 kilometres of what we called, black cotton soil,’’ he said.