The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, has said that the approval he gave for the sale of forfeited oil vessels to operators in the oil industry was “legal.”
He spoke after it became known that he directed a firm, Omoh-Jay Nigeria Ltd, to dispose of crude oil and diesel in four sea vessels through an open bid, despite the company standing trial for allegedly stealing about 12,000 metric tonnes of crude oil loaded in a vessel.
In a statement by his spokesperson, Umar Gwandu, Malami said the approval to dispose of the crude oil vessels followed the final forfeiture order obtained by his office and a presidential directive of October 25, 2018.
He said the vessels were disposed of in accordance with due process, following a report submitted by the then Ministry of Works, Power and Housing on the value of the assets.
He said though Jerome Itepu of Omoh-Jay Nigeria Ltd and his company are still standing trial, they have not been convicted by any court of law in the country and can thus not be denied the opportunity to participate in the auction bidding process by law.
Citing Section 36 (5) of the 1999 Constitution the AGF said, “Every person who is charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed to be innocent until proved guilty.
“Assuming, without conceding that Omo-Jay is being tried for a criminal offence, if indeed any, does that take away the Constitutional presumption of innocence in their eligibility to apply and be considered for auction?
“To my mind, the point of interest to the public are: Whether:- Omo-Jay is in any way connected with Malami by way of fronting for him; whether Malami is sharing the proceeds of the sale or, in any way benefiting in the transaction.