Senate committee seeks clarification over proposed N2bn for prosecution of Boko Haram, others

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The Nigeria Senate on Monday asked for clarification over proposed N2 billion for the trial and prosecution of Boko Haram and others by the ministry of Justice.

The Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters chaired by Senator Michael Opeyemi, observed that the N2 billion was proposed for civil litigation, prison decongestion, trial and prosecution of Boko Haram, administration of criminal justice system and payment for international legal obligations.

Also, a member of the committee, Senator Ajibola Bashiru, said “my observation is proposing N2 billion and above for just legal services is not definitive enough, clear enough to avail auditors at the committee for the purpose of exercising our oversight functions.

We need to know how much is being projected for civil litigation, for prison congestion and all other items in that regard…”

He added “There appear to be an overlap with what has been provided for the sum of about N2 billion for generated items under overhead cost and some of the items listed as capital expenditure.

“For instance, there is provision of N350 million for administration of criminal justice in Page 4. What is the relationship between that N350 million budgeted and the projected sum under the heading of legal services in the overhead cost proposal?…

“The same thing with the issue of prison decongestion. If you look at the capital expenditure proposal, the sum of N380 million was highlighted for prosecution of prison inmates and decongestion of correctional centres nationwide. How much of that will then not be overlapped between what has been budgeted for over N2billion as part of legal services.”

But the Solicitor General of the Federation, Dayo Apata said that even the N2 billion is not enough, but a tip of the iceberg.

“On the proposed N2 billion for the ministry’s legal services…we have stated that it will be used for civil litigation. Since 2015, the office of the AGF has been doing almost all the cases inside without going out for external solicitors.

“We are also trying to reduce to the barest minimum the amount spent on civil litigations. If we are looking at the N2 billion, it cannot be compared with what it is now saving from government.”

He further said that “presently, the last performance we had, we saved over N600 billion because we now do cases in-house. So, part of this N2 billion is essentially to get the lawyers…because all the cases are spread among the 36 states.

“The trial and prosecution of Boko Haram: you will recall that last year, we had to create a jurisdiction, a division in Kanji Dam in which 3000 inmates were prosecuted. How do you prosecute 3000 inmates in a place? We had to bring four judges from the Federal High Court, and pay the legal aides.

“When we look at the N2billion, it’s a tip of the ice berg of what it intends to do.

“Presently, there is a camp in Maiduguri which we are going for another prosecution. This is what the N2 billion is going to do. So, there is no overlapping” he added.

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