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The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami has said the approval given for the sale of forfeited oil vessels to operators in the oil industry was “legal.”

Malami said he directed a firm, Omoh-Jay Nigeria Ltd, to dispose of crude oil and diesel in four sea vessels through an open bid.

According to his spokesperson, Umar Gwandu, Malami’s 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.

“Omoh Jay Nig Ltd was granted approval vide Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) letter DPR/DSM/ROM/OPS/COL 2/285 dated 11th August 2009 to evacuate the products on board of MT AKUADA and MT HOPE.

“That was four years before the coming of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s government and long before Malami was appointed as the Attorney General of the Federation.

“The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) filed a motion dated 8th June, 2009 but filed on 11th June, 2009 in Suit No. FHC/B/130C/08 held at Court 1, Ikpoba Hill, Benin City before Hon. Justice Chukwura Nnamani praying for the following orders:

“An order vesting custody of the vessel with contents on the Federal Republic of Nigeria (FRN); an order forfeiting the vessel MT AKUADA used in conveying bunkered 12, 000 metric tonnes of crude oil seized to FRN; and order forfeiting the bunkered 12, 000 to the FRN.”

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