Real Story Behind Buhari’s ‘Appointment’ Of Solicitor General 

Intrigues and high-level power-play have trailed the appointment of a substantive Solicitor General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Justice by President Muhammadu Buhari.

This is coming almost nine months after the exit of the former occupant of the office, Mr Adedayo Akpata who retired in June 2021.

Findings shows that the president was literally mislead into announcing a candidate against the long age established precedence and practice of appointment into the office.

It was established that some powerful politicians who are currently facing multi-billion corruption charges in the country have succeeded in luring the office of the Head of Service of the Federation (OHSF) into usurping the powers of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice in the appointment of the solicitor general.

Official documents reviewed by this newspaper revealed how these powerful elements standing corruption trials arrested and hijacked the process for the appointment of the solicitor general initiated by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN.

Based on precedence and practice, the Attorney General is responsible for recommending a qualified public servant to the president for appointment as a solicitor general.

Investigations have shown that the last four substantive solicitor generals – Professor Ignatius Ayua, Alhaji Abdullahi Yola, Taiwo Abidogun and Adedayo Akpata – were all appointed on the direct recommendations of a sitting Attorney General.

“These four recent Solicitor Generals were all appointed on direct recommendations of the Attorney Generals of their time,” a top bureaucrat told this newspaper.

How it all started

In line with the extant practice, Malami had at the expiration of the tenure of the Mr Akpata, SAN, who retired on July 25, 2021, in a letter dated October 12, 2021, with reference number HAGF/SH/2021/Vol.I/37, recommended a qualified director in the justice ministry to Buhari for appointment as a substantive Solicitor General.

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But five months after the recommendation to the President, the process was reportedly hijacked by some vested interests who are keen in pocketing the ministry to serve their selfish interests. “They have usurped the powers of the Attorney General,” another source told this reporter.

After Mr Akpata’s retirement, Mohammed Umar Etsu who was about to retire, was asked to oversee the office of the Solicitor General of Federation in acting capacity.

Mr Etsu retired from the service on 20 January, 2022.

Malami told the President that the new solicitor general will assume office from January 21, 2022.

Malami’s letter reads in parts, “Your Excellency, the need to make such recommendation and for you to consider and exercise the discretion to approve such appointment are consistent with your powers as enshrined in Section 171 (2) (D) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.”

How the appointment was hijacked

It was gathered that immediately after Malami’s letter recommending the appointment of the director as the new Solicitor General was sent to the president, some powerful elements swung into action.

A former Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, and some elements close to another former minister on the run, were fingered as the two principal actors who saw an opportunity to impose their lackey as the new Solicitor General.

The former Attorney General, it was learned, allegedly employed the services of some top officials in the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation, to cause the advertisement of a vacancy in the office of the Solicitor General, which was not the practice.

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Against the established practice and precedence, these powerful elements caused the memo written to the president recommending a new solicitor general to be sent to OHSF for advice, it was learned.

Findings by this newspaper further revealed that this is the first time that a vacancy in the Solicitor General’s office was advertised.

The former justice minister, it was reliably gathered, manipulated the system by ensuring the emergence of his ‘candidate,’ Mrs Jedy-Agba Beatrice Ejodamen, who was recommended to Mr President as the new Solicitor –General.

Mrs Agba is the wife of the Minister of State for Power, Goddy Jedy Agba. She served under former minister as head of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP).

Insiders told this newspaper how the entire process was fraudulently manipulated just to pave way for the emergence for the corrupt elements’ candidate.

It was gathered that 14 candidates sat for the examinations. “However, in a very unprecedentedly fraudulent manner, many of the candidates were eliminated at the screening level. Others were booted out at the written and IT exams levels leaving only Beatrice,” a top Presidency official privy to the matter told this reporter.

Against the age-long established tradition of presenting three names to the president for which he would pick one, “only Beatrice’s name was submitted to the president for approval as the solicitor general,” the source said. This act is undermining the powers of the President to select .

The embattled former minister, who is being prosecuted by the federal government for money laundering charges, is reportedly facilitating Beatrice’s appointment so as to facilitate a soft landing for him on his ongoing trials.

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With the alleged connivance of the Office of Head of Service of the Federation, the former Attorney General had so far succeeded in getting Beatrice announced as the new solicitor general against the recommendation of Mr Malami.

Beatrice was announced alongside four other permanent secretaries but they have not being deployed yet.

The source said, “as it stands now, the President has been arm-twisted and completely mislead without him knowing. It is very sad. The former minister and his allies facing graft cases are bent on hijacking the ministry. It is their hope that very soon, the current minister will leave for election purposes and the Solicitor-General would be in charge for some months. They want to use that opportunity to sabotage their graft cases. That is the grand plot. That is why they are bent on bringing Beatrice.”

It is not clear whether the President would mend this administrative anomaly by arresting this grand plot of imposing the solicitor general.

Civil society kicks

This development is capable of derailing the anti-corruption programme of Buhari administration, according to an anti-corruption advocacy group, Movement for Greater Nigeria and Good Governance (MGGGN).

The Advocacy Director of the group, Mrs Tokunbo Lasisi, said the shoddy deals that trailed the appointment of the solicitor general is “surprisingly disheartening and capable of ruining the anti-graft efforts of the Buhari administration.”

Ms Lasisi said, “it is our fervent hope that Mr President would right this impending wrong and allow due process takes its course.”

There was no immediate comment from the justice ministry.

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