Federal DPP Tackles Mounting Prosecution Cases amid High Expectations

By Emeka Nwankpa on July 12, 2021

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Director, Directorate Public Prosecution of the Federation, Mr. Mohammed Umar Etsu .

The Directorate of Public Prosecutions of the Federation (DPPF) in the Federal Ministry of Justice has stepped up strategies to meet high expectations over increasing prosecution demands arising from cases that are presently before the courts or are in the process of being filed.

The sundry cases, according to keen analysts in the nation’s justice sector, are traceable to rising socio-political events in the country ranging from crimes, criminality, insurgency, banditry, kidnapping and lately to separatist agitations.

This is apart from anticipated pressures when the directorate begins to carry out last month’s directive by the AGF to prosecute suspected violators of Federal Government’s subsisting ban on Twitter.

But ministry of justice sources notwithstanding its increased work schedule, ministry sources said that the director in charge of the DPPF, Mr. Mohammed Umar Etsu and his team has risen to the challenge by devising fresh mechanisms to tackle mounting pressure.

It is also to ensure that it does not leave any stone unturned in winning its cases as well as guaranteeing that it does not sacrifice diligent prosecution at the courts as had been done since July 28, 2016 when he was drafted from the Nigerian Customs Service where he was Legal Adviser to replace Mr. Mohammed Diri as director of DPPF to stop alleged case dismissals at the courts.

It is to Etsu’s credit that shortly after his appointment as DPPF director, the tide of events changed dramatically and has remained so till date owing to what insiders in the ministry ascribe as his principles of diligence, depth, team work and humble leadership.

While it could not be confirmed if the department was considering making requests to the minister to consider hiring eminent private prosecutors such as SANs as is usually allowed, it was however gathered that there is a consensus by the top echelon in the ministry that the minister should adopt the popular war strategy of retaining a winning team.

It was gathered that Etsu has re-briefed and re-positioned the crack prosecution team with Mr. Labaran Shuaibu as the leading counsel who, according to insiders in the ministry, had led the team to record major favourable court rulings that had returned the justice ministry to winning ways. He is currently leading Federal Government’s team in the resumed trial of Mr. Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the proscribed Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB).

The highly cerebral counsel, popularly called Labaran Toto (he hails from Toto Local Government Council of Nasarawa State) has proved to be, in the records of the ministry, a very diligent prosecution counsel that has marshaled convincing arguments to nail and commit to prison many high profile accused persons and suspects at the Federal High Courts level up to the Supreme Court.

His team whose members are distributed across all the Federal High Courts across the country have secured no less than 85 per cent of prosecution cases especially terrorism cases of which over 1,500 were filed as far back as November 2018. In many cases, he had succeeded in urging the court to release suspects for want of evidence and more particularly in the interest of justice.            

The DPPF is also said to be working round the clock to meet up with public expectations over likely prosecution following confirmations by the minister not too long ago that a Federal Government’s closely-guarded nationwide crackdown on suspected financiers and collaborators of Boko Haram, bandits, kidnappers and other criminal groups operating in the country.

The confirmations came after an Abuja-based newspaper exclusively reported in December last year the jailing of six Nigerians in the United Arab Emirates over allegations of terrorism financing. A presidential approval was said to have been given the exercise to hit at the direct links with financiers of Boko Haram and bandits in the country put at over N300 billion and crack the riddle behind the operational financing and laundering of proceeds off such humongous money involving insurgents and other criminal gangs. 

The inter-agency crackdown that has fingered 957 suspects comprising bureau de change operators, gold miners and sellers and other businessmen resulting in their arrests in Kano, Borno, Abuja, Lagos, Sokoto, Adamawa, Kaduna and Zamfara, is believed to be a game-changer in the lingering fight against insurgents and other criminal gangs. They are being kept in custody in military and DSS facilities in Abuja and other places.

    A source in the ministry told this newspaper that the DPPF was closely studying the developments with a view to evolving the necessary mechanisms capable of aiding the legal processes and fire- works at the appropriate time.

‘’Even before the confirmations by the minister and the other developments, our competent DPPF office had proactively drafted its machinery to maintain a close watch on the developments. They not do their job before the camera or on the pages of newspaper. The machinery and mechanism will handle the needful’’, the source said.

Efforts to reach the DPPF helmsman or his personal aides for their comments were not successful but checks by this newspaper revealed that re-organizing the DPPF office was one of Malami’s first set of objectives as a means of re-positioning the ministry to carry out its statutory mandates. It was after his appointing Etsu that he embarked on his first major massive prosecution of criminal and terrorism cases especially the high profile which earned quick results thereby turning the tide till date. 

The analysts maintained that the efforts of the present team nurtured by  Mr. Umar Mohammed Etsu, a 1985 graduate of Law at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria with over 30 years of meritorious law practice in the Federal public service, have significantly brought a human face to state-led prosecution of persons in the overall administration of justice system in the country. He was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1985 and joined the Federal Ministry of Justice in 1986 as a State Counsel.



Posted on July, 12 2021

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