Nigeria’s El-Rufai a Victim of Trial by Headline

The following is a statement we put out today on the Nasir El-Rufai case in Nigeria.

Nigeria’s El-Rufai a Victim of Trial by Headline, Say Lawyers

Crass tactics of intimidation and slander against Nasir el-Rufai reveal political persecution by the State, argue defense lawyers

LONDON, April 17 — Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, the highly regarded former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) of Abuja, Nigeria, has been relentlessly targeted in recent weeks by state-controlled media with aggressive slander and false accusations, prompting his international defense team to denounce this “trial by headline.”

Viewed as a popular potential political competitor, the Nigeriangovernment has initiated a politically motivated investigation againstEl-Rufai, which is ironically being carried out by the once-respectedEconomic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), presenting a slew ofimplausible charges related to his exercise of discretion to allocateland in accordance with Nigeria’s Constitution and the Land Use Act,during his tenure as Minister of Abuja between 2003 and 2007.

“The EFCC’s ongoing attempts to slander and taint the reputation ofEl-Rufai are not indicative of a legitimate case, but rather illustratetheir fear and willingness to violate the law in persecuting apotential political opponent,” said Robert Amsterdam, a Canadian lawyeron the international defense team. “There are few other individuals whohave opened themselves up to such a high level of scrutiny, and evenfewer who have testified before Senate hearings and published lengthyresponses to even the most absurd allegations.”

The false accusations against El-Rufai attempt to argue that in hisduties as FCT Minister he was allegedly responsible for improperallocation of land. However, any review of the records in Abuja, (FCT)clearly show that all beneficiaries of these alleged parceldistributions were ordinary Nigerian citizens, and that El-Rufai’sconduct was strictly in accordance with the laws of Nigeria and theobjective of the restoration of the Abuja Master Plan and the City’seconomic revitalization.

“In many countries, Nasir El-Rufai’s excellent stewardship of theAbuja region would receive accolades and admiration,” said Chief RotimiAkeredolu SAN, the lead Nigerian defense lawyer on the case.”Unfortunately, in our country today a capable and ethical politicianlike El-Rufai is persecuted to stamp out any alternative opinions,while those who have looted the treasury walk free on the streets.”

The defense team for El-Rufai vigorously denounces the government’sslander campaign of false accusations, and announces that a newinternational campaign will be initiated to bring justice to this case,highlighting the unlawful actions of the EFCC in pursuing groundless,political cases.