The two chambers of the 8th National Assembly have perfected plans to strip the executive arm of government in Nigeria of the power to prosecute persons suspected to have committed any offence against the Nigerian state. . .
In the proposed and ongoing constitutional amendment exercise in both the red and blue chambers, the National Assembly is putting finishing touches on a legislation which aims at separating the office of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and the Minister of Justice (Moj), AND also each of the 36 states’ Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, respectively.
Nigeria: Abubakar Malami SAN – the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice
The proposed amendments are part of the 23 item resolution approved by the House of Representatives Special Ad-hoc Committee on constitutional review, headed by the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Yussuff Sulaimon Lasun. In turn, the 23 items were also ratified by the constitutional review committee of the Senate, headed by the deputy Senate president, Ike Ekwerenmadu.
The Bill seeking to establish the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and of the states separately from the office of the Minister of or commissioner for justice is aimed at making the office of the Attorneys-General independent and insulated from partisanship and political control by the Nigerian Presidency.
The Bill seeks the following:
- Insulate the Attorney General of the Federation from partisan politics and presidential control.
- The Attorney General of the Federation shall not be a member of any political party.
- The Attorney General of the Federation shall hold office for a single term of seven years and no more until he attains the age of sixty-five years, whichever is earlier.
- Redefine the role of the Attorney-General of the Federation and provide a fixed tenure.
- Increase the age and qualification for appointment of the Attorney General of the Federation.
- Provide for independent process for the appointment of the Attorney General of the Federation.
The Bill seeks to amend sections 150 and 174 of the 1999 Nigerian constitution (as amended). Section 150 (1) stipulates that “there shall be an Attorney General of the Federation who shall be the Chief Law Officer and a Minister of the Government of the Federation”.
In the proposed amendment, the section shall provide that “there shall be a Minister of Justice who shall be a Minister and Chief Law Officer of the Government of the Federation”.
A new insertion is being proposed to section 174 (A) which provides that “there shall be an Attorney-General of the Federation who shall be appointed by the President subject to confirmation by the Senate”.
In the case of the Minister, the bill is proposing that “a person shall not be qualified to hold or perform the functions of the office of Minister of Justice of the Government of the Federation unless he is qualified to practice as a legal practitioner in Nigeria and has been so qualified for not less than fifteen years” instead of ten years in the constitution.
In the case of Attorneys General of states, the bill seeks to amend sections 195 and 211 of the constitution.
Section 195 stipulates that “there shall be an Attorney-General for each State who shall be the Chief law Officer and Commissioner for Justice of the Government of that State”.
But in the proposed amendment, the section provides that “there shall be a Commissioner for Justice of the Government of a State”, while a new insertion to section 211 provides that “there shall be an Attorney-General of a State who shall be appointed by the Governor subject to confirmation by the State House of Assembly”.
According to the Bill, the Attorney General of a state shall not be a member of any political party and shall hold office for a single term of six years and no more until he attains the age of sixty-five years, whichever is earlier.
Meanwhile, the Bill which proposes to guarantee independence for the office of the Auditor-General for the Federation and for the State seeks to amend Section 6 of the First Alteration No.1, 2011 by inserting in subsection (3) a new paragraph (d) to the provision for the office of the Auditor-General for the Federation.
The Bill also seeks to alter Section 121 of the Principal Act by substituting for subsection (3), with a new subsection “(3)” thus: “Any amount standing to the credit of the . . . Judiciary, in the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the State shall be paid directly to the said bodies respectively. In the case of the judiciary, such amount shall be paid directly to the heads of the courts concerned.