RIGHTSView, By EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO: Malami: Doing Justice to Justice Ministry

Posted by News Express | 18 November 2015 | 3,214 times

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Mr Mohammed Bello Adoke, SAN, and  holder of the national title of Officer of the Order of the Niger (OFR), which ranks among the tops in national roll of honours, has served Nigeria creditably for nearly five years as Attorney-General and Minister of Justice. While he served his father land, by virtue of the executive appointment extended to him by then president, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, Mr Adoke successfully saw to the passage and endorsement into law of the Administration of Justice Act; Cybercrimes Prevention Act (2015), and also worked tirelessly to preserve the sanctity of the Rule of Law. Interestingly, Mr Adoke got free hands from the appointing authority because his stay in office enjoyed relative and comparative stability in the political annals of the nation state.

On his exit on May 29, 2015 and the subsequent emergence of another democratic dispensation for another four years under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari, the country has just welcomed the new Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation in the person of another Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr Abubakar Malami, from Kebbi State, North-West. Interestingly, his (AGF Malami) predecessor – Mr Adoke who, although hails from Kogi State in the North-Central geographical zone, spent all his professional legal practice periods in the North West and became remarkably one of the pivots of vigorous litigations in Kano, the largest city in North-West Nigeria. The new minister said he would hit the ground running, to ensure that he truly brings justice to bear on all violators of the Nigerian law. He, indeed, has a handful of prosecutions to anchor because of the obvious reality that at this period of our national life, impunity and disrespect to the tenets of our Constitution, have all but become the hallmark of our political experience. We are living at a time that most Nigerians know that justice is now for the highest bidder and bribery and corruption of judges have reached unprecedented height thereby necessitating the cacophony of calls for justice sector reforms. Rich litigants now have a way of using their financial powers to muscle their ways through and obtain fraudulent verdicts to the consternation of all right-thinking patriotic Nigerians.

For instance, the terrain of justice system in Nigeria is littered with several cases of unresolved crimes: such as the murder, while in office in 2003 of the then Federal Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Chief Bola Ige, SAN. Virtually, all the previously arrested politically exposed persons whose extensively damaging corruption cases were filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) have been allowed by the compromised hierarchy of the EFCC to scuttle justice delivery. No wonder, the clamour for the dismissal of erstwhile EFCC boss, Mr Ibrahim Lamorde, got to a feverish point few days prior to his removal by President Buhari. As a matter of public policy, the new Minister of Justice has already listed out his areas of thematic preferences to include the strict enforcement of the law, to end the spectre of impunity; pursuit of the implementation of the new administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), to enhance quick dispensation of justice. If you ask me, I will say that the new Minister of Justice fully appreciates the enormity of the task ahead of him, but as a being created imperfectly, it is imperative that the current Federal Attorney-General is reminded to do justice to the Ministry of Justice in ways and manners that yours truly will espouse in the subsequent paragraphs.

The Minister of Justice should reinvigorate the Office of Public Prosecutor and build up effective and efficient capacity to the highest professional dimension of all the lawyers in his office, who must patriotically implement the agenda of the new government, which must comply with the provisions of the Constitution. Let the minister get the exact and scientific compilation of the records of all unresolved cases of murders, which are notorious and extensively reported in the mass media. The office of the Attorney-General of the Federation is obliged to partner with attorneys-general of the 36 states, and justice department officers of the Ministry of Federal Capital Territory, to ensure that prosecution of crimes follows constitutional timelines; and that the system is not compromised and corrupted, which inevitably slows down prosecution.

The Federal Ministry of Justice must also ensure that it sets up a functional desk directly under the purview of the minister, to relate and partner with credible civil society groups working in the human rights and justice sector. As a way of providing professional oversight, the Federal Ministry of Justice must set up a workable and user-friendly website, whereby all cases filed in the different courts and minute-to-minute details and follow-ups are uploaded. The political mantra of change popularised by President Buhari must be implemented in the justice sector, for good governance to take effective roots in modern day Nigeria. The Ministry of Justice headed by Mr Abubakar Malami should also upload the case list with such details as the parties, the particulars of prosecution, the forum of such trial and the contact person to relate with should further information be required.

There is the need for the ministry to begin vigorous advocacy campaigns, enlisting the participation of justice sector and human rights oriented civil society groups to get all the states of the federation to sign and implement the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act of 2011 and the Child Rights Act (2003). The justice ministry must effectively put administrative measures in place to get all the federal ministries to respect the provisions of the FoI Act, because the anti-graft war is not winnable if the access to vital information is not made much easier. The AGF should vigorously pursue the passage and implementation of an effective whistle blowers' protection legislation, so all acts of brazen corruption by political office-holders of all dimensions are exposed, named, shamed and put to criminal trial in competent courts of law. 

Still speaking about prosecution of criminal cases, let the federal attorney-general not allow untrained police operatives to ever handle prosecution of cases such as terrorism, murder and corruption-related matters, as doing so will further expand the frontiers of impunity in Nigeria. 

The Federal Government must set up institutional mechanisms for swift, decisive and effective prosecution of all terrorism-related, as well as financial and economic crimes. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and The Independent and Corrupt Practices and Related Offences Commission must be merged and tested, and trusted experts retained and motivated to carry out comprehensive anti-graft fight. 

The current EFFC is highly compromised and the staffing is skewed in favour of just Adamawa State, as almost 60 per cent of the directors are from the same ethnic group of Fulani, and are mostly from Nigeria police. This corruptly-organised hierarchy cannot be trusted to wage a successful war against corruption, because as we all have now realised, most cases before EFCC have either been struck out or are suffering from unduly prolonged adjournments. Nigeria must make hay while the sun shines. The monumental regime of corruption must be confronted and defeated. The anti-graft revolution can't be successful if the holder of the high office of the Chief Law Officer of Nigeria is not put on his toes to work for the country, and not necessarily his political party.

RIGHTSVIEW appears on Wednesdays, in addition to special appearances. The Columnist, popular activist Emmanuel Onwubiko, is a former Federal Commissioner of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission and presently National Coordinator of Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA).

Source: News Express

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