By Ise-Oluwa Ige
Prince Adetokunboh Kayode, SAN, was until Wednesday, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of
Justice. He replaced formerÂ Chief Law Officer of the Federation, Chief Michael kaase Andoakaa, SAN. He had earlier served as Minister of Tourism and Minister of Labour. He was quite aware that his position was sensitive and had refused to be loud after his appointment.
According to him, he was busy envisioning ideas that would soon crystallize into concrete plans with capacity to advance justice, rule of law and democracy in Nigeria. But before rolling out the plans, AdetokunbohÂ first convoked an interactive meeting with stakeholders of the justice sector with a view to sharing his thoughts with them in order to have the benefits of their comments and suggestions. â€œThe 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is too bulky and it is giving a lot of problems to our courts,â€ he began.
â€˜If I have my ways, I will remove about two-third of it,â€ Adetokunboh dropped his first bombshell. He said a lot other issues in the justice sector are worrying him like the controversial prison decongestion project which the immediate past chief law officer of the Federation allegedly used to polarize the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA.
Hear him:Â There is no doubt that effective administration of Justice and Rule of Law are fundamental building blocks of modern democratic societies. They are inevitable to the protection of human life, dignity and property. Without them, a society cannot claim to be truly democratic.
That is why all modern societies strive towards the proper administration of justice and respect for the Rule of Law. Consequently, our system of administering justice must be made to respond to the yearning of our people for the due administration of justice and the protection of human life and property.
The following are some of the practical measures which we believe would enhance the due administration of justice, the Rule of Law and better protection of human rights in the country. One, we shall maintain zero tolerance for Impunity and extra judicial killings and other violations of human rights. To this end, National Committee Against Torture â€œwill be strengthened and empowered to look into such cases as Boko Haram and others.
The Directorate of Citizens Rights in this Ministry of Justice will be assisted to set up special help lines to receive, document and act upon allegations of human rights violations. The National Human Rights Commission will monitor and document cases of abuses of human rights by law enforcement agencies and also embark on a sustained campaign against impunity.
The Ministry will convene from time to time seminars and studies on ways of preventing and combating torture on a sustainable basis. Reported cases of torture will be scrupulously investigated, documented andâ€ appropriately sanctioned in line with our domestic laws and commitments under regional and international human rights instluments.
Preparatory to all future elections and in support of the Administrationâ€™s commitment to ensure credible elections in 2011 and beyond, we will, in collaboration with the relevant agencies, media organizations and civil society, embark on the sensitisation of the electorates about electoral offences.
We will encourage the prosecution of electoral offenders and collaborate with the Minister of Police Affairs for the training of the Police to enhance their neutrality in future elections. We will work towards the implementation of the report of Justice M.L Uwais Electoral Reform Panel within the context of constitutional or legal reform and implement instruments of the African Union and ECOWAS pertaining to elections and related matters. In collaboration with my counterparts at the state level, we will encourage the prosecution of the perpetrators of civil disturbances and violent crimes.
Furthermore, we will explore the option of alternative means of conflict resolution and peace-building. Convinced that effective policing and law enforcement are indispensable to a modern democracy like ours, we will push for the acquisition and deployment by the Nigerian Police of forensic investigation capability, gun-control programmes and reduction of violent crimes.
The Ministry of Justice will provide leadership and support for the deepening of the idea of community policing and advocate for improved Police oversight and accountability mechanisms in order to reduce abuse of power by law enforcement personnel.
We will give full support to the anti-graft agencies (The EFCC, NFIU and ICPC) in their fight against corruption, abuse of office, money laundry and other economic crimes. The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, will be strengthened. The Nigerian Law Reform Commission will be repositioned and given specific targets to accomplish with respect to modernisation of our laws. Our laws must respond to modern challenges like kidnapping, terrorism, organised crimes and environmental degradation including climate change, etc.
Other agencies such as The National Agency for the Prosecution of Trafficking in Persons, Legal Aid Council of Nigeria, National Human Rights Commission and Nigerian Copyright Commission, will be required to double their efforts in pursuing their mandates. The Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies will be encouraged to continue to lead the way in building the capacity of our officials. The Nigerian Law School will be encouraged to extend to the law faculties the delivery of skill-based and value-driven training.Above all, the Ministry itself will be repositioned to achieve greater dynamism and efficiency in responding to the challenges facing the country.
We will repackage the following Bills and forward them to the National Assembly for consideration and passage into law: Administration of Criminal Justice Bill, Evidence Act Reform Bill, Legal Aid Reform Bill,Â National Human Rights Commission Act (Reform Bill), Victims Rights Protection Bill, Arbitration and ADR Reform Bill, Bill for the Reform of Discriminatory Laws against Women and other Justice Sector Reform bills.
In this respect, it is necessary to build synergy with the relevant Committees of the National Assembly towards achieving a quick passage of the Bills. Many have argued that the Prison decongestion project has not achieved the objective of decongesting our prisons. But the question is what would have been the situation of the prisons if the project had not been embarked upon? We do not have the answer to this question. Therefore, it is necessary to critically re-examine the project and find ways of making it more efficient and effective. The recommendations of the Federal Justice Sector Reform Coordinating Committee (FJSRCC) on measures to improve coordination among criminal justice agencies and reducing the population of awaiting trial persons will be implemented.
The Ministry will work with different stakeholders including the Judiciary to improve the administration of justice nationwide; collaborate with heads of courts to find ways of ameliorating delays in the administration of justice. This will involve greater use of Alternative Dispute Resolution, ADR, mechanisms and implementation of Witness Protection measures. We will seek ways of improving access to justice for the vulnerable groups in the society particularly the indigent, women and children. This shall be a key element of our programmes for reducing social exclusion.
The Ministry will leverage on the efforts of previous Attorneys-General to reform investment laws in order to make our country more investor-friendly. Further, we will convene a high level interactive meeting with the private sector as a means of building synergy with that sector. The Ministry of Justice will key into the measures proposed by this administration for Land administration and reform. One of the problems facing our country is the failure of contracts to achieve the objectives intended by the government. There are therefore many failed contracts in respect of which government is owed huge sums of money. In this connection we will embark on a vigorous recovery of debts owed the government by various individuals and corporate bodies.
Furthermore, we will ensure effective defence of cases instituted against government in various courts across the country. This Ministry will prioritise the provision of informed technical support for the improvement of the legal regime for the oil and gas industry in general and of human and peoplesâ€™ rights in the Niger Delta in particular. We believe that all hands must be on deck to ensure lasting peace and development in the Niger Delta.
This informal platform for nation-wide interaction by all AGs in the country will be reinvigorated. The recommendations of that body will be taken seriously in order to address the challenges confronting our federal system. In order to enjoy the benefit of experience and expertise that abounds in the legal profession, we will