By Henry Umoru & Joseph Erunke
ABUJA— DEPUTY President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, weekend, said former President Goodluck Jonathan frustrated efforts to separate office of the Attorney-General of the Federation from that of Minister of Justice by refusing to assent to the amendment that would have brought it about.
According to him, it is necessary to separate both offices, if Nigerians still desire that justice delivery must be strengthened in the country.
Ekweremadu, who disclosed this to journalists during a tour of the construction site of national headquarters of Nigeria Bar Association, NBA, Abuja, said the proposal to separate the two offices actually sailed through during the last amendment, but did not see the light of the day because the Forth Alteration Bill containing it was not assented to by Jonathan.
He explained that the separation of the two offices would make whoever was appointed the AGF to work for the people and not necessarily the government in power as a cabinet minister, saying that would ensure access to justice by citizens, devoid of any external influence.
When separated, AGF will work for the people
Ekweremadu said: “I believe in the separation of the two offices. I go for it any time, any day. This is because it will guarantee financial independence, security of tenure, and make the holder of the office of the Attorney-General at the state and federal levels to be autonomous in thinking and approach to the idea of justice.
“It will ensure that citizens have access to justice, since the officer will not be dictated to by any external interest or influence.
“During the last constitution amendment, we (members of the Senate Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution in the 7th National Assembly) recommended it to our colleagues, based on inputs from Nigerians, and they graciously adopted it.
“Unfortunately, the last President did not sign it. Although, we will be looking at all the issues again, the decision on the separation, or any other issue for that matter, will depend on what other colleagues and Nigerians would think. But as a person, I strongly believe in it.”
It would be recalled that the National Conference Standing Committee on Law, Judiciary and Human Rights had in April 2014 during the National Conference, adopted a recommendation for the separation of the office of Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation.
Deputy Chairman of the committee, Prof Auwalu Yadudu, who made this known then, had said the recommendation was to ensure the independence of the office of the Attorney-General from political influence.
According to him, the two offices should not be occupied by an individual in order to ensure justice.