By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke, SAN, yesterday, adduced reasons why the controversial issue of onshore-offshore dichotomy in the allocation of derivation proceeds in the country cannot be revisited by the Federal Government.
The AGF maintained that the matter had been laid to rest by the Supreme Court since 2005.
Consequently, he warned politicians to desist from overheating the polity with arguments bordering on “the desirability or otherwise of re-opening the issue of the abrogation of the onshore-offshore dichotomy.” He said: “In the light of the unanimous position of the Supreme Court on this issue, expressed since 2005, it behoves on us all to promote the sanctity of our judicial system by recognizing that the pronouncements of the Supreme Court should neither be treated with levity nor be subjected to undue politicization in the name of politics or the pursuit of particular interests.”
Issue settled by Supreme Court
Adoke, who made the assertion at a valedictory court session that was conducted by the apex court in honour of Justice Francis Fedode Emomotimi Tabai, who bowed out of active judicial service upon clocking 70 years on July 25, said: “It is pertinent to remind all interest groups in the matter that it is too early in the day to forget that this esteemed court, in the matter of A.G Adamawa & 21 Ors v. A-G. Federation & 8 Ors  18 NWLR (Part 958) 581, was invited to rule on the constitutionality or otherwise of the Allocation of Revenue (Abolition of Dichotomy in the Application of the Principle of Derivation) Act 2004.
“The court, in a well reasoned judgment after benefiting from the submissions of some of our country’s finest legal minds, reached the well-reasoned conclusion that the Act was not in conflict with the 1999 Constitution and was, indeed, properly made by the National Assembly to place the implementation of section 162 of the 1999 Constitution on a more ‘certain and predictable basis’.
“Indeed, Hon. Justice G.A Oguntade, JSC (as he then was) put the matter succinctly when he declared as follows in his supporting judgment: ‘There is no doubt that this court has the jurisdiction to invalidate a law which is contrary to or inconsistent with the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria. I have examined the 2004 Act again and again with a view to determining if there is anything intrinsic to it which is contrary to the letter and spirit of the 1999 constitution.
“I could find no such matter. Rather it is a legislation, which in my view, is directed at placing the implementation of the provisions of section 162 of the 1999 Constitution on a more certain and predictable basis. I do not see the law as a legislative judgment by the National Assembly. It is based on its tenor and language not an attempt to cede land to oil-producing states.”
He continued: “One notes with grave concern the recent deliberate attempt to resurrect this debate and elevate it to the level of an urgent national issue, with all its potentials to generate acrimonious wrangling within the polity, as if it were a fresh matter on which there had been no judicial determination in the past.
“Our country faces challenges today as we pursue the consolidation of our democracy and the triumph of the rule of law in all aspects of our national life. While there will undoubtedly be stresses and strains as we continue on the journey to perfect nationhood, a credible and truly independent judiciary remains the best guarantee for political stability and social cohesion.
“Let me assure you therefore that the Executive arm of Government will continue to work closely with the judiciary to ensure that together, we build a country founded on justice, prosperity and equal opportunities for all.”
NBA makes case for retired judges, others
Meantime, the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, yesterday, called for a repeal of section 292(a) of the 1999 Constitution with a view to making it possible for retired judges and former judicial officers to appear as advocates in Nigerian courts and tribunals.
In an address that was presented before the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Mariam Aloma Mukhtar, by the national president of the NBA, Chief Okey Wali, SAN, yesterday, the legal body, argued that “the much-touted fear that former judges, if allowed to practice at the bar, might overwhelm their serving colleagues before whom they appear, thus engendering unfairness, loses sight of several important factors.
“In the first place, powerful or wealthy advocates already have the potential to overwhelm any timorous spirits on the Bench. Secondly, most Nigerian judges are bold spirits, not easily swayed by the status of lawyers who appear before them. Thirdly, if the fear of influence were to be the deciding factor, then, why should we allow spouses at the Bar to appear before their spouses on the Bench, when the judgment might be written in the bedroom?
“Or former partners to appear before their former partners who have been elevated to the Bench? Any person with potentials of being so intimidated should not be on the bench at all.”
CJN extols Tabai’s virtues
Meanwhile, extolling the virtues of Justice Tabai who spent 42 years in active legal practice, 39 years as a judge out of which six years was spent on the apex court bench, the CJN, Justice Mukhtar, said he was “diligent, quick to capture the intricacy of the cases and was of great assistance to the court.”
Going down memory lane, the CJN, said: “The birth and survival of Hon. Justice Tabai can best be described as a miraculous one. Before his birth, his mother gave birth eight times, amongst which were two sets of twins. Thus before his birth, his mother gave birth to ten children but each of them died before he or she was a year old.
“It was only the grace of God through fervent prayers by his family and the community as a whole that ensured the survival of the Justice Tabai we have here today.”
In his remarks, Justice Tabai who hails from Torugbene village in Delta State, said: “Nigeria has a duty to try and de-emphasize the differences between Christianity and Islamic regions. Look at us at the Bench, though we are of different religions, yet, there was that unparalleled cordiality and friendliness among all of us.”
Besides, he urged legal practitioners to eschew the habit of castigating judges in the media, even as he called for more synergy between the Bar and the Bench with a view to moving the judiciary forward.
Among those that attended the valedictory session included Chief Edwin Clerk, former Governor of Bayelsa State, Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha and former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Mohammed Uwais, among other eminent members of the legal profession in Nigeria.