National Assembly moves to whittle down powers of AGF

Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami
Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami
  • Seeks separation of office of AGF from Justice Minister’s office

The present National Assembly is no longer comfortable with only one legal practitioner cum politician exercising the powers of the Attorney-General of the Federation and that of the Justice Minister, saying section 150 (1) and (2) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) concentrated too much power in the hands of only one person.

The lower chamber of the National Assembly has consequently begun a move to amend section 150 of the 1999 constitution with a view to separating the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation from that of the Justice Minister.

Lawmaker representing Borno State on the platform of the All Peoples Congress (APC), Muhammad Monguno is the one behind the bill to amend the constitutional provision.

The present effort had been made in the past but failed to yield positive results.

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The bill also seeks to do similar thing at the state level by separating the Office of the Attorney-General of the State Government from that of the Commissioner for Justice in the state.

The lawmakers said the powers of the AG, who is the chief law officer of the Federation or the State were too enormous for the officer to be burdened with the functions of the Justice Ministry.

As at Tuesday, the bill sponsored by Monguno for an Act to alter the constitution to introduce the office of the Attorney General of the Federation distinct and separate from the Minister of Justice successfully scaled second reading on the floor of the House.

Muhammad Monguno (APC, Borno) cited Section 150 of the constitution that created the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation ( AGF ) and Minister of Justice while Section 159 created the office of the Attorney General of State and Commissioner for Justice as the specific provisions that must be amended..

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“From these arrangements, these two offices were merged together and being operated by one person.

“The AG is the chief law officer whether of the Federation or the State and advises the government on matters relating to law generally, whereas, the office of the Minister or Commissioner of Justice is political in nature if read alongside other Ministers or Commissioners.

“The office of the Attorney General is such that should be seen to be independent and not subjected to some political consideration and the appointment should be seen to meet some standards in legal profession.

“The fact being that the Attorney General performs some quasi-judicial functions hence the need for the office to be separated from the office of the Minister or Commissioner for Justice.

“The Attorney General being the Chief Law officer is empowered in Sections 150 and 195 of the constitution respectively to enter nolle proseque.

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“The power can only be best exercised if the office is free from any political interference.

“The separation of power would further allow for effective separation of power, as the two offices would be given the necessary environment to function optimally,” Monguno said.

The bill was referred to the special ad hoc Committee on the review of the constitution.