BY BODE GBADEBO, Abuja
The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) alongside security agencies, have opposed granting judicial powers to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).
The AGF, Nigeria Army and some frontline security outfits picked holes in the proposed provisions in the National Human Rights Commission Repeal and Re-enactment Bill, 2020 currently before the Senate.
This was as the executive secretary of NHRC, Anthony Ojukwu, Prof Ademola Popoola and others, canvassed judicial powers for the Commission.
Both positions were argued on Monday at a one-day public hearing organised by the National Assembly Joint Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, at the Senate wing of the NASS complex.
Kicking against some of the provisions of the Bill, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Ibrahim Atttahiru represented by the Director of Legal Services, Army Headquarters, Brigadier General M.U. Wambai, said it was wrong for drafters of the Bill to have excluded the Army, Navy, Air Force, Police and DSS from the Governing Council of the NHRC.
Wambai noted that Section 2(2)(b) of the proposed legislation listed the composition of the Governing Council of the Commission and at paragraph (b) (i) – (iii) ex-officio members were listed with the exclusion of the Armed Forces, Police, DSS and other security agencies.
“Any mention of stakeholders on human rights in Nigeria would be incomplete without the Armed Forces and the Police because often times they receive the bout of litigations in courts over alleged human rights violations,” he said.
Besides their exclusion from the Commission’s Governing Council, representatives of the security agencies also kicked against Section 5(j) of the Bill, which seeks to empower the NHRC to make appropriate determination on complaints brought before it as it may deemed necessary in each circumstance.
“This raises jurisprudential question as to whether the Commission is seised of judicial powers since it could investigate and determine complaints.
“It would also amount to travesty of justice if the investigating body determines the complaints and make same enforceable as it is a principle of justice that no man shall be a judge in his own case.
“It is also against the letters and spirit of Section 36(1) and (4) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which guarantees right to fair hearing before an impartial Tribunal or body,” Wambai added.
For his part, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice , Abubakar Malami (SAN) represented by Anthony Abah, said Section 5 paragraph ‘k’ of the Bill should be expunged for giving the Commission powers that are in conflict with those of the Law Reform Commission.
The AGF also declared that it was wrong to seek power for issuance of warrant of arrest for the Commission which according to him, is constitutionally entrusted to the courts of competent jurisdiction.
Malami also faulted Section 15 (2b) of the proposed law, which seeks to empower the Commission to get funds from multinational agencies.
“The multinationals according to him, are already over taxed and the commission should have no link with them,” the AGF’s representative said.
But the executive secretary of the Commission, Anthony Ojukwu, in his submissions, applauded the provisions of the Bill, seeking to empower NHRC with judicial powers of giving declarative awards like the High Courts.
He also supported the provisions seeking for widening of scope of funding for the Commission in order for it not to solely rely on government funding that may even be petitioned against by any aggrieved Nigerian.
Meanwhile, the chairman of the NASS Joint Committee, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele (APC, Ekiti Central), explained that there was the need to widen the scope of funding for the Commission for impartial and independent operations.
The lawmaker, however, assured that preponderance of views by stakeholders on the provisions of the Bill will be taken into consideration in the final report of the committee to the two chambers of the National Assembly.