The House of Representatives has concluded plans to amend the 1999 constitution (as amended) with a view to separating the office of Minister of Justice from Attorney General of the Federation.
While the minister of Justice remains part of the executive arm of government, office of the Attorney General of the Federation will be a career officer of the Ministry of Justice.
This is part of the reforms proposed by the 9th House of Representatives in its legislative agenda.
According to the agenda, the amendment will eliminate the current public perception that the minister of Justice exercises political control of prosecutorial decisions of the Ministry of Justice.
“The House of Representatives will seek as part of the constitutional amendment process, to separate the office of the Minister of Justice from that of the Attorney General. Where the former will remain a political appointment at the discretion and direction of the President, Commander-in-Chief, whereas the latter will be a career position filled by a qualified career officer of the Ministry of Justice prosecutorial cadre.
“This amendment will eliminate the current public perception that the Minister of Justice exercises political control of prosecutorial decisions of the Ministry of Justice and will go a long way to restoring public confidence in the administration of justice,” it said.
Meanwhile, the House Committee on Judiciary has said there is need to reform the country’s judiciary to enable fast and equitable dispensation of Justice.
Chairman of the committee, Hon Onofiok Luke who spoke at the inaugural meeting of the committee said the long period it takes to dispense justice is a cause for concern
“There are lots of reforms to be carried out in the Judiciary. The committee in synergy with relevant bodies and stakeholders like the Senate committee on Judiciary, Ministry of Justice, the Judiciary itself, Civil Society organisation, proposes to invigorate the Judiciary for effective performance and quick, efficient justice delivery to the common man .
“The slow pace of Justice delivery and backlog of matters in Nigeria is a cause for concern. Some matters spend a minimum life span of 10 years before their final adjudication by the apex Court– Supreme Court,” he said.
Onofiok further stated that; “Part of this problems is that our legal system allows all matters to travel to the Supreme Court without limit, and that not all matters should merit the attention of the Apex Court.”
According to him, in developed democracies like United States, only constitutional and important matters reach the Supreme Court.
“General matters are handled by trial and appellate courts based on precedents set by the Supreme Court. We will have to reconsider our laws to ensure that we do not overburden the Supreme Court, hence slowing down the wheel of Justice.
“We need to continually advocate and protect the independence of our Judiciary so that our judges will be bold and firm to dispense justice without fear of favour. By our laws, our judges are not allowed to speak freely.”