From Ndubuisi Orji and Kemi Yesufu, Abuja
A bill to separate the office of Attorney General of the Federation(AGF) and that of the Minister of Justice has passed second reading in the House of Representatives.
The bill, which also seeks to separate the office of Attorney General(AG)at the state level from that of Commissioner for Justice, is sponsored by Hon Mohammed Monguno (APC, Borno). The bill has as its long title” A bill to alter the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 to introduce the office of the Attorney General of the Federation, distinct and separate from the Minister and for other related mAatters. “
Monguno, while leading debate on the bill at yesterday’s plenary, presided over by the speaker, Hon Yakubu Dogara, said both positions are too powerful to be fused together.
He said separating the two offices, will make it necessary for them to function optimally.
According to him, if the bill is eventually passed into law, the office of the AGF will become a career position, while the Minister or Commissioner for Justice will appointed by the President and state governors respectively. He said this would insulate the AG from political influences.
“The Attorney General is the chief law officer whether of the federation or states and advises the government whether at the Federal or state levels on matters relating to law generally, whereas, the office of the Minister of Commissioner for Justice is political in nature if read alongside other ministers or commissioners.
“The office of the Attorney General is such an office that should be seen to be independent and not be subject to to some political consideration, and his appointment should be seen to meet some standard 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 of Commissioner for Justice,” Monguno argued.
The Speaker later referred the bill to the Special Ad-hoc Committee on Review of the 1999 constitution.