The long-standing agitation for the separation of the office of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) from the Minister of Justice resurfaced yesterday as a bill seeking the divorce passed second reading in the House of Representatives.
The bill when passed would seek the amendment of Section 150 of the 1999 Constitution as amended, which provides for the office of the Attorney General of the Federation, who shall be the Chief Law Officer and a Minister of the Federation.
By this provision, anyone appointed into the office plays the roles of a chief law officer and minister.
But following perceived undue executive influence on the occupiers of the office, there have been agitations for the separation of the office of the chief law officer (Attorney General) from that of the Minister of Justice.
At the plenary yesterday, the sponsor of the bill, Hon. Mohammed Monguno, who is also the Chief Whip of the House, said the powers vested in the attorney general by the constitution were judicial in nature, adding that when exercised to the fullest, they could affect the rights of the people and therefore should not be subjected to political interference.
He added that the attorney general has the power to declare a nolle prosequi or discontinue a case already in court, stressing that recent developments are suggestive of the fact that it should be isolated from political interference.
Monguno noted that while the president would be free to use political consideration to appoint the minister of justice, the appointment of the attorney general should be based only on career progression.
In his contribution, Hon. Nicholas Ossai, said the bill was first passed by the 7th and 8th Assembly, adding that a particular office should not be vested with too much power.
The House, therefore, referred the bill to the Committee on Legislative Matters for further legislative action.
Also, a Bill for an Act to alter the 1999 Constitution, as amended by allowing members of the NJC appoint their own secretary rather than being recommended for appointment by a lower body of the Federal Judicial Service Commission has also passed second reading.
Similarly, the bill to alter Section 7 of the 1999 Constitution has passed the second reading.
Leading the debate on the general principles of A Bill for an Act to Alter Section 7 of the 1999 Constitution as amended, Hon. Dachung Bagos, said that the bill sought to among other things alter Section 7 (1) of the Principal Act by substituting Section 7 (1) with new sections 7 (1) (a) (z): to provide for the office of the Chairman and Vice Chairman of Local Government as stipulated in this bill.
Bagos said the bill sought to provide for election and tenure of office for local government chairmen/councilors and also prescribed mode of exercising legislative powers of the local government council.
According to him, the proposed legislation further seeks to provide for democratically elected local government councils and as true representatives of the people.
The House also referred the bill to the Ad hoc Committee on the Review of the Constitution for further legislative action.