Mixed reactions continue to trail separation of Attorney-General from Minister of Justice


Legal practitioners in Abuja have continued to react to Senate’s approval to separate the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation from that of the Minister of Justice.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), recalls that the Senate on July 26, voted in favour of altering Sections 150, 174, 195, 211, 318 and the Third Schedule of the 1999 Constitution.

The vote was to separate the office of the Minister or Commissioner of Justice from that of the Attorney-General of the Federation or state.

Speaking with NAN on Monday in Abuja, Mr Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) said that separating the two offices would not make a difference if there was no attitudinal change.

“I see that in Nigeria, we are just changing laws but we are not changing our attitude. The law will not operate itself.

“It’s the attitude of the people, the vision of the people and the leadership that will drive the nation, not necessarily the law.

“So separating the office of minister of justice from that of attorney -general will not perform any magic, unless we are ready to change our attitude,” he said.

Jacobs argued that if the attitude was right, the separation would make the office of attorney -general more professional as the person occupying the office would be insulated from politics.

“So if the intention is to create an institution, it will be good for us, but if it is not so, and it’s just to create an office so as to extend the cost of administration, it may not yield the desired result.

Another lawyer, Mr Victor Oziegbe, told NAN that separating the office of minister of justice and that of the attorney-general was in the best interest of the country.

“Those two offices merged into one as provided by Section 150 of the 1999 Constitution and it is propelled with political consideration.

“What I mean by this is that when you are a party loyalist and you are made attorney -general , sincerely speaking, the professional aspect might be taken out of you because there will be party sentiments at play when issues come up.”

According to Oziegbe, if the two offices are separated, one will be professional while the other can be political.

Speaking in the same vein, Mr Ogbu Oche, said that separating the two offices would strengthen the office of attorney-general to act more independently without interference from the politicians.

“The office of the attorney -general of the federation is a creation of the constitution and he doubles as the minister, this probably is designed to weaken his powers as a minister.

“Although his powers under the constitution as attorney-general cannot be whittled at all, but he may be unable to operate effectively because of government’s interference.”

Oche, however, opined that in developed clime, whether separated or not, the attorney-general should be able to act independently from the minister of justice.

NAN reports that the amendment by the Senate is to create an independent office, redefine the role of the attorney-general, provide a fixed tenure, as well as provide age and qualification for appointment.(NAN)