CHALLENGES AHEAD OF NEW AGF
The Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice is a constitutionally recognised office which appeared to have been desecrated in recent times. The first challenge for Bello Adoke (SAN) is to restore honour and dignity to the office.
In this regard, he will be well advised to introduce transparency into the prison decongestion exercise which has been a source of scandal in recent time. Many lawyers said that they were cheated of their remuneration although former AGF Michael Aondoakaa (SAN) claimed the deductions were for purposes of taxation. Not many people believed him.
Another area where, the new minister will be expected to be transparent is in the process leading to the payment of judgment debts. There have been comments within the legal profession that judgment creditors are arm-twisted when it comes to payment of judgment debt which they legitimately earned. Adoke would be well advised to recall the source of a bitter disagreement between himself and Aondoakaa.
The lawyers working in the office of the AGF deserve attention too. They are overworked and not well paid. They often come to courts unprepared. The effect of this is that they lose cases they should ordinarily win. For Adoke to succeed, he would have to push for a better welfare service for the lawyers in the ministry.
Above all, the new justice minister would have to take a bold step to bring to justice those linked with the $180m Halliburton bribery scandal. Last year, precisely, April 2009, Aondoakaa set up a committee which was supposed to submit its report eight weeks after inauguration. A year after, no such report had been submitted.
Adherence to the principle of rule of law should remain a cardinal point in the new justice minister's watch. Under Aondoakaa, Nigerians were let down when it mattered most. If the likes of Aondoakaa had persuaded President Umaru Yar'Adua to write a letter to the leadership of the National Assembly that he was travelling to Saudi Arabia last November, they would probably have kept their jobs as ministers and would not have subjected the country to avoidable humiliation which the citizens went through in the process that produced Goodluck Jonathan as Acting President.
A word, they say, is enough for the wise.