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Constitution Amendment: NASS Separates AGF From Ministry Of Justice

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The Joint Senate and House of Representatives Committee on Constitution Review has approved the separation of the office of the Minister of Justice from that of the Attorney-General of the Federation as part of the recommended amendments to the 1999 Constitution. The Nation Reports

The matter and about 54 other proposed amendments are expected to be tabled before the legislative arm by the end of this month.

If it is passed by the two chambers and endorsed by at least two-thirds of 36 State Houses of Assembly, Nigeria will join the league of countries with a similar practice.

The Nation learnt on good authority in Abuja yesterday that the joint committee similarly proposed that independent candidates be allowed to contest elective posts.

Such candidates will not need to go through the rigour of consensus or direct/ indirect primaries.

For more representation in elective offices, special seat concessions were recommended for allocation to women at all levels.

Besides, the lawmakers resolved to effect a change in the constitution to outlaw parading of suspects by the police, Department of State Services (DSS), Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and other agencies before arraigning them in court.

They were of the view that Nigeria should not subscribe to such an “act of torture” of its citizens.

It was learnt that some of the amendments were considered by the Joint Senate and House of Representatives Committee on Constitution Review on Friday.

A source, who was privy to the deliberation at the session, said: “The National Assembly Constitution Review Committee opted to separate the Office of the Minister of Justice from the Attorney-General of the Federation because the present structure is being politicised. We need to get our justice system right from the top.

“While the Minister of Justice deals with policy and administrative issues, the AGF as the Chief Law Officer of the Federation will oversee dispensation of justice without fear or favour.

“We don’t have anyone in mind, but combining the two offices in Nigeria is becoming complex. We need a drastic reform in this respect.”

On independent candidacy, the source said: “This will enable the system to produce leaders on merit. The prevalent direct, indirect and consensus clauses promote mediocrity and imposition of candidates by state governors.

“Outside of party structure, a good candidate should be able to emerge and win elections.

“But the National Assembly is adding a proviso that at least 20 per cent of voters in a constituency or district must endorse the nomination of an independent candidate.”

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