Why An Attorney General Is Powerful In The Criminal Justice System.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Why An Attorney General Is Powerful In The Criminal Justice System.

Reasons An Attorney General Is Powerful In The Criminal Justice System. Daily Law Tips (Tip 703) by Onyekachi Umah, Esq., LL.M, ACIArb(UK)

 Introduction: 

There are not too many executive offices created by the Constitution of Nigeria, however, both the offices of Attorney General of the Federation and that of Attorney Generals of the various states in Nigeria, are created by the constitution of Nigeria. At the national level, the Attorney General of the Federation is also a Federal Minister of Justice. In the states across Nigeria, the Attorney Generals, are also Commissioners for Justice. This work will focus on the powers of an Attorney General in Nigeria and how such powers affect criminal justice in Nigeria. 

Powers of An Attorney General: 

The Attorney General of the Federation is the Chief Law Officer of Nigeria and a Minister of the Government of Nigeria. The Attorney General of a state in Nigeria is the Chief Law Officer of a state and a Commissioner For Justice of the government of the state. A legal practitioner that has been qualified as a legal practitioner in Nigeria for ten (10) years or more can be appointed as an Attorney General at the federal or state level.

The Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) has powers to commence any criminal case in any court of law in Nigeria (except a court-martial), against any person in respect of any federal offence. The AGF has powers to take over and continue any criminal case in respect of a federal offence, that may have been commenced by any other authority or person. Also, the AGF can stop any criminal case in respect of any federal offence in any court, at any stage but before judgement is delivered by the court, not minding that the case was commenced by the AGF or by any other authority or person.

In the states in Nigeria, the Attorney General of a State (AG) has powers to commence any criminal case in any court of law in Nigeria (except a court-martial), against any person in respect of any state offence. The AG has powers to take over and continue any criminal case in respect of a state offence, that may have been commenced by any other authority or person. Also, the AG can stop any criminal case in respect of any state offence in any court, at any stage but before judgement is delivered by the court, not minding that the case was commenced by the AG or by any other authority or person.

Checks On An Attorney General: 

The Attorney-General of the Federation and the Attorney Generals of States in Nigeria can exercise any their powers without any explanation, approval, consent or permission from any person, court, judge or even the Supreme Court of Nigeria. However, the Constitution expects that an Attorney General will exercise his powers having in mind the public interest, the interest of justice and the need to prevent abuse of legal process. An Attorney General is more less left to his conscience, after all he must be a noble man/woman (a legal practitioner). 

Being a legal practitioner means that an Attorney General must be professional and be bound by the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners. This is a huge check on an Attorney General. Since an Attorney General is also a public office holder, it means that an Attorney General is bound by the Code of Conduct for Public Officers. 

As an Attorney General, an Attorney General of the Federation is answerable to the Federation of Nigeria (ie, through the National Assembly) while the Attorney General of a State is answerable to the State, through the House of Assembly of the state. However, when the Attorney General of the Federation sits as a Minister of Justice of the Government of the Federation, he becomes answerable to the President of Nigeria. In a State, a State Attorney General being a Commissioner for Justice of the Government of the State, is answerable to the Governor of the State. 

The fusion of the office of the office of Attorney General of the Federation and the office of Minister of Justice of the Government of Nigeria as well as the office of Attorney General of a state and office of the Commissioner of Justice cause some serious administrative imbalance and professional blunders. The fusion arguably leads justice to be slaughtered on the dingy altars of political loyalty and politics.    

Conclusion and Recommendation: 

The most powerful persons in the criminal justice systems in Nigeria are not the law enforcement officers, correctional center officers, lawyers, prosecutors and judges, rather the Attorney Generals. The Attorney Generals can singlehandedly lawfully spare a criminal suspect, commence criminal prosecution and terminate criminal prosecution even after investigation by law enforcement agencies. 

By the way, Attorney Generals can do any of the above to criminal cases under them and also to criminal cases being managed by any other government ministry, department, agency, offices or commission. They are lawfully powerful, so says the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. 

Man is natural selfish, hence there is need for a robust system that perpetually checks man and his conducts, at all times. There is need for a separation of the office of Attorney General from that of a Minister/Commissioner. Politicians must learn to respect professional paths, for justice to be truly done. There should be a predictable system (algorithm) for exercise of the powers of an Attorney General over any criminal case to ensure that public interest, the interest of justice and the need to prevent abuse of legal process are upheld. More importantly, Nigeria needs powerful systems and institutions and not powerful men.

My authorities, are:

  1. Sections 1, 2, 3, 14, 15, 17, 150, 174, 195, 211, 318 and 319 and the 5th Schedule to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999
  2. Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners, 2007. 
  3. Onyekachi Umah, “Two Persons That Must Report Every Arrest Made In Nigeria To The Attorney General Of The Federation” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 23 September 2019) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/two-persons-that-must-report-every-arrest-made-in-nigeria-to-the-attorney-general-of-the-federation-daily-law-tips-tip-420-by-onyekachi-umah-esq-llm-aciarb-uk/> accessed 23 November 2020
  4. Onyekachi Umah, “Two Persons That Must Report Every Arrest Made In Each State In Nigeria And To Whom” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 30 September 2019) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/two-persons-that-must-report-every-arrest-made-in-each-state-in-nigeria-and-to-whom-daily-law-tips-tip-425-by-onyekachi-umah-esq-llm-aciarb-uk/> accessed 23 November 2020
  5. Onyekachi Umah, “Who Must Have The Database Of All Persons Arrested In Any Part Of Nigeria And For Any Offence” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 9 September 2019) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/who-must-have-the-database-of-all-persons-arrested-in-any-part-of-nigeria-and-for-any-offence-daily-law-tips-tip-410-by-onyekachi-umah-esq-llm-aciarb-uk/ > accessed 23 November 2020. 

#SabiLaw

#DailyLawTips

#SabiBusinessLaw

#SabiElectionLaws

#SabiHumanRights

#SabiLawOnBeatFm

#SabiLawLectureSeries

#CriminalJusticeMonday

#SabiLawVideoChallenge

Speak with the writer, ask questions or make inquiries on this topic or any other via onyekachi.umah@gmail.com, info@LearnNigerianLaws.com or +2348037665878 (whatsapp). 

To receive our free Daily Law Tips, join our free WhatsApp group via the below link:

https://chat.whatsapp.com/Drc0UK3ba10KnuR8zuPMwl

Or our free Telegram group, via the below link:

https://t.me/LearnNigerianLaws

To keep up to date on all our free legal awareness projects, follow us via:

Facebook Page:@LearnNigerianLaws, Instagram: @LearnNigerianLaws and Twitter: @LearnNigeriaLaw

Please share this publication for free till it gets to those that need it most. Save a Nigerian today! NOTE: Sharing, modifying or publishing this publication without giving credit to Onyekachi Umah, Esq. and “LearnNigerianLaws.com” is a criminal breach of copyright and will be prosecuted.

This publication is the writer’s view not a legal advice and does not create any form of relationship. You may reach the writer for more information.

Powered by www.LearnNigerianLaws.com {A Free Law Awareness Program of Sabi Law Foundation, supported by the law firm of Bezaleel Chambers International (BCI).}

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

Leave a Replay

Related Articles