Advocacy Visit by Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and State of the Union Nigeria Campaign Platform (SOTU- N-CAMP) to the Minister of Justice of Nigeria and Attorney General of the Federation at the Ministry Headquarters in Abuja-Nigeria. May 17TH 2013
As part of a number of activities lined up towards the attainment of the overall objectives of Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre’s (CISLAC’s) implementation of the State of the Union campaign in Nigeria, CISLAC and State of the Union Nigeria Campaign Platform (SOTU-N-CAMP – Nigeria’s SOTU national Platform) on the 17th of May 2013 at about 2:30p.m Nigerian time conducted, an advocacy visit to the Minister of Justice of Nigeria and Attorney General of the Federation. This meeting was a follow up of communications with the Senior Special Adviser (SSAVII) to the Minister, Mrs Victoria Mbu about the role of the Ministry in studying and effecting Nigeria’s compliance with African Union (AU) legal instruments.
The delegation was led by Auwal Musa Ibrahim (Rafsanjani), the Executive Director of CISLAC who in a brief introduction spoke on what the State of the Union (SOTU) program was about; that is, what the targeted campaigns intended to achieve with a brief overview of SOTU’s areas of policy engagement as well as its spread across the continent. The Executive Director thanked the Minister for receiving CISLAC and SOTU N- CAMP team and encouraged further partnership beyond the events of the program with the Ministry of Justice.
Afterwards, the Executive Director presented an outline of the SOTU Advocacy Brief alongside a number of key documents to the Honourable Minister such as the draft SOTU Nigeria 2012 report for the Ministry’s input, the latest State of Ratification of the AU Legal Instruments and the 2010 SOTU Consolidated Countries Report to facilitate the speedy consideration of the AU legal instruments. He stressed that Nigeria has to play a leadership role in promoting African Unity through the ratification, domestication and onward implementation of the AU legal instruments and protocols.
In his address, the Honourable Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Barrister Mohammed Bello Adoke (SAN) thanked the delegation for identifying and choosing the Ministry as a worthy partner in such a very novel campaign. Likewise, the Minister stated his willingness to do everything within the Ministries’ mandate to make sure that the AU instruments for which SOTU is pushing for ratification; domestication and implementation are duly looked into and followed to the latter.
More so, the Minister gave his assurance to call for a meeting of the respective State Attorney Generals to review the state of domestication of these instruments in order to popularize these protocols as well as improve implementation when ratification has been assented to by relevant arms of government.
The Honourable Minister was full of tribute to civil society organizations in the country stating that in any given society, CSOs are a key development component. While reiterating his Ministries’ commitment to the Nigerian project, he stated that there was however a need to ensure that only genuine organizations who truly had credibility and overriding national interest at heart should be allowed to thrive. He acknowledged the core importance of CSOs in Nigeria especially their ability to uplift the Nigerian project and support nation building.
However, the Minister highlighted that there were a number of organizations who rode on the platform of CSOs to perpetuate very unwholesome acts, using anticorruption campaigns to extort and continuing in impunity. Therefore he noted that there was an urgent need for a collective condemnation of such organization(s’) activities, declaring them as persona non gratis since their agendum was inimical to the overall interest of the CSOs and of nation building as when you fight corruption, corruption fights back.
CISLAC and SOTU- N-CAMP Prayers
Auwal Musa Ibrahim (Rafsanjani) who led the CISLAC and SOTU- N-Camp delegation in his remarks prayed that the Minister used his good office to do the following amongst other things:
– Help facilitate the speedy ratification of the AU instruments
– Help liaise with relevant authorities and stakeholders across the country for improved implementation upon the domestication of these laws since the implementation was always a major challenge
– Help publicise these instruments as the level of awareness on most of these instruments remain poor
In response, the Minister highlighted his commitment to following the due process of Law as he stated that it is necessary for CSOs to actively engage the legislature on these issues, as Bureaucracy in government is necessary to put in place checks and balances in the governance and institutional system of Nigeria. The Ministry of Justice remains steadfast and resolute in putting in place measures to protect the rights/civil liberties of her citizens and fight corruption within the ambits of the law.
The Minister stated that as one of the champions of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, he strongly believes in the rule of law and the freedom of the press, which are both necessary for the popularization of the Africa Union (AU) legal instruments in Nigeria as best practices and noted however that due processes must be followed at all times.
As mentioned by the Minister during the visit, corruption and impunity continues to remain a major challenge in the country. According to him there is a need to increase the legislative dialogue so as to enhance the efficacy of existing laws and in cases where there are not yet adequate laws to tackle certain corrupt practices then there should be intervention in those areas.
He made mention of the celebrated Halliburton case in Nigeria and the outcry it generated when the case was finally laid to rest in the manner it was; noting that there were gaps in the laws which did not make for a better persecution at that time and that what the country stood to gain if it went ahead to win the case was to be in deficit of what it would spend if it went on further to pursue the case.
The Minister stated that in the United States of America (U.S.A) for instance there are already in existence very critical and vital legislations put in place that prohibits and checkmate the excesses of foreign companies from indulging in corrupt practices. He stated that the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act is just one of these laws
Moreover, the Minister noted that the capacity of lawyers and solicitors within the Federal Ministry of Justice needs to be built in order to effectively domesticate and popularise the respective AU legal instruments and protocols. He noted that he had started generic capacity building program for staffs of the Ministry to improve their conviction ratio as well as improve their overall competence levels since 2010. This will no doubt go a long way in actualizing the noble goals of having a truly citizen-driven African Union across the continent.
The Minister reassured the CISLAC and SOTU-N-CAMP delegation that the AU instruments as highlighted in the advocacy brief presented to him will be forwarded to the Director of International and Comparative Law in the Ministry to take a look at and ascertain the various levels of compliance as well as stages of ratifications respectively.
The Minister during his remarks was full of glowing commendations for the SOTU agenda, seeing it as novel as these instruments when duly ratified, domesticated and adequately implemented hold so much promise for the citizenry; as well as the total socio-economic emancipation and transformation of the African continent. He stated that the Ministry was open for further engagement with the SOTU team and that his doors remained opened for further interaction(s).
In addition, the Executive Director noted that in line with the Ministers assurances, the SOTU delegation earnestly looks forward to active partnership and support from the Ministry as CISLAC proactively engages the National Assembly on the ratification of the AU legal instruments.
The meeting later came to an end with group photographs of the SOTU delegation with the Minister, and presentation of the CISLAC – SOTU souvenirs (T-shirts, face caps, wrist bands, fliers and posters) officially declaring the Minister as a SOTU Ambassador.