President can rule Nigeria from Saudi Arabia —Aondoakaa

aondoakaaThe Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mr. Michael Aondoakaa (SAN) on Tuesday said President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua could perform his official duties from his sick bed at the King Faisal Intensive Care and Research Centre, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Addressing a press conference to highlight the achievements recorded by his ministry in the past one year, the minister advised those calling on the President to resign to take a second look at the 1999 Constitution.

There have been calls for Yar’Adua’s resignation from various interest groups. Also, his refusal to hand over to Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan, in accordance with the 1999 Constitution, has attracted widespread condemnation.

But the justice minister declared that the powers of the President were not exercised territorially. He said that those calling for the President’s resignation were ignorant.


He said, “There is no evidence that he is not exercising his powers as President. He has his vice-president and his ministers whom he delegates power and functions to.

“The powers of the President are not exercised territorially. Yar’Adua can exercise his powers anywhere in the world, on the plane, at the meeting of the United Nations or even on his sick bed, as long as he is not incapacitated by the sickness.

“The President can exercise his powers through the vice-president and ministers while on his sick bed and that is what he has been doing. For example, the Chief Justice of Nigeria wrote a letter to the President and copied me that he would be retiring on December 31, that the President of the Court of Appeal has just retired and that their replacements have not been screened by the Senate.

“I sent the letter to the Principal Secretary to the President who transmitted same to the President who approved it and sent it back to me.”

Aondoakaa cautioned opposition leaders against making utterances capable of destabilising the nation, noting that “the powers of the President are embodied in his body. We don’t want to take issue with the opposition. We shall meet in 2011 and they will not succeed.”

Aondoakaa also said that the probe into the $180m Halliburton scandal was stalled because witnesses gave evidence in French and it had been difficult translating the information to English in Nigeria.

He added that N6bn was paid by the government through his ministry for debts incurred on judgements against federal agencies in 2009. He decried the failure of federal ministries, departments and agencies to heed legal opinion from his ministry. He lamented that this non-challance had cost his ministry huge sums of money in litigation.

He sadi, “The revocation of the Ajaokuta steel complex contract has so far cost government a whopping $2m in legal fees. Government still pays about N12bn to workers in a company that is not working. The ministry is developing a strong internal capacity to offer advisory legal opinions to agencies of government. The core objective of this initiative is to develop a culture of predictability and uniformity in government positions on similar issues across all MDAs.

“We also seek to progressively rely less on external consultancy services and ultimately reduce the government’s liabilities in the handling of legal matters which may sometimes be aggravated by poor legal advice.”

He said the President had asked the Borno State commissioner for justice to investigate the killing of a female corps member, Miss Grace Adie.

Speaking on the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency {NDLEA}; an agency under the ministry, the minister noted that “NDLEA has again received ninth consecutive certification for excellence for taking Nigeria out of the list of countries determined as a major Drug-Transit and major Drug producing countries. Within the first eight months of 2009, the agency has successfully apprehended 4,970 suspected drug traffickers. A total of 48,770,773 kg of various narcotics and psychotropic substances were also seized from illicit drug traffickers”.

Aondoakaa said that under the ministry’s prisons decongestion programme that about 42,000 cases had been given to about 2,500 private legal practitioners across the 36 states of the Federation. “Over 5,000 accused persons have been granted bail while over 3,000 accused persons have been convicted after diligent prosecution. So far about 25,000 cases are still pending in courts with representation from the office of Attorney-General of the Federation,”

He said that in 2009, N1, 815,666,668 was released by government for the programme and that his ministry had achieved 100% utilization of the released amount. “We hope to prosecute the programmed with even greater vigour next year in view of the obvious benefits to our criminal justice system” he added.

Aondoakaa announced that the Nigerian Law School will establish additional campuses in Bayelsa and Adamawa states respectively in addition to the current ones in Lagos , Abuja , Enugu and Kano.

This, he said, would help to maintain a 6-campus structure that would cover all the country’s geo-political zones.

He however said that law school examination would continue to be administered centrally.

“We have extracted concessions from the Adamawa and Bayelsa State governments to complement federal government’s efforts by providing the physical facilities for the two new campuses.”


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