Rising Debt Profile, Danger To Economy, Says AGF

By Ezra Odogu

The Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Prince Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), has decried the rising debt profile of the country, warning that such increase poses a serious danger to the country’s economy.

To this end, he has advocated the need for personnel of governments at all levels to acquire and possess relevant skills and training in the area of agreement drafting.

Fagbemi spoke Tuesday in Abuja, at the Body of Attorneys-General Conference and the Meeting of the General Council of the Bar.

“I also need to comment on the increasingly rising debt profiles of government at all levels, which pose serious danger and challenge to our national economy and existence as an independent nation.

“The Federal Ministry of Justice has, against this backdrop, initiated a collaborative framework with specialist firms, to enable legal officers involved in drafting MoUs and other forms of binding agreements acquire required skills to identify possible areas of dispute or liability, which could lead to avoidable litigation or arbitration costs and judgement debt.

“We are willing to extend the support to legal officers in the various states in order to strengthen their capacities in this regard,” he said.

Fagbemi also harped on the need for collaboration in strengthening the entire justice sector particularly the administration of criminal justice sector, in order to meet the end goals of justice and the expectations of citizens.

According to him, the effectiveness and functionality of the justice system have direct effect on the overall development, stability and sustainability of the society.

To achieve the above, the AGF urged the states AGs to ensure the full implementation of financial autonomy for the judiciary across states as provided for under Section 121(3)&(4) of the Constitution, as a mark of true and holistic commitment to the ideals of democracy and good governance.

“We should in this regard seek to robustly build the capacities of the judiciary, both in terms of personnel and infrastructure, particularly by investing in technologies that are necessary to automate vital aspects of our court operations and ultimately implement a digital justice delivery system.

“Next in the line of our engagements is the necessity to constructively work with the legislative arm of government. I encourage you all to actively engage the legislative arm of government in two major respects. Firstly, in the area of reform of existing laws, wherever necessary, and secondly in developing new legislations that would address critical gaps, particularly within our justice sector institutions and beyond,” he added.

Meanwhile, the AGF stated that the main agenda of the conference is on how to regularly and effectively use the instrumentality of the platform to solve problems and frictions arising from shared constitutional and statutory responsibilities as a federation particularly on critical issues for which the federal and component states may have divergent views.

In a goodwill message, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, Senator Mohammed Monguno, stated that the conference was apt and timely in view of the current challenges facing the judiciary and the need to, as a matter of urgency, address emerging legal issues affecting the nation, with particular reference to conflicting judgments, arising from election petition tribunals and the Court of Appeal in recent time.

“In this regard, I urge you all to partner with the National Assembly to ensure that obsolete laws, pertaining to adjudicating processes are updated and streamlined to address emerging issues in our evolving jurisprudence.

“On our part as legislators … we are committed to embarking on multi-dimensional reforms that would reposition the nation’s judiciary to face the challenges of the 21 Century, frontally and in tandem with global best practices,” he said.

Monguno, while observing that the National Assembly would soon commence constitutional amendment, called on the body to come up with a position on the modality of separating the office of the Attorney-General from the office of the Minister of Justice.

He recalled that the ninth Assembly had dealt with the issue but the then President Muhammadu Buhari declined to sign it into law.

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