The House of Representatives yesterday passed for second reading a bill that would separate the office of Attorney General of Federation (AGF) from that of the Minister for Justice, so as to make the office of the AGF independent.
The bill, sponsored by Hon. Chris Eta (PDP, Cross River) was supported by Hon. Uche Ekwunife (APGA, Anambra), Bamidele Opeyemi (ACN, Ekiti), Femi Gbajabiamila (AÇN, Lagos) and Mohammed Monguno) (ANPP, Borno).
They had both argued that a situation where the AGF acts as company secretary to the Federal Government was unacceptable, and the bill when passed, should include states as well.
It was then referred to the committee on the review of the 1999 Constitution.
In a similar move, House also passed for second reading a bill seeking to amend section 174 of the 1999 constitution to take away the powers of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) from initiating, taking over or discontinuing any criminal proceedings.
Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila (ACN, Lagos) sponsor of the bill, argued that the section had given the AGF “wide and ominous” powers to institute, take over or withdraw criminal proceedings, but there is urgent need to “remove these powers in relation to EFCC cases.
He then said that if it is amended, the AGF can only exercise such powers subject to act of parliament, the EFCC would be better empowered to do its job unhindered.
Gbajabiamila, while replying Chairman of the Committee on Power, Hon. Patrick Ikhariale (PDP, Edo) who made attempt to oppose the amendment, he cited the Crown Counsel Act in the UK and the Ethics of Government Act (USA) 1978, which he said all prescribe the independence and impartiality of the AGF.
He argued that the EFCC is more or less an independent special prosecutionary agency and prosecutionary independence is found all over the world adding “if the EFCC is independence, this will help in the fight against corruption.
Several other members also spoke in favour of the motion, as such it was passed and equally referred to the committee on constitution review.