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NGO petitions Senate over power tussle at Law Reform Commission

By Olalekan Awojodu

Abuja

A Non-Governmental Organization, Lygel Youths and Leadership Initiatives has written a petition against the Chairman of the Nigerian Law Reform Commission, Professor, Jummai Audi over what it described as ‘Flagrant breach of Nigerian Law Reform Commission Act and Brazen usurpation of power by the Chairman of the Commission’.

The NGO with bias for Public accountability and pragmatic leadership stated in the petition that its action stemmed from its avowed advocacy to strengthen the Nigerian Public Institutions for accelerated and impactful development using the public interest approach.

The petition dated May 5, 2021 was addressed to the National Assembly through the Senate President, a copy which was also sent to the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, SAN, Solicitor General of the Federation, Dayo Apata, SAN, Chairman Senate Committee on Judiciary and Legal Matter, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele and seven other stakeholders.

Accordingly, the Organization’s Director, Legal and Compliance, Olalekan Oladapo who wrote on their behalf has consequently threatened a legal action if within 3o days notice the issue is not addressed.

In the petition, the group alleged that the Commission saddled with the huge responsibility is hamstrung from carrying out its functions efficiently as provided in Section 5 of the Act.

According to the allegation, the Chairman in asserting her position, further extended her power by usurping the responsibility of Secretary of the Commission as delegated by Section 11 of the same Act thereby taking over the accounting and auditing functions of the Secretary.

They alleged further that the Secretary and the other Commissioners had no knowledge and input in the 2020 and 2021 budgets proposed to and approved by the National Assembly.

Similarly, it also cited that (Prof. Audi) overturned the Board at will, alleging that She disregarded the board as constituted severally thereby jettisoning the Board’s quarterly meetings in line with Section 5 of the Act.

Citing Section 8 (1) (a) of the Act, they insist that it specifically provides for Section 11 of same Act, where according to the petition the Secretary is also the accounting officer, who also accounts for the budget and financial estimates of the Commission.

“Based on the above  provisions, it could be established that (i) there is delineation of the role of the financial responsibility between  the political head and the Accounting officer  of which such role is not contemplated  for or combined in one person. Therefore, the Chairman of the Commission is undoubtedly, the Political head and the Secretary is the Accounting Officer of the Commission by virtue of Section 8 (1) (a) and 11 of the extant Act establishing the Commission.

“However, the Chairman of a parastatal can be the Accounting Officer with the proviso in the Financial Regulation, if the extant law establishing the agency provides for it. Therefore, without such express provision for the Chairman as the political head, it is not envisaged for her to act as the Accounting Officer of the Commission,” the petition stated further,”

The Organization has therefore sought stakeholders’ intervention, compelling the head to allow Secretary of the Commission to take his statutory role as the Accounting Officer of the Commission in order to restore normalcy into the system.

Also, the petition implored the Chairman recognize, respect and honour the Commission’s Board in the course of performing their statutory roles.

Meanwhile, all efforts to reach out to the Nigerian Law Reform Chairman, Professor Audi to react was futile as she neither picked several calls put to her nor reply message sent to her MTN and Airtel number as at the time of filing this report.

In the same vein, the Solicitor General and Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Justice, Mr. Dayo Apata, SAN could not be reached to ascertain steps taken so far pertaining the petition.

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