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An Appraisal of the Power of Attorney General in the 1999 Constitution – Akilu Sa’adu

An Appraisal of the Power of Attorney General in the 1999 Constitution: Whether His Power Can be Questioned or Challenged in Court

𝙄𝙉𝙏𝙍𝙊𝘿𝙐𝘾𝙏𝙄𝙊𝙉 𝘼𝙉𝘿 𝙃𝙄𝙎𝙏𝙊𝙍𝙄𝘾𝘼𝙇 𝘽𝘼𝘾𝙆𝙂𝙊𝙍𝙐𝙉𝘿 𝙊𝙁 𝘼𝙏𝙏𝙊𝙍𝙉𝙀𝙔 𝙂𝙀𝙉𝙀𝙍𝘼𝙇.
The office of Attorney-General is a sacred office and has a prosecutorial power over any case/matter which relates to crime in the country. AG’s fiat is delegable; and conferred onto him by constitution as would be subsequently digested and seen.

Historically, for we to trace the origin of Attorney-General powerful practice, we must visit the archive of British Common law system.

During the thirteenth century, the monarch’s attorney or king’s sergeant had the sole onus of maintaining the interest of the king in the royals court. As a medal prize for his devotion toward representing the king’s volition, the prerogative power of king to control, initiate or pause on prosecution was vested on his foreman–Attorney-General. Thus, the AG became law onto himself that can do and undo; institute and de-institute.

This unquestionable vires reposed on Attorney-General is called ‘ 𝘯𝘰𝘭𝘭𝘦 𝘱𝘳𝘰𝘴𝘦𝘲𝘶𝘪 ‘  . 𝘕𝘰𝘭𝘭𝘦 𝘱𝘳𝘰𝘴𝘦𝘲𝘶𝘪 is a latin phrase which means ‘ will no longer prosecute’.  It is a power granted to Attorney-General for him to represent state crimes and interest in administratjon of justice and adjudication or prosecution of offenders.

The Attorney-General who is a leader of prosecution in England, when he enterred a 𝘯𝘰𝘭𝘭𝘦 𝘱𝘳𝘰𝘴𝘦𝘲𝘶𝘪 power can not be subjected to judicial review or further scrutiny as to why he enterred such power. This can be seen from the landmark decision of the court on  𝙂𝙤𝙪𝙧𝙞𝙚𝙩 𝙫  𝙐𝙣𝙞𝙤𝙣 𝙤𝙛 𝙥𝙤𝙨𝙩 𝙤𝙛𝙛𝙞𝙘𝙚 𝙬𝙤𝙧𝙠𝙚𝙧𝙨  𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙘𝙖𝙨𝙚 𝙤𝙛 𝙈𝙤𝙝𝙞𝙩 𝙫. 𝘿𝙋𝙋 𝙢𝙖𝙪𝙧𝙞𝙩𝙪𝙨. The House of Lorss per, Lord Viscount Dilhome held:

” 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙖𝙩𝙩𝙤𝙧𝙣𝙚𝙮 𝙂𝙚𝙣𝙚𝙧𝙖𝙡 𝙝𝙖𝙙 𝙢𝙖𝙣𝙮 𝙙𝙪𝙩𝙞𝙚𝙨 𝙖𝙣𝙙  𝙥𝙤𝙬𝙚𝙧𝙨  𝙃𝙚 𝙢𝙖𝙮 𝙨𝙩𝙤𝙥 𝙥𝙧𝙤𝙨𝙚𝙘𝙪𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣 𝙤𝙧 𝙞𝙣𝙙𝙞𝙘𝙩𝙢𝙚𝙣𝙩 𝙗𝙮 𝙚𝙣𝙩𝙚𝙧𝙧𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙖 𝙣𝙤𝙡𝙡𝙚 𝙥𝙧𝙤𝙨𝙚𝙦𝙪𝙞. 𝙃𝙚 𝙢𝙚𝙧𝙚𝙡𝙮 𝙝𝙖𝙨 𝙩𝙤 𝙨𝙞𝙜𝙣 𝙖 𝙥𝙖𝙥𝙚𝙧 𝙩𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙝𝙚 𝙙𝙤𝙚𝙨 𝙣𝙤𝙩 𝙬𝙞𝙨𝙝 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙥𝙧𝙤𝙨𝙚𝙘𝙪𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙙𝙞𝙧𝙚𝙘𝙩 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝘿𝙋𝙋 (𝙙𝙞𝙧𝙚𝙘𝙩𝙤𝙧 𝙤𝙛 𝙥𝙪𝙗𝙡𝙞𝙘 𝙥𝙧𝙤𝙨𝙚𝙘𝙛𝙪𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣) 𝙩𝙤 𝙩𝙖𝙠𝙚 𝙤𝙫𝙚𝙧 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙘𝙤𝙣𝙙𝙪𝙘𝙩 𝙤𝙛 𝙖𝙣𝙮 𝙘𝙧𝙞𝙢𝙞𝙣𝙖𝙡 𝙥𝙧𝙤𝙘𝙚𝙚𝙙𝙞𝙣𝙜𝙨….. 𝙞𝙣 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙚𝙭𝙚𝙧𝙘𝙞𝙨𝙚 𝙤𝙛 𝙝𝙞𝙨 𝙥𝙤𝙬𝙚𝙧𝙨 𝙝𝙚 𝙞𝙨 𝙣𝙤𝙩 𝙨𝙪𝙗𝙟𝙚𝙘𝙩 𝙩𝙤 𝙨𝙪𝙥𝙚𝙧𝙫𝙞𝙨𝙞𝙤𝙣 𝙗𝙮 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙘𝙤𝙪𝙧𝙩𝙨”

Therefore, suffice it to say, the office of Attorney-General in Nigerian constitution is not a novel  innovation in to the judicial system or , rather is not the creation of our constitution ; it predated the Nigerian constitution. It is the establishment of Common Law of England.

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Hence, Nigeria as a weaned child of British and a common wealth Member copied  similar, if not same, prosecutorial power and conferred onto  her Attorney-General of federation who is  a supreme judicial officer in the country and the Attorney-Generals of thirty sisx states in Nigeria.

𝙏𝙝𝙚 𝙥𝙤𝙨𝙞𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣 𝙤𝙛 𝘼𝙩𝙩𝙤𝙧𝙣𝙚𝙮 𝙂𝙚𝙣𝙚𝙧𝙖𝙡 𝙪𝙣𝙙𝙚𝙧 1999 𝙘𝙤𝙣𝙨𝙩𝙞𝙩𝙪𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣.
Constitution been the mother law of the land from which all other laws are born and derived their powers. Nigerian constitution did not overlook the incontestable powers of Attorney-Generals and the eminence powers vested onto them by other constitution of the world; it established the office of Attorney-General of Federation and Attorney-Generals of thirty six states under section 150 and 195 of 1999 constitution and endowed onto them an exalted vires under section 174 and 211 of the refferred constitution of federal Republic of Nigeria.

The  sections 174(1) (a) (b) (c) conjunctively  read thus:
     ” 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝘼𝙩𝙩𝙤𝙧𝙣𝙚𝙮-𝙂𝙚𝙣𝙚𝙧𝙖𝙡  𝙤𝙛  𝙛𝙚𝙙𝙚𝙧𝙖𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣 𝙨𝙝𝙖𝙡𝙡  𝙝𝙖𝙫𝙚  𝙥𝙤𝙬𝙚𝙧  𝙩𝙤  𝙞𝙣𝙨𝙩𝙞𝙩𝙪𝙩𝙚, 𝙪𝙣𝙙𝙚𝙧𝙩𝙖𝙠𝙚, 𝙩𝙖𝙠𝙚  𝙤𝙫𝙚𝙧, 𝙙𝙞𝙨𝙘𝙤𝙪𝙣𝙩𝙞𝙣𝙪𝙚  𝙖𝙩  𝙖𝙣𝙮  𝙨𝙩𝙖𝙜𝙚, 𝙖𝙣𝙮 𝙘𝙧𝙞𝙢𝙞𝙣𝙖𝙡  𝙥𝙧𝙤𝙘𝙚𝙚𝙙𝙞𝙣𝙜𝙨 𝙖𝙜𝙖𝙞𝙣𝙨𝙩 𝙖𝙣𝙮 𝙥𝙚𝙧𝙨𝙤𝙣 𝙗𝙚𝙛𝙤𝙧𝙚 𝙖𝙣𝙮 𝙘𝙤𝙪𝙧𝙩 𝙤𝙛 𝙡𝙖𝙬 𝙞𝙣 𝙉𝙞𝙜𝙚𝙧𝙞𝙖, 𝙤𝙩𝙝𝙚𝙧 𝙩𝙝𝙖𝙣 𝙖 𝙘𝙤𝙪𝙧𝙩- 𝙢𝙖𝙧𝙩𝙞𝙖𝙡 , 𝙞𝙣 𝙧𝙚𝙨𝙥𝙚𝙘𝙩 𝙤𝙛 𝙖𝙣𝙮 𝙤𝙛𝙛𝙚𝙣𝙘𝙚 𝙘𝙧𝙚𝙖𝙩𝙚𝙙 𝙗𝙮 𝙤𝙧 𝙪𝙣𝙙𝙚𝙧 𝙖𝙣𝙮 𝙖𝙘𝙩 𝙤𝙛 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙉𝙖𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣𝙖𝙡 𝘼𝙨𝙨𝙚𝙢𝙗𝙡𝙮”.

similarly section 211 (1) (𝚊) (𝚋) (𝚌)  jointly read thus:
       ” 𝙏𝙝𝙚 𝙖𝙩𝙩𝙤𝙧𝙣𝙚𝙮-𝙂𝙚𝙣𝙚𝙧𝙖𝙡 𝙤𝙛 𝙖 𝙨𝙩𝙖𝙩𝙚 𝙨𝙝𝙖𝙡𝙡 𝙝𝙖𝙫𝙚 𝙥𝙤𝙬𝙚𝙧 𝙩𝙤 𝙞𝙣𝙨𝙩𝙞𝙩𝙪𝙩𝙚, 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙪𝙣𝙙𝙚𝙧𝙩𝙖𝙠𝙚 , 𝙩𝙖𝙠𝙚 𝙤𝙫𝙚𝙧 , 𝙘𝙤𝙣𝙩𝙞𝙣𝙪𝙚 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙙𝙞𝙨𝙘𝙤𝙣𝙩𝙞𝙣𝙪𝙚 𝙖𝙩 𝙖𝙣𝙮 𝙨𝙩𝙖𝙜𝙚 𝙗𝙚𝙛𝙤𝙧𝙚 𝙟𝙪𝙙𝙜𝙚𝙢𝙚𝙣𝙩 𝙖𝙣𝙮 𝙘𝙧𝙞𝙢𝙞𝙣𝙖𝙡 𝙥𝙧𝙤𝙘𝙚𝙚𝙙𝙞𝙣𝙜𝙨 𝙖𝙜𝙖𝙞𝙣𝙨𝙩 𝙖𝙣𝙮 𝙥𝙚𝙧𝙨𝙤𝙣 𝙗𝙚𝙛𝙤𝙧𝙚 𝙘𝙤𝙪𝙧𝙩 𝙤𝙛 𝙡𝙖𝙬 𝙞𝙣 𝙉𝙞𝙜𝙚𝙧𝙞𝙖 𝙞𝙣 𝙧𝙚𝙨𝙥𝙚𝙘𝙩 𝙤𝙛 𝙨𝙩𝙖𝙩𝙚 𝙤𝙛𝙛𝙚𝙣𝙘𝙚”.

The Attorney-General as the chief officer of law in the temple of justice and a minister of the government by virtue of section 150 and 195 of 1999 constitution shall have a prosecutorial power over any criminal proceedings in Nigeria; and his power can be delegated to the other Attorneys in his office or department by virtue of subsection (2) of section 174(1) )  and subsection (2) of section 211(1)  of 1999 constitution.

Although, the Attorney-General can only extend his prosecutorial powers endowed onto him by law to either members of his department or private legal practitioners through the threshold of ‘𝘧𝘪𝘢𝘵’

𝘈 𝘧𝘪𝘢𝘵 as defined by learned justice of Court of Appeal in the case of  𝙨𝙩𝙖𝙩𝙚 𝙫. 𝙐𝙜𝙝𝙖𝙣𝙬𝙖(2020) 3 𝙉𝙒𝙇𝙍 (𝙥𝙩 1710) 22 held that: ” 𝙄𝙩 𝙞𝙨 𝙖 𝙇𝙖𝙩𝙞𝙣  𝙬𝙤𝙧𝙙  𝙬𝙝𝙞𝙘𝙝  𝙢𝙚𝙖𝙣𝙨  ‘let it be done’ 𝙙𝙚𝙣𝙤𝙩𝙞𝙣𝙜  𝙩𝙝𝙚  𝙜𝙧𝙖𝙣𝙩  𝙤𝙛  𝙥𝙤𝙬𝙚𝙧  𝙤𝙣  𝙖𝙣𝙤𝙩𝙝𝙚𝙧  by 𝙖  𝙥𝙚𝙧𝙨𝙤𝙣  𝙝𝙖𝙫𝙞𝙣𝙜  𝙘𝙤𝙢𝙥𝙡𝙚𝙩𝙚  𝙖𝙪𝙩𝙝𝙤𝙧𝙞𝙩𝙮  𝙤𝙣  𝙩𝙝𝙚  𝙞𝙨𝙨𝙪𝙚  𝙪𝙥𝙤𝙣  𝙬𝙝𝙞𝙘𝙝  𝙩𝙝𝙚  𝙛𝙞𝙖𝙩  𝙞𝙨  𝙜𝙞𝙫𝙚𝙣  𝙞𝙣  𝙢𝙖𝙩𝙩𝙚𝙧𝙨  𝙤𝙛  𝙥𝙧𝙤𝙨𝙚𝙘𝙪𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣”.

For instance, police being a department under the superintendence of Attorney-General and minister of justice, by virtue of  𝙥𝙤𝙡𝙞𝙘𝙚 𝘼𝙘𝙩 2020 under section 23 can prosecute on behalf of Attorney-General. The section reads thus:

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 “𝙎𝙪𝙗𝙟𝙚𝙘𝙩  𝙩𝙤  𝙩𝙝𝙚  𝙥𝙧𝙤𝙫𝙞𝙨𝙞𝙤𝙣𝙨  𝙤𝙛  𝙨𝙚𝙘𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣𝙨  174  𝙖𝙣𝙙  211 𝙤𝙛  𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝘾𝙤𝙣𝙨𝙩𝙞𝙩𝙪𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣  𝙤𝙛  𝙩𝙝𝙚  𝙁𝙚𝙙𝙚𝙧𝙖𝙡   𝙍𝙚𝙥𝙪𝙗𝙡𝙞𝙘  𝙤𝙛  𝙉𝙞𝙜𝙚𝙧𝙞𝙖  1999 (𝙬𝙝𝙞𝙘𝙝  𝙧𝙚𝙡𝙖𝙩𝙚  𝙩𝙤  𝙩𝙝𝙚  𝙥𝙤𝙬𝙚𝙧  𝙤𝙛  𝙩𝙝𝙚  𝘼𝙩𝙩𝙤𝙧𝙣𝙚𝙮 -𝙂𝙚𝙣𝙚𝙧𝙖𝙡  𝙤𝙛  𝙩𝙝𝙚  𝙁𝙚𝙙𝙚𝙧𝙖𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣 𝙖𝙣𝙙  𝙤𝙛  𝙖  𝙎𝙩𝙖𝙩𝙚  𝙩𝙤  𝙞𝙣𝙨𝙩𝙞𝙩𝙪𝙩𝙚  𝙖𝙣𝙙  𝙪𝙣𝙙𝙚𝙧𝙩𝙖𝙠𝙚, 𝙩𝙖𝙠𝙚  𝙤𝙫𝙚𝙧  𝙖𝙣𝙙  𝙘𝙤𝙣𝙩𝙞𝙣𝙪𝙚 𝙤𝙧  𝙙𝙞𝙨𝙘𝙤𝙣𝙩𝙞𝙣𝙪𝙚   𝙘𝙧𝙞𝙢𝙞𝙣𝙖𝙡  𝙥𝙧𝙤𝙘𝙚𝙚𝙙𝙞𝙣𝙜𝙨  𝙖𝙜𝙖𝙞𝙣𝙨𝙩  𝙖𝙣𝙮  𝙥𝙚𝙧𝙨𝙤𝙣  𝙗𝙚𝙛𝙤𝙧𝙚  𝙖𝙣𝙮  𝙘𝙤𝙪𝙧𝙩  𝙤𝙛  𝙡𝙖𝙬  𝙞𝙣  𝙉𝙞𝙜𝙚𝙧𝙞𝙖) ,𝙖𝙣𝙮  𝙥𝙤𝙡𝙞𝙘𝙚   𝙤𝙛𝙛𝙞𝙘𝙚𝙧 𝙢𝙖𝙮  𝙘𝙤𝙣𝙙𝙪𝙘𝙩  𝙞𝙣 𝙥𝙚𝙧𝙨𝙤𝙣  𝙖𝙡𝙡  𝙥𝙧𝙤𝙨𝙚𝙘𝙪𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣𝙨  𝙗𝙚𝙛𝙤𝙧𝙚  𝙖𝙣𝙮 𝙘𝙤𝙪𝙧𝙩, 𝙬𝙝𝙚𝙩𝙝𝙚𝙧  𝙤𝙧  𝙣𝙤𝙩  𝙩𝙝𝙚  𝙞𝙣𝙛𝙤𝙧𝙢𝙖𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣  𝙤𝙧 𝙘𝙤𝙢𝙥𝙡𝙖𝙞𝙣𝙩  𝙞𝙨  𝙡𝙖𝙞𝙙  𝙞𝙣 𝙝𝙞𝙨 𝙣𝙖𝙢𝙚”.

This also received a judicial vindication in the case of 𝙊𝙗𝙞𝙟𝙞𝙖𝙠𝙪  𝙫. 𝙅𝙤𝙚 𝙊𝙗𝙞𝙟𝙞𝙖𝙠𝙪& 𝙊𝙧𝙨 (2022) 17 𝙉𝙒𝙇𝙍. It was held by Court of  Appeal that:
   

“𝙐𝙣𝙙𝙚𝙧  𝙩𝙝𝙚  𝙉𝙞𝙜𝙚𝙧𝙞𝙖𝙣  𝙖𝙙𝙫𝙚𝙧𝙨𝙖𝙧𝙞𝙖𝙡  𝙟𝙪𝙙𝙞𝙘𝙞𝙖𝙡  𝙨𝙮𝙨𝙩𝙚𝙢 , 𝙘𝙧𝙞𝙢𝙞𝙣𝙖𝙡  𝙢𝙖𝙩𝙩𝙚𝙧𝙨  𝙖𝙧𝙚  𝙜𝙚𝙣𝙚𝙧𝙖𝙡𝙡𝙮  𝙗𝙚𝙩𝙬𝙚𝙚𝙣  𝙩𝙝𝙚  𝙎𝙩𝙖𝙩𝙚  (which symbolises the people) 𝙖𝙣𝙙  𝙩𝙝𝙚  𝙖𝙘𝙘𝙪𝙨𝙚𝙙  𝙥𝙚𝙧𝙨𝙤𝙣  𝙞𝙣𝙫𝙤𝙡𝙫𝙚𝙙. 𝙏𝙝𝙪𝙨 , 𝙖𝙣𝙮  𝙘𝙤𝙢𝙢𝙞𝙨𝙨𝙞𝙤𝙣  𝙤𝙛  𝙖  𝙘𝙧𝙞𝙢𝙚  𝙖𝙜𝙖𝙞𝙣𝙨𝙩  𝙩𝙝𝙚  𝙘𝙞𝙩𝙞𝙯𝙚𝙣  𝙤𝙛  𝙩𝙝𝙚  𝙎𝙩𝙖𝙩𝙚  𝙞𝙨  𝙙𝙚𝙚𝙢𝙚𝙙  𝙩𝙤  𝙝𝙖𝙫𝙚  𝙗𝙚𝙚𝙣  𝙥𝙚𝙧𝙥𝙚𝙩𝙧𝙖𝙩𝙚𝙙  𝙖𝙜𝙖𝙞𝙣𝙨𝙩  𝙩𝙝𝙚  𝙎𝙩𝙖𝙩𝙚  𝙞𝙩𝙨𝙚𝙡𝙛 . 𝙏𝙝𝙚  𝙎𝙩𝙖𝙩𝙚  𝙖𝙨  𝙩𝙝𝙚  𝙨𝙪𝙥𝙧𝙚𝙢𝙚  𝙥𝙧𝙤𝙩𝙚𝙘𝙩𝙤𝙧  𝙤𝙛  𝙩𝙝𝙚  𝙘𝙞𝙩𝙞𝙯𝙚𝙣𝙨’ 𝙡𝙞𝙫𝙚𝙨  𝙖𝙣𝙙  𝙥𝙧𝙤𝙥𝙚𝙧𝙩𝙞𝙚𝙨  𝙞𝙢𝙥𝙤𝙨𝙚𝙨  𝙪𝙥𝙤𝙣  𝙞𝙩𝙨𝙚𝙡𝙛  𝙩𝙝𝙚  𝙛𝙪𝙣𝙙𝙖𝙢𝙚𝙣𝙩𝙖𝙡  𝙙𝙪𝙩𝙞𝙚𝙨  𝙤𝙛  𝙣𝙤𝙩  𝙤𝙣𝙡𝙮  𝙖𝙥𝙥𝙧𝙚𝙝𝙚𝙣𝙙𝙞𝙣𝙜 , 𝙗𝙪𝙩  𝙖𝙡𝙨𝙤  𝙥𝙧𝙤𝙨𝙚𝙘𝙪𝙩𝙞𝙣𝙜  𝙤𝙛𝙛𝙚𝙣𝙙𝙚𝙧𝙨  𝙗𝙚𝙛𝙤𝙧𝙚  𝙖  𝙘𝙤𝙪𝙧𝙩  𝙤𝙛  𝙡𝙖𝙬. 𝙎𝙪𝙘𝙝  𝙖  𝙥𝙤𝙬𝙚𝙧  𝙞𝙨  𝙞𝙣𝙫𝙖𝙧𝙞𝙖𝙗𝙡𝙮  𝙙𝙚𝙡𝙚𝙜𝙖𝙩𝙚𝙙  𝙗𝙮  𝙩𝙝𝙚  𝙎𝙩𝙖𝙩𝙚  𝙩𝙤  𝙨𝙥𝙚𝙘𝙞𝙛𝙞𝙘  𝙖𝙜𝙚𝙣𝙘𝙞𝙚𝙨  𝙖𝙣𝙙  𝙤𝙛𝙛𝙞𝙘𝙚𝙧𝙨  𝙡𝙞𝙠𝙚  𝙩𝙝𝙚  𝘼𝙩𝙩𝙤𝙧𝙣𝙚𝙮-𝙂𝙚𝙣𝙚𝙧𝙖𝙡  𝙤𝙛  𝙩𝙝𝙚  𝙁𝙚𝙙𝙚𝙧𝙖𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣  𝙖𝙣𝙙  𝙤𝙛  𝙖  𝙎𝙩𝙖𝙩𝙚, 𝙩𝙝𝙚  𝙋𝙤𝙡𝙞𝙘𝙚 , 𝙩𝙝𝙚  𝙀𝙘𝙤𝙣𝙤𝙢𝙞𝙘  𝙖𝙣𝙙  𝙁𝙞𝙣𝙖𝙣𝙘𝙞𝙖𝙡  𝘾𝙧𝙞𝙢𝙚𝙨  𝘾𝙤𝙢𝙢𝙞𝙨𝙨𝙞𝙤𝙣  𝙩𝙝𝙚  𝙄𝙣𝙙𝙚𝙥𝙚𝙣𝙙𝙚𝙣𝙘𝙚  𝘾𝙤𝙧𝙧𝙪𝙥𝙩  𝙋𝙧𝙖𝙘𝙩𝙞𝙘𝙚𝙨  𝘾𝙤𝙢𝙢𝙞𝙨𝙨𝙞𝙤𝙣, 𝙚𝙩𝙘 ”

Whether The Power of Attorney-General Can Be Challenged in the Court

It is trite law that courts has the sole. Power and jurisdiction to interprete and give meaning to any Act made by National Assembly in Nigeria (visit section 6 of 1999 constitution) but, Attorney-General he, alone, has the power to prosecute or not to prosecute. This has been painstakingly observed in the England case of  𝙍 𝙫 𝙊𝙡𝙖𝙮𝙞𝙬𝙤𝙡𝙖 (1959) 4 𝙍𝙎𝘾 119 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝘽𝙖𝙜𝙪𝙙𝙖 𝙫 𝙛𝙚𝙙𝙚𝙧𝙖𝙡 𝙍𝙚𝙥𝙪𝙗𝙡𝙞𝙘 𝙤𝙛 𝙉𝙞𝙜𝙚𝙧𝙞𝙖 (2004) 1 𝙉𝙒𝙇𝙍 (𝙥𝙩 853) .

See also  The Concept of Stateless Persons in International Law; Their Rights, Duties and Obligations - Anijah Gideon

Similarly, in the locus classicus case of 𝙨𝙩𝙖𝙩𝙚 𝙫 𝙄𝙡𝙤𝙧𝙞 (1985) 1 𝙎𝘾𝙉𝙇𝙍 94 the court  𝙥𝙚𝙧 𝙠𝙖𝙮𝙤𝙙𝙚 𝙀𝙨𝙤 𝙟𝙨𝙘 held that, ” 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙥𝙤𝙬𝙚𝙧𝙨 𝙫𝙚𝙨𝙩𝙚𝙙 𝙤𝙣 𝘼𝙩𝙩𝙤𝙧𝙣𝙚𝙮-𝙂𝙚𝙣𝙚𝙧𝙖𝙡 𝙖𝙧𝙚 𝙖𝙗𝙨𝙤𝙡𝙪𝙩𝙚 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙪𝙣𝙛𝙚𝙩𝙩𝙚𝙧𝙚𝙙 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙘𝙖𝙣 𝙣𝙤𝙩 𝙗𝙚 𝙘𝙝𝙖𝙡𝙡𝙚𝙣𝙜𝙚𝙙 𝙞𝙣 𝙘𝙤𝙪𝙧𝙩 ;𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙤𝙣𝙡𝙮 𝙨𝙖𝙣𝙘𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣 𝙖𝙜𝙖𝙞𝙣𝙨𝙩 𝙖𝙣 𝘼. 𝙂 𝙬𝙝𝙤 𝙢𝙞𝙨𝙪𝙨𝙚𝙨 𝙝𝙞𝙨 𝙥𝙤𝙬𝙚𝙧 𝙞𝙨 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙧𝙚𝙖𝙘𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣 𝙤𝙛 𝙝𝙞𝙨 𝙖𝙥𝙥𝙤𝙞𝙣𝙩𝙚𝙧 𝙩𝙤 𝙧𝙚𝙢𝙤𝙫𝙚 𝙝𝙞𝙢 𝙛𝙧𝙤𝙢 𝙤𝙛𝙛𝙞𝙘𝙚….. “

In the similar vein court does not have locus to challenge or question the exercise of the power of Attorney-General. It is the sole responsibility of the political power that appoint him(See the  case of  𝙃𝙖𝙡𝙞𝙧𝙪 &𝘼𝙣𝙤𝙧 𝙑. 𝘾𝙝𝙞𝙚𝙛 𝙂𝙖𝙣𝙞 𝙁𝙖𝙬𝙖𝙝𝙚𝙣𝙢𝙞 (1989) 3 𝙉𝙒𝙇𝙍 (𝙥𝙩 112) 685) .

But where a person is aggrieved or disgruntled with the exercise of AG’s nolle prosequi, such person can bring or initiate a private action against him. (See the case of 𝘼𝙩𝙩𝙤𝙧𝙣𝙚𝙮  -𝙂𝙚𝙣𝙚𝙧𝙖𝙡 𝙤𝙛 𝙆𝙖𝙙𝙪𝙣𝙖 𝙎𝙩𝙖𝙩𝙚 𝙑. 𝙃𝙖𝙨𝙨𝙖𝙣 (1985) 2 𝙉𝙒𝙇𝙍 (𝙥𝙩 8) 483).

Noteworthy, is the fact that when an Attorney-General enterred 𝘧𝘪𝘢t 𝘰𝘳 𝘯𝘰𝘭𝘭𝘦 prosequi in order to discontinue any proceedings that would not exculpate the suspect or  accused, or to reframe it in another dictum, that would not amount to acquittal, as the same person can  be indicted for the same offence in future. This was judicially blessed and cemented in the case of 𝙨𝙩𝙖𝙫𝙚 𝙫. 𝙄𝙡𝙤𝙧𝙞(𝙨𝙪𝙥𝙧𝙖)  per Eso Jsc  he said: “𝙣𝙤𝙡𝙡𝙚 𝙥𝙧𝙤𝙨𝙚𝙦𝙪𝙞 𝙞𝙨 𝙤𝙣𝙡𝙮 𝙩𝙚𝙢𝙥𝙤𝙧𝙖𝙧𝙮 𝙥𝙧𝙤𝙘𝙚𝙚𝙙𝙞𝙣𝙜𝙨 𝙬𝙝𝙞𝙘𝙝 𝙝𝙖𝙨 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙚𝙛𝙛𝙚𝙘𝙩 𝙤𝙣𝙡𝙮 𝙤𝙛 𝙖 𝙨𝙩𝙖𝙮 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙣𝙤𝙩 𝙖 𝙦𝙪𝙖𝙨𝙝𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙤𝙛 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙞𝙣𝙙𝙞𝙘𝙩𝙢𝙚𝙣𝙩, 𝙬𝙝𝙞𝙘𝙝 𝙩𝙚𝙘𝙝𝙣𝙞𝙘𝙖𝙡𝙡𝙮 𝙢𝙖𝙮 𝙡𝙖𝙩𝙚𝙧 𝙗𝙚 𝙥𝙧𝙚𝙨𝙚𝙣𝙩𝙚𝙙 𝙬𝙞𝙩𝙝𝙤𝙪𝙩 𝙛𝙧𝙚𝙨𝙝 𝙞𝙣𝙙𝙞𝙘𝙩𝙢𝙚𝙣𝙩”

Conclusion

From the foregoing it is clearly exposed that the power conferred upon the Attorney-General by 1999 constitution is unchallengeable in court; and can only be annuled when such Attorney left office and a new one decides to proceeds with the matter.

However, according to the reasoning of this writer such absolute power endowed on Attorney-General who is, only questionable by his appointer, will lead to partiality in the administration of justice in Nigeria.

Thus, the power of Attorney-General should, supposed, to be trammelled, checked and limited by the competent court so as to forestall unscrupulous or indiscriminate application of power.


Image Credit: Arise News


About Author

Akilu Sa’adu is 200 level Law student from the Faculty of Law Ahmadu Bello University Zaria. He is an adent Human right advocate and legal enthusiast.

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