The International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law, INTERSOCIETY, has condemned recent remarks of two senior lawyers, Itse Sagay and Femi Falana, on constitutional matters.
INTERSOCIETY said such legal opinions were the major cause of the recent impasse between the Presidency and the Senate.
The rights group said the two SANs were usurping the office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice whose constitutional duty it was to give opinions on legal matters to the Federal Government and to Nigerians, especially on recondite issues.
In a statement by the chairman of board of trustees of INTERSOCIETY, Emeka Umeagbalasi, in Awka, Anambra state, the group maintained that such opinions had misled the executive in some of its actions and decisions.
”The power of the Chief Law Officer of the Federal Republic of Nigeria or the Federation; particularly in matters of unbiased, sound and public oriented legal opinions as well as respect and enforcement of the rule of law and governance policies and procedures and chief crime prosecutor; are clearly vested in the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice/Government of the Federation. This is by virtue of Sections 150 and 174 of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution.
“We at INTERSOCIETY are worried over mindless and rapacious institutionalisation and cementation of personal legal opinions and biases in the art of public governance in Nigeria particularly since June 2015.
“Apart from clear takeover of the constitutional powers and functions of the Attorney General of the Federation by some lawyers particularly those holding the non-academic title of “Senior Advocates of Nigeria”, such personal legal opinions and biases have gravely emboldened the Presidency of Nigeria and forced same to partly or wholly abandon the Constitution and laid down conventions in executive recklessness and blunders particularly in matters of temporary and substantive appointment of certain persons as “public office holders” in the Presidency or Executive Arm of Government.
“A clear case in point is the ongoing self-inflicted and self-invited travails of the “Acting” Chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu and the “Controller General” of Custom, Retired Col Hameed Ali.
“It is unheard of in a sane democratic Nigeria that a public office holder appointed in acting capacity would remain so endlessly since 2015. What then is “acting capacity?”
“The list of Presidential recklessness and blunders in the appointment of its public office holders is endless.”
“We are deeply concerned and worried that among members of the Silk who have condemnably backed and defended the Presidential recklessness and blunders since 2015 till date are Barristers Itse Sagay (SAN) and Femi Falana (SAN), to mention but a few,” the statement said.
The group maintained that opinions of such lawyers had impeached the sacred provisions of the 1999 Constitution.
“Their personal legal opinions are also considered biased and undemocratic on account of their undue influence and emboldening of the Presidency in its clear acts of executive recklessness and blunders,” it added.
The group therefore commended the senate for taking bold steps in resisting executive interference.