By Lawrence Olaoye
The Federal Executive Council (FEC) has approved what it describes as a Justice Sector Policy for Nigeria.
The Attorney-General of the Federation, AGF and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami made the disclosure yesterday while briefing State House correspondents after the Council meeting chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He explained that the policy would ensure speedy administration of justice, quality administration and access to justice.
Malami said FEC also approved a memo seeking to amend the Geneva Convention and re-enact it to grant access to justice by prisoners of war (POW).
According to him, Nigeria was not at par with the rest of the world particularly in the area of granting POWs certain rights and privileges.
He said, “The first memo was relating to administration of justice which was about a justice sector reform policy. It is a blue print that set out a shared vision, objectives and interventions for the reform of justice sector to engender fair, efficient and transparent administration of justice.
“A policy that has been keyed into in respect of which buy-in of the executive, judiciary and the legislature. A policy that is all encompassing as it relates to institutional accommodation. So, the memo was presented in that respect. The three arms of government indeed, ministries, departments and agencies have been over time working on a road map that was a product of that policy.
“But what we have by way of administration of justice, criminal justice Act a time which was intended that we have speedy determination of cases was indeed a product of that understanding. What we had by way of legislation in relation to correctional service Act is indeed a product of that understanding and the same thing with executive orders that were put in place.
“So, the intention is to work together for the purpose of assisting the justice sector administration in times of having speedy administration of justice, quality administration of justice and access to justice for all. That is in a nutshell the justice sector policy that was approved by the council.
The second is a memo relating to the repeal of the Geneva convention. The Geneva convention which is accommodated in our laws; Geneva Convention Act Cap G3, of the Law of the Federation of Nigeria 2004. Its a convention that was designed to provide protection to prisoners of wars, to people involved in armed conflicts, and associated infractions.
“For example, there has been in existence policy that accord protection to prisoners of wars, and what you can do to them, the level which you can approach them, the type of protection you can afford to civilians during times of war and conflicts.
“So, with emerging trends, particularly as it relates with best practices, the need arises for us to amend our laws to be at pal with international best practices.
“Amendment to this effect among other things for example that greater access to justice should be accorded to prisoners of wars in cases of breach.
“So, at the end of the day, the jurisdiction of which Court could entertain cases of breaches against the interest of prisoners of war, people involved in conflicts among others is expanded to allow for greater access to justice.
“It is a convention that now enshrines, lays out the way and manner you can deal with prisoners of wars, people involved in civil conflicts and accord them certain privileges in terms of access to Court in times of breaches against their persons, against their interest and associates, for example, if ill-treatment is melted to them, it is enshrined in the Geneva convention internationally and universally accepted how you can deal with people involved in civil conflicts, in wars amongst others.
“So, the intention is to make necessary amendment to our laws in terms of rights of people involved in wars, rights of people involved in conflicts to ensure that at the end of the day they are not unduly affected or prejudiced to such an extend it did not go outside the conventional tolerable practices internationally.
The memos relating to the amendment of the Geneva convention in line and in tune with international best practices were all presented and approved by the council.
“What makes it relevant for consideration is the international engagement of a member of committee of nation. Internationally, Nigeria was a signatory to that convention and the member countries that were signatory to that convention over time were in agreement arising from international commitment to effect certain arrangement to the law which was enacted in 1949.
“Originally, that has been adopted by Nigeria by which we are a signatory. From 1949 to date, there were a lot of changes that were set in with particular reference to wars and international conflicts. Particular reference to rights of civilian persons, imprisonments of prisoners of wars and victims of armed conflicts. When you talk of wars and conflicts that involved multiple countries.
“I think as a government, we have a responsibility to accord protection to our citizens not necessarily to wait until such time when they are affected before we can take advantage of according them the desired protection.
Also, Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Clement Agba said FEC approved a memo to source a Euro500 million loan for the Bank of Industry from external creditors.
Agba explained that the loan was to support industrialisation and agriculture, in addition to creating up to 1.2 million new jobs.
“The main objective of the loan is to support industry; revitalize agro-industrial processing zones, to facilitate the creation of new jobs,” he said.
Minister of Power, Salleh Mamman, said his ministry got approval of the President on a memo which sought the release of $2 million dollars, part of Nigeria’s contributiion to the West African Power Pool.