The Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), has promised to present the reports on the reforms of the nine federal laws submitted by the Nigerian Law Reform Commission (NLRC) to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) for onward transmission to the National Assembly for passage.
While receiving the reports from the Chairman of NLRC, Barrister Kefas Magaji, on Thursday, Malami urged the commission to review the laws of other anti-graft institutions to give a sting to the anti-corruption policy of the present administration.
“The cardinal focus of the government under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari as it is today is among others the focus on the fight against corruption,” he said, adding that against this background of consideration among others, the NLRC is urged to look at the possibility of strengthening our laws and institutions that are intended to provide focus and direction as it relates to the fight against corruption.
“Institutions like Code of Conduct Tribunal, Investment and Securities Tribunal and Tax Appeal Tribunal have a great role to play as far as the fight against corruption policy of the Federal Government is concerned. The laws relating to these institutions definitely require certain reforms that will eventually bring them in line with the international best practices. The time is now ripe to look in that direction,” Malami said.
The NLRC chairman said the reforms were carried out in compliance with Section 5 of the NLRC Act, Cap. N118, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
The reports include Reform of the Sale of Goods Act in Nigeria; Reform of Police Powers of Arrest, Search and Detention: Criminalising Acts of Torture, Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and other Related Matters – The Anti-Torture Bill.
Others are Reforms of the Public Order Act; Dishonoured Cheques (Offences) Act; Federal Road Safety Commission (Establishment) Act, 2007 and Other Related Acts; Public Officers Protection Act; Price Control Act; Labour Act; and Report on Money Laundering Legislation: and Reform of the Foreign Exchange (Monitoring and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act.
Magaji said NLRC embarked on the reform of Sale of Goods Act at the federal level because of the lacuna created by the 1999 Constitution. He said under the 1999 Constitution, item 62(a) of the Executive List, the National Assembly became empowered to legislate on trade and commerce, particularly between states. He said this empowerment did not make provision for any federal law on sale of goods to regulate such interstate trade.
“Consequently, the 1893 Sale of Goods Act as a statute of general application continued to apply at the federal level,” he said before adding that the draft Sale of Goods Bill contained among others the “definition and re-definition of certain words used in the 1893 Act in line with the current societal realities and advancement in technology,” he said.
No single legislation in Nigeria criminalising or defining torture
A draft Anti-Torture Bill, according to Magaji, seeks to prevent and prohibit torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. He said, “there is no single legislation in Nigeria, criminalizing or defining torture.”
He said by this proposed legislation, the Federal Government will be fulfilling its international obligations including compliance with the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Optional Protocol on Torture.
Similarly, he said the Reform of the Public Order Act contains a proposal to update the Act to make it conform to the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999. He said the provisions of the extant law as enacted in 1979 by the military government have been declared by the Court in the case of IGP v ANPP & Ors (2007) to be inconsistent with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution.
Magaji said the Reform of Dishonoured Cheques (Offences) Act is targeted at improving the provisions of the Act to eliminate fraud and ensure a corruption-free society.
He said the proposals for amendment of the Act include among others: additional grounds for dishonouring a cheque in view of current socio-economic realities; and the inclusion of more courts to be vested with jurisdiction to try offences under the Act for the quicker dispensation of justice.
FRSC (Establishment) Act 2007 does not prevent road accidents
Magaji said, “Road safety laws and regulations are usually targeted at preventing a breach of the driving code or the occurrence of accidents, persuasion of road operator and users to avoid traffic offences through compulsory education and training.”
However, “The Federal Road Safety Commission (Establishment) Act 2007 and other existing regulations do not adequately cover the above-stated components of enforcement of the road safety laws. The bulk of the existing laws cover punitive aspects of road safety with little or nothing on enforcement and road safety management, hence the need for reform,” he said.
He said a proposal for the change of the name of the Commission from ‘Federal Road Safety Commission’ to ‘Nigerian Road Safety Commission’ is one of the proposals to address the challenge. He said this would make it clear that the commission has jurisdiction throughout the federation.
In its report, NLRC recommends the repealing of the Public Officers Protection Act in order to strengthen the democratic principles of the rule of law, promote accountability and responsiveness in public office and enhance access to justice.
On the report on the Reform of the Price Control Act, Magaji said it is considered necessary as a means of updating its provisions to re-enforce its effectiveness. The commission recommends that there is urgent need to reactivate and strengthen the capacity of the Price Control Board and committees to perform their functions in order to check inflation and enhance consumer protection.
Correspondingly, the report on Reform of the Labour Act contains proposals that will promote fair practices in employment and improve the conditions of work in accordance with international best practice and obligations.
Thus, NLRC recommends among others: the provision for maximum hours of work; full pay for females on maternity leave; encourage the employment of persons with disabilities, and provide for fair and unfair termination of employment.
Magaji concluded that the report on Money Laundering Legislation: Reform of the Foreign Exchange (Monitoring and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act contains proposals “aimed at forestalling money laundering by strengthening the legal framework for the regulation, monitoring, supervision and implementation of foreign exchange transactions in Nigeria.”