Efficient System, Access to Justice top Governor Sule’s Drive in Reforming Nasarawa Judicial Sector – Kana
- As Nasarawa Justice Ministry replaces sleepy inherited laws to enhance services
- Relationship between arms of government in Nasarawa best in Nigeria
- As government tackled every high profile crimes
The Honourable Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Nasarawa State, Associate Professor Abdulkarim Abubakar Kana has decried the situation where children roaming the streets can be veritable tools of recruitment for bandits and terrorists, as well as he explained why there has not been infractions in the administration of Engr. Abdullahi Sule in the last two and half years. In this interview with the Team of Editors of Nasarawa Today Magazine, the reiterated the position of the state government to ensure an efficient, effective and a workable judicial system, free from cracks, aimed at ensuring access to Justice.
Can you introduce yourself, to let our readers know in brief, who you are?
My name is Dr Abdulkarim Abubakar Kana. I am the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice Nasarawa State, and prior to my appointment, I was a teacher, a Professor of Law with the Nasarawa State University Keffi, and I was the Dean at the Faculty. And also to a certain extent, I extended into private practice with a law firm in Keffi and Abuja, and I hail from Kokona Local Government Council of Nasarawa State. To be specific, from Kana village and I am a son of Alhaji Abubakar Kana.
It is a privilege coming in contact with the only Commissioner in Nasarawa State; very unprecedented. We have never had it this way. So, how does it feel being the only member of the Executive Council?
Well, the Constitution is clear as to the office of the Attorney-General and that at all material time it should be occupied by someone. And it happens that at the time when the State Executive Council by matter of political exigency needed to be dissolved, His Excellency, being a democrat and a true observer of the law, and in compliance with the Constitution, he realised that the office of the Attorney-General will have to be preserved as it were, in line with the provisions of the Constitution to ensure that it does not remain vacant for even a single day. And I believe that it was in line with that, that His Excellency directed, instructed and decided that the Attorney-General’s office should not be affected by the dissolution of the cabinet that was carried out about four months ago. I understand it from that angle. And in addition to that, there is tremendous confidence in our performance in the Ministry. And His Excellency has observed and expressed that confidence in our actions and activities here. That may also have reinforced his decision to ensure that the office does not remain vacant and that we continue to hold on to the responsibility pending any further action or decision that the government may take going forward and in the future.
Will you say, so far, there are actions you have taken or steps you have put in place to ensure that successive administrations will not tamper with this template?
I think the law is the law, and once it is there, it is now left for anyone who comes after the law has been passed to either observe it or violate it. And by violating, I mean not following what the law says. And if the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended) has clearly stipulated that the office of the Attorney-General should be preserved, it behoves on any occupant of the office of the Chief Executive of the State to ensure that the office remains occupied at all material time by someone – whether Kana or anybody for that matter. So basically, that is what it is. For us that are here now, the only thing we will do is to try to see that, for any responsibility allocated to us to carry out, is to see that we try our best to do it to the later and in compliance and conformity with the provisions of the law and based on the oath of office that we have taken not to disappoint our boss, the person who appointed us into the office and also not to disappoint our people, the people of Nasarawa State.
Nasarawa State was 25 years on the 1st of October this year, and is a baby of Plateau State. Are there any inherited laws? If there are, what is the State Government doing to de-link from the inherited laws from Plateau State?
I think we are almost there. Naturally there will be inherited laws. There are still some of them that were inherited right from Northern Nigeria, that were inherited by Benue-Plateau, inherited by Plateau and then by Nasarawa, and that have not quite been touched up till now, they are still in their pristine condition, undisturbed for reasons being that maybe the need to alter them hasn’t come up, but even for the purpose of nomenclature, some of them since we came, we have tried to see that we tamper with them, so that we try to shake off the outlook of the past. But then, as much as possible, we are taking them on a case-by-case basis, one-by-one, so that we don’t do it in a wholesome basis so that it will create a clog in the activities of the House of Assembly.
Of course, many laws were inherited and many have been amended. Many have been repealed. But some of them, what we have tried to do is to pass new ones completely to replace the existing ones. We have made lots of progress as far as that is concerned. Many laws were inherited from Plateau and some from Northern Nigeria. I think the most remarkable of them, is what we call, the Criminal Procedure Code of Northern Nigeria (CPC) which was inherited by Plateau and then by Nasarawa. It regulates the procedures in criminal courts in the States, in Northern Nigeria. And of course, with the passage of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act of the country, which basically replaces the Criminal Procedure Act of Nigeria, States too had to domesticate the same. And by domestication, it effectively displaces and replaces the criminal procedure code. So Nasarawa State in 2019, we were able to enact what we call the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Nasarawa State, which replaces the Criminal Procedure Code. And of course, in addition to that, quite a number of laws have so far been passed, which effectively replaces what we inherited from Plateau. We are going gradually. I think very few now are still left, which at the mention of them, it will have the name of Plateau. They are very few; not more than five or ten. But one thing about laws, especially with States like Nasarawa which was established a long time after independence, is that some of the laws are sleepy. Sleepy in the sense that they are quiet and silent, unless a need to invoke and apply them arises, you won’t even know they exist, and from time to time they are coming up.
Very recently, we had a case in which we were asked to interpret the provisions of the Forestry Law of Northern Nigeria, and this was a law that was inherited by Plateau itself, it is not a law that issues arise pertaining to it every day. The laws that, usually, may need to be invoked on a daily basis are the ones that are highly litigable. Litigable in the sense that persons go to court on them, but forestry law is not something that lawyers or conflicts arise from time to time, so, the law was left in its old condition as it were, until recently, when a conflict arose as to collection of revenues between the board of internal revenue and the Ministry of Environment, and of course, the law was brought to our attention and we found that it has remained as it were right from the time of Northern Nigeria to date. We needed to go through it and of course, we discovered that some of the provisions have effectively been repealed, amended or replaced by the provisions of the harmonisation law of our taxes and levies of Nasarawa State 2021. So, you will see that, many of them have actually been overtaken by events or by virtue of passage of some other laws with similar composition and similar contents, a very few now are in their old condition.
How effective is the justice administration in Nasarawa State especially in the last two years of this administration?
Well! Effectiveness of justice administration can be approached from two angles. Number one: is access to justice, and number two: is efficiency of the system. In terms of access to justice, I will tell you that, even though it is something I was told, it is not something to be proud of, but as far as access to justice is concerned, it is something to be proud of. The fact that Nasarawa State has more courts than any other State in Nigeria, except Lagos in terms of numbers, and with the size of Nasarawa vis-a-viz majority of other States, then we are having more courts than them, it tells you that within, probably, every 5km radius in Nasarawa State, there is a court house. In other words, there are courts closer to the people in Nasarawa State than any other State in the country. Under the present administration alone, working together with the judiciary, more courts have been created. To be precise, 30 new magistrate courts have been created, and in terms of rehabilitation and renovation and reconstruction, as we speak now, more than 35 to 40 courts have been rehabilitated or refurbished by the present administration working together with the judiciary. Some are new, some were completed, like the High Court Complex was completed and furnished and powered by the present administration, and 30 magistrates were appointed to man the new courts, many more area courts have been established. I have the file here with me. I can reach out to it. So far, we are talking of 33 renovated and reconstructed courts, I have the list here, and this does not contain newly established courts, which as it is, we are commencing operations from temporary sites. Some of them are in very small villages. The whole idea is to fulfil the access to justice aspect of justice administration.
In terms of efficiency, that largely will have to do with availability of personnel. More persons have been posted to some of these courts, more staff have been appointed to man the courts, so that, there will be fewer cases in the court, and of course, we are feeling the result and we are very careful in celebrating it so that we do not attract envy to Nasarawa State. In the sense that we are enjoying some level of peace and harmony. For the first time in the history of Nasarawa, you can beat your chest and say that, there is no ongoing communal crisis in any community in Nasarawa State. Tribes and ethnic groups are living in peace, and that is an outcome of our input. Some of it may not be so manifest that you can touch it with your hand but you can feel it. The last rainy season, probably in many years, is the time when people were able to go to their farms in peace in Nasarawa State. You can’t say the same with most of our neighbouring States. That is why we say we are being careful so that, we are not deliberately targeted, so that they will break this record that we are setting. And this has to do with the clear and proactive effort of the administration in terms of reaching out. In this Ministry alone, I can tell you that, we have settled many, many communal disputes, and we are doing it on a daily basis. Some of them between communities, intra-community over chieftaincy, over lands, over farmland, over fish ponds. This is what we do on a daily basis. His Excellency will ask us to intervene, or he directly intervene before it goes out of control. And this direct intervention by the government into matters and conflicts before they go out of control, is part of the reasons largely…, and I can tell you some of them in Nassarawa Eggon, there was direct intervention. In Assakio here, there was direct intervention. In Keana, there was direct intervention between Fulani herdsmen and the farmers, we are carrying everybody along, and of course, through the court systems, to ensure that when matters are filed, persons are able to seek and get justice within a short time. When you have few courts, you have too many cases and it clogs the course list, and when it clogs the course list, cases are not dispensed with on time, people become frustrated and lose confidence in the justice system and they take the law into their hands. When they take the law into their hands, when they begin to kill each other and then anarchy sets in. And then, of course, we go back to the state of nature where life is crude, brutish and short. These are some of the outcomes which people may not appreciate, but these things are happening between us and the police, between us and the security agencies. I don’t sleep. And each time we are receiving instruction from His Excellency, ‘intervene here, intervene there’. There are kidnappings all over the country, but go and check it out, the crime rate as far as Nasarawa State is concerned is minimal compared to most of our neighbouring States. And we thank God for it, and God is looking at our hearts, the efforts we are making and He is also helping us in terms of ensuring that there is result in ensuring that our people are happy.
You have just reeled out a number of courts that have emerged; new ones and old ones that were renovated. Does that translate to prison decongestion?
Well! In terms of prison decongestion, it has to do with efficiency of three actors; the prosecutors, which includes the Ministry of Justice and the police to ensure that they are diligent in response, in filing necessary processes to prosecute the cases. That we are doing. To ensure that we enhance our efficiency within last year alone, His Excellency employed additional 15 lawyers for the Ministry of Justice so that we will be there as and when due. The police have been cooperating effectively with us, to see that cases are dispensed with, and we are dispensing with cases on time.
The second actors are the defence counsels, those who are defending the suspects and the defendants, whether they themselves are up and doing. That is something that the lawyers out there will have to answer, because, if we are not receiving enough cooperation from them, it now also translates into our inability to dispense and resolve with the cases. I can assure you that, as it is right now, for most of the cases that may not be moving as fast as is expected or in accordance with the law, the fault will not be that of the government or the prosecutors.
The third actor is the courts; whether the courts are available, close to the people, whether the judges are up and doing, attending court when they should be. I can assure you that our judges are up and doing. They are always there. So, to that extent, the prisons are being decongested as we speak. The space to inmate ratio in Nasarawa State, I think, it is only in Lafia Prison where we have an outrageous ratio. For Wamba Prison, for Keffi, Nasarawa and Toto Prisons, the ratio is in favour of the fact that there is still a lot of spaces, except of course, if you want to create more people for us to send there. But there are spaces there and I can assure you that if you can take a visit to Wamba Prison, you will think they are doing… There are rooms for more to be sent there.
Here in the Ministry of Justice, I have always told people that, our job and responsibility is to prosecute, to ensure that our streets are rid of criminals. And mine is not to decongest prisons. It is to fill up the prisons. O yes! Ours is to fill up these prisons to the brim with suspects and defendants and convicts. However they come, let’s ensure they are not on the streets. Let them be where they belong, and that is the prisons. And what I can guarantee you is that, we are working very hard to ensure that, if there is any of them on the street that are brought to us by the security agencies, we ensure they remain locked up. But as to whether we are helping to get them out?, that one is between them and their lawyer. Let him suffer to get them out if he can, but for us, we will ensure they remain locked up if they have committed the crime. But what we do here is that, we scrutinize the work of the police and the DSS and any security agency when they bring files of suspects to us, to ensure that, if we have to prosecute a suspect, to be very frank with you, he has committed that crime. Not that we will pass judgment on our part, but we have all the materials in our hands to go through and establish whether indeed there is a case against someone or not. I can tell you that almost all of them that their files have been recommended for prosecution, have committed those crimes, even though the finality, it is the decision of the court, but they have committed those crimes and ours is to ensure they remain locked up. And here, nobody will compromise the Ministry of Justice. If you have committed wrong, we will prosecute you. As we speak now, I can assure you we have more than a thousand of them locked up, either kidnapping suspects, robbery suspects, rape suspects. And they will remain there until we are able to effectively prosecute and have them convicted. And we are trying our best to see that they do not escape through the cracks of the system. Almost every major, high profile crime of either kidnapping or robbery in Nasarawa State have largely been solved, in the sense that they have been apprehended and brought and are being prosecuted. Most of the ones you have heard about, maybe you people were able to carry it on the news. The idea is to ensure that our people live in peace and safety across the State.
And to achieve this, certainly you need the support of not only your principal the Governor, but other arms of government too. So, looking back, how will you describe this principle of separation of powers? How effective, inter-connecting are the others?
You see that, deliberately, in October 2020, His Excellency, the Governor held what we called, ‘a summit of arms’, and the essence of that summit of arms was to bring all the three arms of government together so we can discuss some of our areas of challenges, in terms of our inter-relations, and prior to that, everything was excellent, and nearly perfect. But then, we held that summit, and there were a lot of disclosures between us, and we exchanged thoughts. We were able to correct a few areas where there are problems between, in our relationship, and between then and now, I can assure you that, we are working together and you will see that between October 2020 to date, the House of Assembly hasn’t taken any step that will appear as if there is a problem between it and the Executive. Between then and now, the Judiciary too has tried to see that as much as possible we work together, because when the common man sees government, he is not referring to the Governor alone, when the common man sees government, and the common man is right, when he is referring to everybody; the judiciary, executive and legislature. He is not referring to only the Governor, and all of us are government and because we are government, one arm cannot be seen to be frustrating the other arm. We have to work together. The executive must ensure that it provides the other arms with all that they need to be effective and efficient, to carry out their functions. To that extent, I can assure you the executive is doing well.
And then the legislature is to ensure that as much as possible, the policies and actions of government are given the required legislative backing and support as and when due so they will be backed up by law. So that those actions and policies will not be illegal. I can assure you that the executive government of Nasarawa State is receiving that from the legislature.
The judiciary is also to ensure that they interpret the law in the way and manner that the people of Nasarawa State and the citizens of Nigeria living in this State will feel protected too, either from fellow humans or from government by balancing the interpretation of laws so that everybody gets his dues, and I can assure you that we are receiving that to a very large extent. So the relationship between the three arms at the moment, I think, is one of the best in the country. We have had some States’ Houses of Assembly going to remove their own, as you can see, same thing is not happening here, and they admit that, they are allowed to do their work sufficiently, exhaustively too, and they are also ensuring that they give us what we need in order to achieve our objectives as a government.
There are instances where the State Government have been dragged to court over one issue or the other. Can you tell us how your Ministry stepped in to resolve these issues?
Government is an entity and in law, the same way the law sees you that is how the law also sees the government. While you are a biological person, the law sees the State Government as a legal entity or what is called artificial personality. For as long as you are a person, whether biological or legal person, it means that you must in fact relate with people and there must be conflicts that will arise from time to time. So, in terms of relationship between government and individuals, some citizens, of course there will be conflicts from time to time that may arise, which may necessitate the institution of actions against government in court or petitions written.
Here as a Ministry, our responsibility besides ensuring that we defend government, beside, we also the responsibility of prosecuting persons who commit crimes, prosecution of offenders, ours is also to advise government sufficiently, to ensure that criminal cases are averted or crises are averted, either crisis of a constitutional nature between arms or crisis of constitutional nature between the government and individual citizens. And of course, as an extended responsibility of the Ministry is to ensure that the arms of government and all government agencies also observe the law and the constitution of the country and to that extent, we are doing it. Then, the conflict that may arise between individuals themselves, sometimes they go to court and sometimes they come to us and when they go to court between themselves, we make sure that, like I explained earlier, those courts are there so that they can have access to justice, so that they can go and ventilate their grievances. When they come to us to step in, sometimes they come through the Governor and the governor will instruct that we step in and see how we can reconcile the parties or the communities. To that extent also, the Ministry tries to be effective in terms of reconciling or resolving disputes between communities in Nasarawa State and we done so many of them to see that we bring peace to our people.
As a class teacher and now an administrator, leaving the class to this office, did you feel anything missing in you? Because you talk more while in the classroom. Now it appears your talking will not be as much compared to when you were in the class…?
Well, the truth of the matter is that, you must practice what you teach and there is nothing in life that gives a teacher more pleasure than having the opportunity of practicing what he teaches. For me, I have been very privileged and lucky in life as an individual. First, becoming a lawyer. It wasn’t my decision, our parents, we have been very lucky and privileged to have parents who see into our futures, who will gauge and weigh our capabilities and competencies and understand where our comparative advantage lies and direct us through that angle, so that we study courses that best fits what we are capable of doing. I think, I am one of those very lucky people from Nasarawa State. When my father sees that you have capacity to become a doctor, he knows. Being a teacher himself, if you have the capacity of being a teacher or a lawyer, he knows, and for all of us that are his children, even his brothers’ children, people from our community and even across the State, when he was admission officer in Jos, once you walk into his office, he will look at you, he will listen to you and he will tell you ‘you go and study this course’, and that was how he carried out his activity almost throughout his life, trying to directing persons to where they should belong and many of them are well placed today, and, it has also made our lives a lot easier as his children, in the sense that anywhere we go, we encounter some of these people who have had the privilege of being guided or mentored by him at one point or the other.
For me, I will tell you that being a lawyer and having the opportunity to teach, there is no profession that has more blessings than teaching. And then, the profession which does not only enable me teach but also enables me to practice, as a practitioner and then, today as a regulator of the system; because essentially what we are doing here is regulating the system as Attorney General. It means that it has now made me a full cycle. So being here, I have missed nothing, in answer to your question. What it has done is that, it has help me to realize the full potentials of the career or discipline I have chosen, my parents have chosen and God has chosen for me in life. So, nothing has been missed, instead it has given me the opportunity of now putting into practice and operations the ideas; some of them, the outcome of many of my researches of many years. Today I sit here and I have the opportunity of putting them into, either draft statutes or putting them into policies that, in order to advise government and forging a path and direction in assisting to ensure that government moves in a certain direction. I don’t think there is any opportunity that any human being in life would have that will make him happier than this, known.
Are you considering going back to the class after this?
I am still in class. I haven’t left the class. I still teach my courses, I still mark my scripts. Every week I am in class. I am still with my students. I still supervise my PhD and Masters degrees.
Before the advent of this administration, there were laws that were passed. As it came, the legislative arm showed some form of vibrancy and one or two laws have been passed. To what extent will you say you have been able to carry out the implementation of these laws?
Implementation of laws is the responsibility of government agencies essentially. The Ministry of Justice like I said, its own mandate is clear and it is constitutional and is to defend and advise government. And also, we have the extended service of human rights and conflict resolution, we do that, and that is why we have the Department of Public Defence here, defending both government and individual citizens too. In terms of implementing laws, you find out that many of these laws give specific functions and duties and responsibilities to government agencies, some of the laws have actually created government agencies and given them those functions. So, the responsibility of implementing those laws that have been passed prior to the coming of this administration are for the respective agencies.
What we do as a Ministry is to monitor, where we see that any law has been left dormant, not being implemented, we try to draw the attention of the appropriate government agency to rise up to the challenge and do its functions. We do that from time to time and then of course, for some of the government agencies that we observe that are not probably implementing the laws accordingly or as it should be, we issue what we call implementation guide to these government agencies to advise them on the step-by-step procedure on the implementation of law that regulates or guides their activities as a government agency. So to that extent, we try to see that every government agency performs its function based on the law that created it and based on the mandate that is imposed on it by law or by the Chief Executive of the State.
Two years running, and four months after the dissolution of cabinet and looking back. How will you described working with His Excellency, Engineer Abdullahi Sule? What kind of person he is?
From the way I have spoken you can see that the ministry has been given its powers to perform its functions based on the law and we are not being disturbed in any way and, I can assure you that being a person who has worked with other Governors in the past, and having the privilege of working with the present Governor, and every Governor has his own approach and unique way of response to issues and to legal advice and counsel. And you can’t have anybody who listens more that Engineer Abdullahi A. Sule. He listens, he utilizes the advice, he implements it, he applies it, he abides by it and nothing gives me more pleasure than when you advise based on what the law says and you have a Chief Executive, a boss who follows the law. I can assure you that that is what he does. He is a democrat in all his actions, he ensures that for every action he is going to take, it is in accordance with the law. So the Ministry is effectively being utilized, especially my office and that is how it should be. So, for the two and half years, you will see that in terms of infractions, there has not been any in which the State or people will begin to rise up to say the government is not acting according to law.
Like I have said, look at the results, when we had the End SARS crises last year, the youths of Nasarawa State were not restive, they themselves were telling us, what will they do? Should they come out and demonstrate in condemnation? When we had JUSUN and the union of parliamentary workers earlier this year on protest, the unions instead of protesting against the State, they came in solidarity, because they are happy with the way things are being run in this State. The pensioners, you can see the progress being made on pensions. It has been tremendous. I can tell you that effective this month, the government would have cleared liabilities of pensions, gratuity and death benefits. Some of them dating back to Plateau State all the way to 2008. Now, effective December, the government would have cleared gratuity and death benefits and entitlements of retirees up to 2010.
And then we have the instruction of His Excellency the Governor, to work out the strategy towards, also, clearing completely, the backlog of liability from 2011 to date. And no government, I can assure you in Nigeria, has been able to achieve this feat and all these are being done without borrowing a fund from anybody. While at the same time some infrastructure here and there – in almost every Local Government Area almost one or two – are ongoing. Go and check it out. Nasarawa State is one of the least in terms of borrowing liabilities right now, we are not borrowing any money. So it is something that should go to the credit of the State. Some States, before they pay salaries they have to borrow first. Nasarawa State is able to pay salaries and clear backlog of liabilities dating back 25 years.
Of recent, we have had cases of rapes including the rape a minors. What is your office doing to make sure the perpetrators are brought to book and put up punitive measures to serve as a deterrent to those who are tempted to do same?
As far back as 2018, when I took over the office of Attorney General, we were receiving complaints, and the truth is that there was a gradual rise in cases of rape and domestic violence, and we needed to act. The first thing we did was working with the office of His Excellency, the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo. We established what we call ‘Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team’ and if you open the website of the Ministry you will see the numbers there, the emergency numbers that we have indicated there on the website of the Ministry of Justice, so that, when persons fall victims of such activities they will call immediately and we have a desk officer here that handles such responses. The reason is because, we discovered that, many of these victims are persons who have no means of defending themselves, they are either minors or very poor people who don’t even know what to do. Even if they do know what to do, they don’t have the means and wherewithal to be able to act accordingly. So we have established this desk to guide them. Immediately it happens, once a call is made, somebody takes it from the other end then we act accordingly.
We didn’t stop there, we worked with the police to ensure that we established what we call JWC – Juvenile and Women Centre – in police. You will see at the CID now, when you go you will see JWC. We assist them so that juveniles and women who fall victims of either domestic violence or sexual violence are given special attention at the CID. We didn’t stop there, we also worked together with the House of Assembly to enact laws. First, the implementation of the Child Rights Law which had been there but was never implemented. His Excellency signed Executive Order 1, 2020 for the protection of children. And that has given order for the protection of children to its full implementation of the Child Rights Law. And as we speak now since 2010 to date, children or minors who are victims of domestic violence, the perpetrators are charged not under Penal Code but are charged under the Child Rights Law.
We also originated a Bill to the House and worked together with the House of Assembly to harmonize another Bill that was sponsored by the Honourable Speaker of the House of Assembly to pass what we call the Violence against Persons Act – that is VAP. That law has been passed, which stipulates punishments for different types of domestic violence both against minors, women and vulnerable persons and that law has also been passed and His Excellency the Governor has assented to that law. The pending bill which we have forwarded to the House of Assembly right now is the law to provide for the payment of costs for victims of sexual violence; hospital costs, investigation costs and so on, and to also criminalize obstruction of investigation or obstruction of justice either by relatives or anybody for that matter, in a case of rape or sexual violence in the situation of minors. So, that bill is before the House of Assembly. In addition to that, we have also proposed the amendment of the old Penal Code of Northern Nigeria which was inherited. It is one of the laws in the State that we inherited and is still being implemented in Nasarawa State. The bill is pending before the Nasarawa State House of Assembly now to amend it and also to pass a new Penal Code of Nasarawa State which will replace that of Northern Nigeria. There are provisions on sexual violence too, in order to protect children.
When you take a walk on the streets of Lafia and other major cities in Nasarawa State, you will find children of school age hawking or doing one form of labour or the other. Are they not covered by this Child Rights law?
They are covered by the Child Rights Law of Nasarawa State and the Executive Order signed by His Excellency the Executive Governor of Nasarawa State for the protection of children, and these two laws alone, I can assure you if they were to be implemented… In fact, in addition to that, the Universal Basic Education (UBE) Law of Nasarawa State which imposes compulsory primary education for children of Nasarawa State, and If you go through that law, you will see that there is a period during the day which a child should not be seen roaming the streets. He or she must be enrolled in school otherwise somebody is liable.
The Executive Order signed by His Excellency the Governor, the Child Rights Law of Nasarawa State, the Universal Basic Education Law of Nasarawa State, in addition to the national policy on education and all the many laws that criminalise such actions of letting children roam the streets, either begging or hawking when they should be in school; these laws are there and they are all implementable. It is for the appropriate government agencies to act. It is for the parents or guidance to observe. These are laws that are known more by their violation, than by their observance. I can assure you that me today, I can confidently say that, and until we are able to effectively find a solution to this menace, these guys are veritable means of recruitment for bandits and terrorists. Anything anybody will tell me, I won’t accept.
The present administration has done its best, it has approved money, given buses, monies for data to be collected, statistics to be gathered across the State for the number of children roaming the street, which has been done. For them to be profiled; that has been done. We have the list, we know the total number, we know where they are and we know their locations. Working together with the relevant stakeholders has become a problem, because the cooperation that is required and needed from relevant stakeholders is now lacking. It has now put the government in a situation where the only choice left is to use force, and the moment government begins to use force, people will say government is not being democratic. But I can assure you that the present administration and any administration in Northern Nigeria is not receiving the kind of cooperation that is required from relevant stakeholders. And when I say relevant stakeholders, I mean the parents of these children and also those who are running the respective centres where these children are brought. They spend two or three hours learning and they spend the remaining 20 hours roaming the streets.
Being one of the longest serving Attorneys-General in Nasarawa State, what will you want to be remembered for?
I think what I have tried to do, and what I try to do in every office I occupy is to touch everything that has to do with the functions of that office and beyond it. And it is now left for people to remember me for whatever they feel is an area that I impacted on. But what I try to do is to impact on every aspect of the functions of the office that I occupy, both from the time I was holding smaller offices as the Dean of the Faculty, as Commissioner for Water Resources and then now as Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice of Nasarawa State. In terms of the number of laws that have been drafted, the number of legal advice that have been rendered, the number of prosecutions that have been carried out, the number of lawyers that have been recruited and hired into the Ministry, the number of infrastructure erected in the Ministry and so on and so forth. It is not specific but you know we have touched everything. And for me, whether I am remembered or not, the only thing I wouldn’t want people to remember me for is anything negative. It is better for me not to be remembered at all than to be remembered for doing something negative in any office that I have held. For me, I just want to leave in peace. That is all and of course, I want to leave the place better than I met it, just like I want to leave the world better than I met it.
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