Being a paper presented to Armed Forces Command and Staff College of Nigeria Study Tour to Jigawa State from 19th to 27th November, 2022 at Ahmadu Bello Hall, New State Secretariat, Dutse.
Dr. Musa Adamu Aliyu
Honourable Attorney General/Commissioner for Justice, Jigawa State,21st November 2022.
The Role of the Office of Attorney-General of Jigawa State in Matters Pertaining to Security.
Jigawa State is one of the 36 states recognized by the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended). The office of the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice is the only Ministry/Department specifically established by the Constitution and it owes its historical antecedents from England. The person holding the office has a huge responsibility to discharge. First of all, he is a member of the State Executive Council which is the highest decision-making body in a state. The Attorney-General must guide cabinet meetings, ministries and departments in matters relating to law. The Attorney-General as the Chief Law Officer of the State actively participates in matters of security for the peace and stability of the state. Law enforcement agencies and Attorney-General must work hand in hand for the maintenance of peace and security in the State. By Section 211 of the Constitution, the prosecutorial powers of the Attorney-General have been constitutionally guaranteed. In the exercise of such power, the Attorney-General of the State is saddled with prosecuting offenders before various courts. This paper traces the history of the office of the Attorney-General from the medieval period to the promulgation of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) viz-a-viz, the role of the Attorney General of Jigawa State in issues concerning security in Jigawa State.
History of the Office of Attorney-General
The History of the office of Attorney-General can be traced to the medieval time. The occupant of the office used to plead on behalf of the sovereign in matters the sovereign has interest before royal courts. The first official appointment of the Attorney-General was made in the year 1472. In the United States of America, the Judicature Act passed in 1789 established the office of the Attorney-General which was emulated from England.
Attorney General since time immemorial has been considered as a person occupying an exalted position in government. “By 1892 the AG (Attorney General) could no longer work as a barrister in private practice alongside their government role. This sacrifice led to greater parliamentary duties (in England) and the creation of their own department. By the 20th Century, the AG was granted a position at the Cabinet table. This does not mean, however, that the AG is a member of the Cabinet (in England) like Lords Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice or Secretary of State for the Home Department.” However, in the United States of America, the Attorney-General is a cabinet member.
Powers and Functions of the Attorney General of a State
The powers and functions of the Attorney-General have been provided in the common law saved changes made by a specific statute or constitution. The Attorney-General advises the President of the United States, and he also gives advice to cabinet members, and other federal government officials. “…he enforces the federal criminal and civil laws… he administers various federal programs such as prison, parole immigration and naturalization, and alien property.” The Attorney General has one unique power of nolle prosequi a Latin phrase which means “…unwilling or unable to proceed or prosecute. At Common Law the power to prosecute all criminal cases in all courts other than Court Martial is vested in the Attorney-General.”
The Office of the Attorney-General of a State in Nigeria is established by the grundnorm. The Constitution provides specifically that:
“There shall be an Attorney-General for each State who shall be the Chief Law Officer of the State and Commissioner for Justice of the Government of that State”
He is the chief law officer of the State, empowered by the law to represent the interest and obligations of the government in all legal transactions/proceedings.
In view of the above constitutional provision, it may be argued that the role of the Attorney General in fighting crimes in the State cannot be overemphasized. He is a vital stakeholder in the security architecture of the State, as persons accused of committing heinious offences under State Laws are all prosecuted by the Attorney General. It is obvious that some aggrieved nominal complainants injured by the act of criminals could resort to self help if such criminals are not brought to book. And anarchy will floruish in a society where law does not take its course to tame deviants. In the criminal proceedings, the Attorney General has the power to
“(a) to institute and undertake 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 law of the House of Assembly;
(b) to take over and continue any such criminal proceedings that may have been instituted by any other authority or person; and
(c) to discontinue at any stage before judgement is delivered any such criminal proceedings instituted or undertaken by him or any other authority or person.”
The Attorney-General exercises his powers in person or through officers of his department. In exercising his powers, the Attorney-General is expected to be fair and adhere to the rule of law and “shall have regard to the public interest, the interest of justice and the need to prevent abuse of legal process.” However, the Attorneys-General of the Federation or the States do not have powers to initiate and undertake prosecution before Court-marshal.
The power of nolle prosequi is exercisable by the Honourable Attorneys-General of the Federation and of a state within their jurisdictional competence “ … at any stage of a criminal proceeding. Once the power is invoked, it will not be subject to question either by any person or even the Court. As at the date of granting the application by the trial Court, therefore, the consequential effect of filing of nolle prosequi … by … Attorney-Generals … automatically abated the criminal proceedings.” In the case of STATE VS. ILORI, the Supreme Court of Nigeria held that the powers of the Attorney General to institute, continue and discontinue criminal proceedings are not subject to control by any person or authority. The power to discontinue criminal proceedings is given to the Honourable Attorney-General so that he can be independent in controlling criminal cases. In exercising that power, the Honourable Attorney General’s guide is his conscience. From September 30th 2019 when I came into office to date, there was never a time the office of the Attorney General of Jigawa State exercised the powers of nolle prosequi. It is a matter of policy developed in the office that only cases considered watertight based on the investigation are to proceed for prosecution. Cases filed must be concluded to their logical conclusion. It is the firm belief of the Attorney-General’s office that prosecutorial powers are sensitive, and on no account any person accused of committing crimes bordering on security should be allowed to escape justice.
In Jigawa State, the office of the Honourable Attorney-General is handling sensitive cases on impersonation of security personnel, crimes of violence against persons such as kidnapping, rape, armed robbery, illegal possession of firearms etc. Furthermore, the office is handling some cases on behalf of the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation. The cases border on terrorism and dealing with counterfeit currency.
One challenging conflict in Jigawa State is the perennial farmer-herder clashes. The Honourable Attorney-General’s office is involved in the resolution of these conflicts through mediation and prosecution. The Jigawa State House of Assembly has established Farmers and Herdsmen Board Law, Cap. J12, Laws of Jigawa State, 2012. The board has the function of mediation of disputes between farmers and nomads. Other duties include the designation, demarcation, protection of grazing reserves, watering points and retrieval of encroached reserved areas from farmers.
Most of the time, matters arising from the farmer/herder crises go to court for hearing and determination due to increase in number of such cases and in order to fast track these cases, a special court was established by the Chief Judge of the State through a Legal Notice No 3 of 2014. The court named Farmers and Herdsmen Special Court has jurisdiction over cases on farmers and nomadic disputes in all the 27 local government areas in the state. And the court is constituted by a Chief Magistrate assisted by a registrar and 3 other supporting staff from the State Judiciary. All the cases in the court are being prosecuted by a counsel from the office of the Attorney-General of Jigawa State. A counsel is attached to the special court to ensure speedy dispensation of justice.
Between 2019 – 2022, the office of the Honourable Attorney-General of Jigawa State has prosecuted one hundred and nineteen (119) cases before the Farmers-Herdsmen Special Court. Out of this number, the prosecution secured fifty three (53) convictions, nineteen (19) defendants were discharged, thirteen (13) disputes were settled out of court and sixteen (16) cases are still pending. The court received few matters in the year 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, the Attorney General of a State as the legal adviser assists the government in drafting laws that help in the maintenance of security. Recently in Jigawa State, Executive Bills aimed at curbing insecurity were sponsored. The bills had sailed through, passed into law and assented to by His Excellency the Governor of Jigawa State. The laws tackle violence by state and non-state actors, minimizing corruption and protecting children from armed conflicts.
Attorney General’s Membership of Some Bodies
State Executive Council
The Honourable Attorney General of Jigawa State plays key role in the government of Jigawa State. He is a member of the State Executive which is the highest decision body in the state. At the council meetings, crucial issues pertaining to the general administration of the state and security matters sometimes are being discussed. The Honourable Attorney General is expected to guide council on any legal matter that may arise in the course of deliberations at the council meeting.
Judicial Service Commission
Judicial Service Commission is a body in which the Attorney General is an ex-officio member. The Commission has the responsibility of appointment of non-judicial officers and advise National Judicial Council suitable persons to be appointed to the offices of High Court Judge, Kadis and Heads of the two courts in Jigawa State. In exercising the above function, the judicial service commission considers security reports on aspirants to judicial offices. Scrutinizing backgrounds of the candidates based on security report is vital so as not to allow candidates with questionable character to become judges.
State Advisory Council on Prerogative of Mercy
Conviction of accused by persons judges may be pardoned by the State Governor. The State Advisory Council on Prerogative of Mercy is established pursuant to Section 212(2) of the Constitution (as amended). Membership of the body consist of public officers which include the Attorney General, representation from security agencies and people from outside government. The council advises Governor to “grant a pardon, either free or subject to lawful conditions; grant to any person a respite, either for an indefinite or for a specified period, of the execution of any punishment imposed on that person for such an offence; substitute a less severe form of punishment for that person for such an offence; or remit the whole or any part of any punishment imposed on that person for such any offence or of any penalty or forfeiture otherwise due to the State on account of such an offence.”
In advising the Governor to grant clemency, the office of the Attorney General plays critical role in the deliberations of the advisory council on prerogative of mercy. The Honourable Attorney General in conjunction with other members of the advisory council are dispassionately considering cases of each convict to be considered for the clemency. One of the criteria being used is the security implication of granting the clemency to the convict. It is as a result of that, the Advisory Council on the Prerogative of Mercy of Jigawa State made a policy to engage the family of victims of homicide cases brought to the council before advising the Governor to grant pardon to the convict of the murder cases. A case point of reference is the case of one Sale Daggaya who was convicted for premeditated homicide and sentenced to death for killing an old woman. The decision of the court trial High Court of Jigawa State was concurrently affirmed by the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court. The case of Mr. Dagayya was reviewed, the family of the victim were invited for discussions and they agreed to forgive the convict and the council recommend him for pardon due to the fact that he has shown remorse for the heinous crime he committed more than two decades ago.
State Security Committee
Security Council of Jigawa State is a body comprises of the State Governor as Chairman and members which consist of all security agencies and Attorney General also a member. The Chairman of the State Council of Traditional rulers is a member in the body. Sensitive security issues are being deliberately in the council in order to prevent crimes and tackled security matters in the state. In this body the Attorney General is beacons of light pertaining to security issues that are interwoven with legal matters.
Relationship Between Attorney General of Jigawa State and Security Agencies
Law enforcement agencies in Jigawa State have harmonious working relationship with the office of the Attorney-General in ensuring there is maintenance of law and order in the state. The Office of the Attorney-General is always working closely with law enforcement agencies. Various laws create a harmonious working relationship between the office and relevant security outfits. The Administration of Criminal Justice Law for instance provides for periodic exchange of information between the Office of the Attorney-General and institutions like the Nigeria Police and the Nigeria Correctional Service. The office has also organized various trainings to various security agencies to help in the proper discharge of their official functions. Many of such trainings were organized by this office sometimes with the support of development partners. Institutions like the Police, Correctional Service, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and National Drugs Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) have benefitted from these trainings at one time or the other.
There are various fora where the Attorney-General and heads of the security agencies interact together for the maintenance of peace and security in the state. In the realm of investigation and prosecution of suspects, the office of the Attorney-General is receiving case diaries from the law enforcement agencies for prosecution. In some cases, members of the public do lodge complaints at the office of the Attorney-General and the office in turn forward them to the security agencies for investigation and possible prosecution where the investigation of the law enforcement agents reveal prima facie case against suspects.
However, the office of the Attorney General of Jigawa State has been defending law enforcement agencies and their personnel in suits filed against them by individuals in the course of discharging their responsibilities. These cases are usually on fundamental human rights before State and Federal High Courts.
The office of Attorney-General of Jigawa State being the Chief Law Officer is central in running the security affairs of the state. He is the Chief Legal Adviser to the state government. The Attorney-General is also a member of various committees saddled with duty of ensuring that peace and security of the state is maintained. Where there is breach of criminal law, the Attorney-General ensure suspects are arraigned in court to face criminal proceedings. The office of the Attorney-General of Jigawa State has been handling cases concerning violence against persons and farmer – herder clashes in the state. The prosecutions of the cases are predicated on investigations made by law enforcement agencies which discloses prima facie cases against suspects.
As the present Attorney-General of Jigawa State, I humbly appreciate you for listening to this lengthy presentation and gives you my assurance to do more for the maintenance of peace and security of our dear state.