Senate warns against misinterpretation of Nigerian constitution

Edwin Akwueh, Abuja

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President of the Nigerian Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki has advised some critics of the National Assembly to desist from their incessant misinterpretation of the country’s laws to avoid anarchy.

Senator Saraki is of the opinion that, rather than condemn certain actions of the lawmakers from ill informed point of view, critics of the National Assembly should endeavour to get involved in the lawmaking process by actively participating in public hearings organised for members of the public before Bills are passed.

He made the submissions while declaring open a one day public hearing on the Legal Practitioners Act 2004 (Amendment) Bill, 2017, Facial Mutilation Bill, 2017, and the Data Protection Bill, 2017.

The President of the Senate, who was represented by the Senate Deputy Majority Leader, Senator Balla Ibin N’ Allah, while describing such critics as “road side Appeal and Supreme courts,” tasked them to always get their facts properly checked before going public to challenge the Senate or House of Representatives.

“No particular position has been taken in respect of these bills, the reason why relevant stake holders   in their areas of focus were invited but unfortunately ardent critics of laws made by us are not here to make their inputs.

“These critics are no doubt, roadside Appeal and Supreme Courts misinterpreting our laws and by extension , turning the decision of the National Assembly upside down as being experienced with one of the bills recently passed and being litigated against . Our appeal to these critics is to stop misinterpreting our laws and make themselves available at the public hearing stages of passing such laws,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has applauded the moves by Senate to amend the Act, noting that it is outdated and had become long overdue for amendment. The legal practitioners Act was first enacted in 1962 and the NBA President Mr. Abubakar Balarabe Mahmoud believes that the 8th Senate is moving in the right direction.

“The move by the Senate to amend the Legal Practitioners Act through an amendment bill is a welcome development because to us, that would help in bringing the needed reforms for the review of regulation of legal profession.”

The office of the Attorney General of the Federation, holds contrary views to the NBA, stating that if the Bill is passed, it would affect the workings of state counsels which he recalled, was the reason that previous attempts to amend the Act could not succeed.

Senator David Umaru who is Chairman of the Senate committee on judiciary, human rights and legal matters, organizers of the public hearing, assured all stakeholders and the general public, that the process will be very comprehensive.

The public hearing was attended by several stakeholders including the Nigeria Law Reforms Commission, office of the Attorney General of the Federation, Nigerian Prisons, Nigerian Navy, and Expert Groups, among others.

Nnenna.O