By Yusufu Shehu Usman
The Ministry of Justice is one of the key if not the most important Ministries in the structure of the government in the state.
It is the legal adviser in Chief to the governor, the Government and all other Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the government.
The Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice is the head of the Ministry
The functions of the Ministy are enormous. It is the ministry responsible for drafting and vettting of all major government contracts and it advises the government on the performance of such contracts
The Ministry prosecutes criminal cases on behalf of the state and represents the state in all civil suits including Arbitral proceedings before the courts and Tribunals
I wish to draw the attention of the governor to the fact that inspite of it’s enormous constitutional responsibilities, the state Ministry of Justice is one of the Ministries grossly neglected and relegated to the background in many respects
It is seriously under staffed especially in the crucial area of professional staff. The number of lawyers required to execute it’s mandate. As at present, there are hardly enough lawyers for the courts in the state capital let alone the other high courts located across the State and the out of jurisdiction cases
The Ministry is also grossly under funded In terms of financial allocation to support it’s operations.
By the nature and requirements of legal processes, lawyers from the Ministry of Justice are engaged in travelling across the state and out side to prosecute cases on behalf of the Government and to also defend the government in the various courts where the government is sued by other parties
The Ministry is not sufficiently funded to perform these Important functions
As a result, the state is seriously under represented in the various courts.
The negative consequences of this neglect, translates into inefficiency in the operation and very low and unimpressive out put. This has serious consequences for the administration of Justice and heavy serious liability of the state in terms of judgements delivered against the state in many civil cases
The professional staff are not motivated to improve their productivity and dedication to duty in the over all interest of speedy, effective and efficient administration of Justice In the state.
It is gratifying to note that governor AA Sule has embarked not only on the rationalisation of government ministries, departments and agencies to make them more relevant and responsive to the needs of the people, but also transform their operations as the engine room of government
It is pertinent to note that the Ministry of Justice because of it’s constitutional importance and responsibilities can not be merged with any other Ministry or Agency. It must continue to oprate as a stand alone Ministry that attends to the legal needs of the government, the other Ministries and agencies under them
In order for the Ministry of Justice to perform effectively and efficiently, I wish to suggest the following for the consideration of the governor:
1). The immediate recruitment of more lawyers to the Ministry to boost it’s staff strength and optimise it’s operations
2) The provision of operational vehicles especially buses to enable movement of the lawyers to and fro the courts across the state
3) The provision of befitting offices, equipment and facilities in the two Area offices of the Ministry
4) The allocation of special funds to the Ministry for daily purchase of stationary required in the day to day operations of the Ministry. It is pertinent to note that the Ministry requires tons of stationary every month for court processes
5) The implementation of the Harmonised Conditions of Service (Law Officers and the Judiciary) which is an extant law yet to be implemented
6) Staff motivation to improve their productivity and commitment to duty.
If I have to arrange the above in order of priority, I will recommend three for immediate action viz
a) The recruitment of more staff to boost the staff strength
b) improved funding for effeicient operation
c) Implementing the Harmonisation law to motivate the professional staff
I do hope that the governor I considering his implementation strategies for invigorating the Civil Service of the state for greater performance, will give the Ministry of Justice it’s proper place as the Ministry of ministries