With uneasiness rife, curious observers are asking why Delta State Governor, Rt. Hon. Sheriff Oborevwori has not thought it necessary to make appointments to fill the crucial offices of Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice and the Commissioner for Information five months after assuming office.
Observers are wondering that with the overwhelming number of legal luminaries including Senior Advocates Of Nigeria and other brilliant lawyers who are indigenes and abound in Delta State as well as eminent persons with valuable experiences as media practitioners and non media practitioners, the Ministry of information is lying fallow and yarning without a Commissioner for Information.
The curiosity is further buoyed by the fact that the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as Amended, which the Governor swore to uphold while taking the oath of office last May 29, mandated that an Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice should be appointed. Section 195 (1) of the Constitution states: “ 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.”
As a result of the absence of an Attorney General and Commissioner for justice, it is said that there are specific functions that only the holder of this office should perform and no one else.
Chairman, Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Asaba, Barr. Precious Nwadimuya, while also expressing his curiosity admitted that the appointment of Commissioners is the prerogative of the governor. He said: “All the commissioners are appointed at the pleasure of the Governor. That means the Governor has the right to hire and fire. That’s what the constitution provides for. He appoints them at his pleasure.
“However, the commissioner for Justice who is the Attorney General is the one that is specifically mentioned in the Constitution. So he is the only one commissioner that is constitutionally provided for. His functions are provided for in the Constitution That makes it a very important and key appointment.”
The NBA Chairman also recalled that appointment of the Attorney General used to be one of the first appointments usually made because the Attorney general and commissioner for Justice usually give advice and direction for other appointments. “That’s how it used to be, but we are seeing something else now. That after five months we are yet to have an Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice,” he said, and followed up with a searching question, saying: “So has he (the Governor) breached any constitutional provision? I will not think so, that he has committed any infraction of the law by not appointing an Attorney General and commissioner for Justice up till this time.
“But it is desirable for him to do so, because other ministries of government need legal advice to function. They need the advice of the Attorney General to function. Even the governor cannot exercise certain powers without the input and advice of the Attorney General. For instance, there’s what is called the power of nolle prosequi; that is somebody who has been charged to court and then government for one reason or the other finds that this person ought not to be prosecuted. So the Attorney General is constitutionally empowered to enter a nolle prosequi. And it is only the Attorney General that can do that, no other person. So, it is desirable that the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice is in place,” the NBA Chairman said.
He pointed out that with the non appointment of the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, some aspects of the business of government must be suffering. “There’s no gain saying about it. But I’m aware that the governor has a senior Special assistant on legal matters that may provide that advice to him for now. But there are certain constitutionally mandated functions that must be carried out by the Attorney General in person; it cannot be delegated,” Barr. Nwadimuya said, stressing that there are certain powers that cannot be delegated, but must be exercised by the Attorney General himself.
“So with the non appointment of the Attorney General, those areas must be suffering now. I wouldn’t know the reason for the delay, but I imagine that it must be for good reason. But like you said, there are abundant human resources in Delta State. The Constitution says that the person should not be less than 10 years. So any lawyer who is 1o years and above in practice is qualified to be appointed as Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice. Probably there’s some politicking, I don’t know,” Barr. Nwadimuya said.
Answering another question, Nwadimuya said those he thinks may be affected about the issue of the absence of the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Delta State as of now are those who are interested, but not the ordinary Deltan, except of course, those who are expecting a favourable exercise of the Attorney General’s discretion with respect to nolle prosequi.
“Then for those of us who are legal practitioners also, it’s more like our constituency, the legal profession is currently not properly represented in the Delta State Executive Council. So, the legal community is also affected by the non appointment of the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, and we are worried. Like I said, it is the Governor’s prerogative,” Nwadimuya said.
Even as he agreed with the fact that the Governor is not constitutionally bound to appoint a Commissioner for Information, yet Nwadimuya acknowledged that the functions of the Commissioner for Information is crucial and cannot be overemphasized. “Yes, I agree with you; the Governor has a Press Secretary, but the press secretary cannot co-ordinate the affairs of the Ministry of Information. The Ministry of Information has not been scrapped, so that means that the Governor still has the mind to appoint someone. But in my opinion the earlier it is done the better for the purpose of giving voice to the direction of government and governance in the State,” the NBA Chairman said.
A visit to the Ministry of information in the beautiful Obi (Prof) Chike Edozien State Secretariat on Maryam Babangida way, Asaba, staff of the Ministry were seen idling away on their desks lamenting that the absence of a Commissioner in the Ministry has brought frustration to work in the Ministry, which also denied them logistics with which to make them effective in carrying out the ministry’s functions.
Journalists, other critical stakeholders are also helpless with the absence of a spokesperson for the Government and Chief Information officer of Government.