Just recently, the Buhari-led administration recorded 100 days in office. This does not negate several contentious decisions by this government.
One of such contentious matters that have raised eyebrows, is the Ministerial appointments.
Wednesday, August 21, 2019, saw the confirmation and swearing in of of 43 ministers, who were appointed across all 36 states of the federation. There were 14 returning ministers and 29 new additions to the Cabinet.
However, permutations say the Ministerial list was a reward for political loyalty not necessarily competence. This is clearly seen in the appointment of Festus Keyamo (SAN) as the Minister of State, Niger Delta, rather than the Minister of Justice.
In 2018, Nigeria was ranked 148th least corrupt country in the world by Transparency International. Interestingly, two years after, nothing has been done to redeem our fledgling image as we have ranked 144th least corrupt country in the world.
This badge of corruption is largely because of the rot in the Nigerian judicial system. A properly structured judiciary has profound impact on the socio-economic well-being of any nation.
Thus institutional challenges such as delays in court processes, infrastructural deficiencies etc, has encouraged the brazen display of corruption across both the public and private sectors
A judicial system where punishment is swift, will serve as a deterrent to potential perpetrators. Thus the office of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) provides the Minister of Justice, powers to effect much needed changes (or at the very least agitate for these institutional changes) in our justice system.
A skilled prosecutor, reformist and leading voice in the fight for human rights and accountable governance in Nigeria, Festus Keyamo’s ministerial appointment has raised eyebrows, particularly because it was generally perceived to be reward for his excellent work as the Director of Strategic Communications for Buhari’s re-election campaign.
However, his screening before the National Assembly was a breath of fresh air to an otherwise dreary affair. His response to questions especially with respect to the judicial challenges in the country were deep and insightful, and his proposed plans for the justice sector were well articulated and properly structured.
He proposed the “unbundling of the supreme court” by establishing 6 regional supreme courts to reduce traffic and a pile-up of court cases in the supreme court, touting it as “…the busiest supreme court in the world”.
He also proposed an immediate decongestion of prisons as well as the establishment of a panel to ascertain the veracity of claims against people remanded in police custody.
This would prohibit frivolous cases from appearing before a judge consequently reducing traffic in courts across the federation.
Keyamo also advocated reforms which would check the abuse of Judicial powers by prosecutors and Judges.
While it is true that words do not always reflect actions in the Nigerian polity, Festus Keyamo’s skill and understanding of the inherent challenges of our legal system as well as his direct propositions to ending some of these problems before the national assembly, led many to believe he was a ‘key ammo’ in the achievement of Mr President’s ‘next level’ agenda for the judiciary.
Simultaneously, Keyamo’s brilliance effectively called into question the competence of the Minister for Justice, Abubakar Malami. In the wake of illegality trailing his office over the continued detention of Dasuki regardless of a court order granting him bail.
This has caused the establishment of a disciplinary panel investigating Malami’s role in the Dasuki debacle.
For a nation that preaches a dedication to growth and advancement, it is important to assign the right roles to the right persons - fit round pegs in round holes
Thus it is counter productive appointing Festus Keyamo (who is a better candidate) as Minister of State Niger Delta, rather than Minister of Justice.
Retaining Malami as Minister of Justice, especially as he has done nothing commendable in the Judicial system, undermines the ‘next level’ agenda with respect to much needed judicial reforms.
If anything, the appointment simply gives credence to talks touting this appointment as more of a reward game than a strategic move.
Thus this asks a rather pertinent question, is judicial reform a priority on the President’s agenda for the next four years?