Fear Of Sacking Hits NDLEA, Code Of Conduct Bureau, Others As President Tinubu Moves To ‘Overhaul’ Agencies

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Chief executives of some Nigerian government agencies including the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Nigerian Correctional Service (NCS), Code of Conduct Bureau, Public Complaints Commission, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), and the Legal Aid Council are reportedly anxious over moves by President Bola Tinubu’s administration to overhaul the agencies.

This is part of plans for the justice sector reform, multiple sources told SaharaReporters.

It was gathered that some of them would be sacked while others would be retained or moved to other agencies.

The wave of reforms may be also extended to the Supreme Court, Courts of Appeal and High Courts.

SaharaReporters learnt that the reforms may take effect after the National Summit on Justice to be held later in the month.

The Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) last Thursday in Abuja said President Tinubu would on April 24, 2024, declare Nigeria’s justice sector reform summit open.

According to him, the reforms were in line with the agenda of Tinubu to protect the rights of the citizens, allow access to justice and ensure speedy dispensation of justice.

Most of the heads of the agencies who suspect that they would be affected are reportedly apprehensive over the planned overhaul.

The country’s justice system is currently fraught with delays in the adjudication of cases.

Many criminal cases involving politically exposed persons like former governors and ministers linger in courts for upward of five to 10 years before they are disposed of.

Multiple sources told SaharaReporters that the government has been uncomfortable with the NDLEA, PCC, NHRC and the correctional service, which underewent reforms under the administrations of the late President Umaru Yar’Adua and ex-President Goodluck Jonathan.

One of the sources specifically identified NDLEA as one of the main agencies to be affected because it is a “strategic agency.”

“Apart from the low rate of prosecution of suspects, there was rumpus recently in the NDLEA on alleged lopsidedness in the promotion of workers, and irregularities in rank assignments and regularisation.

“There was also tension on the purported reappointment of the secretary of the NDLEA, Shadrak Usman Haruna, for a second term in office,” one of the sources said.

“Despite the rating of the performance of the NDLEA Chairman, Gen. Buba Marwa above average by stakeholders and international partners, the Tinubu administration discovered that the former Military Administrator of Lagos State appears a lone ranger.

“NDLEA bureaucracy is stinking for a meaningful war against drugs,” the source in the presidency said.

But according to findings, Marwa might be given an ambassadorial appointment given his track record as a defence attache.

The likelihood of the restructuring of NDLEA has reportedly made Marwa to begin moves to save his job.

“Marwa is also battling to stay on the job, at least to complete his tenure,” one of the sources said.

“Given his devotion to the Rule of Law, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu is interested in Justice Sector Reform. He was a pacesetter in Lagos, he will also reform the sector at the national level.

“The overall objective is to enhance the Rule of Law, uphold the sanctity of fundamental human rights, ensure equal access to justice and speedy dispensation of cases.

“Issues in the sector are around the judiciary, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCS), the Code of Conduct Bureau, the Public Complaints Commission, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), and the Legal Aid Council among others.

“In fact, the low prosecution of drug suspects by NDLEA is worrisome to the government. In the 29 months of Marwa’s tenure, NDLEA arrested 31, 675 drug offenders out of which 5,147 were prosecuted and convicted.

“The drug trafficking bust is increasing compared to the low number of prosecutions and convictions. NDLEA needs a drastic reform. The agency’s bureaucracy is not giving adequate backup.

“There are a lot of matters coming up, including the tension over the reappointment of the agency’s secretary and promotion lopsidedness.”

On the fate of Marwa, another source added, “I think he is being considered for a strategic ambassadorial appointment.

“The Justice Sector Reform is really not about individuals; it is about putting the right institutions in place to become sustainable.

“All the courts will undergo the reform too. The number of cases pending in the Supreme Court is alarming too. We need to decongestant the place.”

Last week, Bellnews reported how some NDLEA officers raised an alarm and accused the agency of lopsidedness in the promotion of workers, and irregularities in rank assignments and regularisation.

The aggrieved officers alleged that while the names of certain officers had been released for promotion examinations, including those who were recruited at the same time with them, the names of Course 3 and 4 officers had not been included in the process.

According to them, the omission of their names in the promotion examinations list has left them deeply troubled and raises serious questions about the fairness and transparency of the promotion process.

They further accused NDLEA authorities of discriminatory practices in the recruitment and rank assignment processes.

The officer said that many officers, including Course 3 and 4 officers, who applied with degree qualifications were “unjustly” recruited as junior officers while others were short-changed with one rank each.

Nigeria’s Attorney General last Thursday spoke on the forthcoming National Summit on Justice.

Addressing the press on one of the summit’s goals, Fagbemi said it was to “review, validate, and adopt the revised National Policy on Justice 2024 – 2028 to drive prison reforms, access to justice for the average Nigerian, as well as the review of electoral laws and procedures in handling election-related cases, among several other reforms”.

He said, “This comprehensive policy document outlines a broad framework and initiatives in 17 thematic areas aimed at reforming the justice sector to enhance its effectiveness and accessibility to all Nigerians, ensuring that justice is not just a privilege for the few, but a right for all.

“The policy aims to address various challenges within the legal framework, seeking to promote social cohesion, bolster economic development, and foster good governance.”

He added that the summit will deliberate on draft legislation proposed to address specific challenges within the justice sector, relating to the judicial appointments process, administration, funding and budgeting for the judiciary, and the elimination of delays and inefficiencies in justice delivery.

It will equally evolve ways to reduce the amount of time for adjudication of cases, eliminate some of the associated technicalities, and reduce the number of cases getting to the Supreme Court.

He said, “In this regard, we intend to look at a situation where many cases will terminate at the Court of Appeal to reduce the burden on our noble justices of the Supreme Court.

“These proposed laws are expected to serve as a catalyst for collective action and provide a guiding framework for relevant governmental institutions at both the national and sub-national levels to establish an effective, efficient, and people-centred justice system.

“The country cannot afford to remain complacent in the face of the obstacles impeding the efficient delivery of justice for all Nigerians. The Summit will present an opportunity for us to unite our efforts, leverage our collective expertise, and chart a course toward a more just and equitable society.”

Fagbemi also expressed the hope that the national summit on justice will usher in a new era of positive change and progress in the country’s justice sector, ensuring a fair, accessible, and efficient legal system that upholds the rule of law while safeguarding fundamental human rights.

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