Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Bello Adoke
Agitators for a review of the onshore-offshore oil dichotomy may have lost the battle, even before the campaign gathers steam as the Federal Government yesterday ruled out revisiting the issue.
Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Bello Adoke, stated the government’s position on the issue, which has already pitted the North against the South, at a valedictory session in honour of Justice Francis Fedode Tabai at the Supreme Court, Abuja.
He warned politicians and legal practitioners to avoid overheating the polity through the current debate on the need or otherwise to review the onshore-offshore oil dichotomy, which partly forms the basis for the allocation of derivation proceeds from the Federation Account.
His warning came against the backdrop of the clamour for a review of the onshore-offshore oil dichotomy by Northern governors who hold the view that the formula has reduced the distributable funds from the Federation Account to all tiers of government.
However, their counterparts from the South-south and people of the oil-producing littoral states have rejected their position and even demanded that the derivation formula be raised from the current 13 per cent to 50 per cent.
Adoke said the debate, which is being elevated to an urgent national matter, with all the potential to generate acrimonious wrangling within the polity, and being made to look as if it was new, had been determined by the Supreme Court long time ago.
He urged politicians and legal practitioners to respect the sanctity and constitutional role of the Supreme Court as the apex court and end the debate on the abrogation of the onshore-offshore oil dichotomy.
He said: “It is pertinent to remind all interest groups in the matter that it is too early in the day to forget that the esteemed court, in the matter of A.G. Adamawa & 21 Ors v. A.G. Federation & 8 Ors (2005) NWLR (Part 958) 581 was invited to rule on the constitutionality or otherwise of the Allocation of Revenue (Abolition of Dichotomy in the Application of the principle of Derivation) Act 2004.
“The court, in a well-reasoned judgment, after benefitting from the submissions of some of our country’s finest legal minds, reached the reasoned-conclusion that the Act was not in conflict with the 1999 Constitution and was indeed properly made by the National Assembly to place the implementation of Section 162 of the constitution on a more certain and predictable basis.
“In the light of the unanimous position of the Supreme Court on this issue, expressed since 2005, it behoves on us all to promote the sanctity of our judicial system by recognising that the pronouncement of this court should neither be treated with levity nor be subjected to undue politicisation in the name of politics or the pursuit of particular interests.”
Adoke, however, noted that it is only a credible and truly independent judiciary that can best guarantee political stability and social cohesion in the country.
In his speech, President, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Okey Wali (SAN), called for the repeal of the provisions of Section 292 (a) of the 1999 Constitution that prevented retired judges and other judicial officers from appearing in courts and tribunals in Nigeria.
He said: “The regulatory bar is also in the Rules of Professional Conduct. These institutional restrictions have the odious odour of covenants in restraint of trade. They constitute denials of former judges’ fundamental right to freedom of private enterprise.
“By its very nature, the discipline of law is very attractive and endearing to lawyers and the profession of law is often embarked upon more from passion than for prosperity.
“You all know how thrilling this business of law can be. This passion does not leave one on the attainment of age 65 or 70, or on the retirement from the bench, or ever.”
In his valedictory speech, Justice Tabai also called on the Federal Government to ensure that the judgments of courts are complied with and implemented to promote the rule of law.