When Abuja was shutdown for Ali Ahmad. By AHMED 'LATEEF
Activities were literally halted last Thursday when movers and shakers of Nigeria converged on Shehu Musa Yar'adua Centre in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory to grace the public presentation of a book written in honour of the Speaker of the Kwara State House of Assembly, Dr. Ali Ahmad. AHMED 'LATEEF reports.
It is often said that the physique of a man is not the yardstick to measure his strength, ability, intelligence and all that distinguishes him from other creatures. What makes a man is his ability, capability, capacity, strength, intellect, skill and quality character.
Regardless of his background, which usually serves as a compass in his journey of life, he strives against all odds, to build and develop own capacity and capability to be able to withstand challenges that frequently lay ambush on the way. Thus, if he is able to weather the storms, he is proclaimed a man among his contemporaries. Through his efforts, there is a tendency for him to be referred to as a genius.
For this reason, geniuses, who are also birthed like every other human being, don't need to write special application to be proclaimed with such revered title. By their traits, actions and inactions exhibited without seeking public attention, they climb the apex ladder of scholarship and become cynosure of all eyes.
It is therefore widely believed that the geniuses are special creatures, who perhaps don't need to be taught everything before knowing them one after the other. They have been blessed by their creator and given the wherewithal to prosecute whatever tasks entrusted unto them effortlessly.
Among such people is the Speaker of the Kwara State House of Assembly, Dr Ali Ahmad. As a scholar, he is never a pushover. His foray in politics since 2005 has not deterred him from exhibiting the natural endowment he is blessed with, giving an impression that indeed he is a genius.
As an associate professor of law, who would later find himself in the temple of law-making, Ahmad, beside other laudable ideas he initiated and documented in the hallowed chamber of the House of Representatives between 2011 and 2015, broke the jinx of years by single-handedly pioneering the sponsorship of Administration of Criminal Justice Bill, as it were then.
The legislative framework, which scaled the gavel of the lower chamber of the National Assembly, got presidential assent at the twilight of Good Jonathan's administration in 2015 and consequently named Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA).
That the act is a major revolution in the criminal trials, which has suffered series of setbacks in the time past, is an understatement. Having foreseen lacuna and looming danger in the criminal law encapsulated in the nation's legal book, Ahmad, a former Chairman, Committee on Justice in the green chamber of the seventh Assembly, mooted an idea of sponsoring a bill and took the bull by the horn not minding what might be the by-product of such effort.
At exactly 1:23pm last Thursday at the Atiku Abubakar Hall of Shehu Musa Yar'adua Centre, Abuja, a book authored by Oluseyi Adetanmi, titled "The Challenges of Criminal Justice Administration in Nigeria" and dedicated in honour of Ali Ahmad, was unveiled and presented for public consumption.
In what could be likened to a 'magnum opus' of the author, the book elucidates further on the concept of ACJA and what it sets out to address, particularly on criminal matters within the inevitable lines of arrest and prosecution.
A former Dean of Law, Nasarawa State University, Keffi, Professor Maxwell Gidado (SAN), who reviewed the book, posited that any legal framework that requires passage such as ACJA, needs gamut of effort of the proponent or promoter to scale through.
Describing the passage of the bill by the seventh National Assembly as landmark in the annals of the nation's polity, Gidado said Ali Ahmad was the missing link in the previous sets of the legislative chamber, which made it impossible for the bill to see the light of the day.
He, however, expressed displeasure that only five states had adopted the act, which had become operational since its assent in 2015.
The don also used the book launch to correct the long time belief on the domestication of law at the state level, pointing out that a law made at the national level could be adopted and not domesticated as often said.
"During the fifth and sixth National Assembly, this bill failed to come alive. The Right Honourable Ali Ahmad was the major missing link. So, when it surfaced on the scene in the seventh Assembly, the bill, which became law, he (Ahmad) was the only one that joined the then existing team of stakeholders to bring about this bill into fruition.
"Any important bill that must be passed, must have an energetic sponsor, who would be able to push his ways through the legislative deliverance, court members and secure funding for necessary logistics etc. This is what our honourable did to make sure that this bill comes into being, and it is today, by special grace of God, the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015.
"Hon Ahmad, in his capacity as the Speaker, Kwara State House of Assembly, has continued to rally support from his Speakers' colleague for the adoption, not domestication, of the act because you can't domesticate a Federal law.
So, he has been in the forefront in seeing that his colleagues adopt this federal law at the state level.
"Today, it is pertinent to know that only five states in the federation have adopted the ACJA. It is against this backdrop that the new book in honour of Ahmad is written", Gidado said.
In her remarks, the wife of the President of the Senate, Mrs Toyin Saraki, eulogized the celebrant for carving a niche for himself both in the legal profession and law making, saying he had also made his mark in all areas of human endeavour.
Mrs Saraki, who referred to Ali Ahmad as her consultant, said the honour done to him through the book presentation was timely.
"I share in the admiration of his achievements not just because he is a lawyer, not just because he is a barrister, not just because he is from Kwara State, my dear and beloveth State, but because I'm also his former classmate of the Nigerian Council of Legal Education (Law School of Class 1989)".
Speaking on other issues, the wife of the Senate President said the nation's nascent democracy was facing a threat, pointing out that it behooved the law-making body and the judiciary to rally round and protect it.
She also advocated the need to ward off abuse of human rights prevalent among the downtrodden and called for recognition for them like every other individual in the society.
"We have families that want to ensure that justice is not only served in Nigeria but that justice is heard, that justice is protected and that justice works for every single Nigerian.
"As a lawyer, I always look at our judiciary system and our legislature as the highest point of office for accountability in our dear country. I believe that if you look around the world, democracy is being challenged and it is for us as informed and engaged citizens to protect our legal system and our judiciary, for they are the cornerstones of our democracy and our collective humanity.
"In Nigeria and many other parts of the world, marginalized communities are often forgotten by the society and many times by public budgetary system, public accountability system and public legal system as well. This is why I have started to intensify my advocacy for incarcerated women and their babies in giving the right care and treatment at the right time, because after all, their new born children are not guilty of any crime.
"My foundation has since expanded its normal care ante natal and post-natal services to the Kwara Prisons Services to feel this desperate need for medical care. It is not unusual for me to get midnight calls from the Comptroller of Prisons to come and take a pregnant woman to hospital to deliver because the government actually has no budgetary allocation for delivering children in incarceration.
"Thus, it is our duty as citizen Africans to insist that our three arms of government fulfill their mandate and responsibilities to protect those who cannot protect themselves", Mrs Saraki said.
Also speaking, a former Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Chief Bayo Ojo (SAN), showered praises on the honouree for distinguishing himself in the last few years.
"Today, we are all gathered here to celebrate excellence. Though I had known the honouree long before he came into national prominence, I knew him at close quarters when he became a politician in 2005 and I was then the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice.
"My interaction with him then gave me the feeling that he was a serious person who had a promising future ahead of him. I was therefore not surprised when he became the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Kwara State under the then Governor of Kwara State, Dr Bukola Saraki.
"I was to have a closer interaction with him when he served in the 7th Assembly of the nation and was the Chairman, House Committee on Justice. While in the House of Representatives, he acquainted himself very well by sponsoring several bills amongst which is the Administration of Criminal Justice Bill, which had been in the works during my time as the Minister of Justice.
"The bill, which is made up of 480 clauses has positively changed the face of administration of criminal justice in Nigeria and has been acclaimed even beyond our shores. The former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Aloma Mukhtar described the said bill as a revolution in the Nigerian Criminal Justice Administration.
"Despite leaving the House (of Representatives) in 2015 to go and serve his people in Kwara State as the Speaker of the Kwara State House of Assembly, accolades have not stopped pouring in for Rt. Hon Ali Ahmad for his uncommon achievements in the field of law making and legal profession as a whole.
"He is a proud emblem of his generation and a huge inspiration to those coming behind through his awesome professional competence, untrammeled intellect and the strength of his impeccable character, which enabled him to attain the height that he has today. His private and public life, which is endearingly garnished with ethical discipline, nobility, virtue of piety and humility are a rarity in our society today.
"I can say without any fear of contradiction that Rt. Hon Ali Ahmad is indeed a model of excellence and all covetable and noblest of human virtues. It is incontrovertible that the imprints of his contributions to the growth of the national assembly and project Nigeria are indelible on the sands of time.
Other speakers including Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara State and his Sokoto State counterpart, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, identified the Kwara State House of Assembly Speaker as a ceberal scholar and a worthy representative of the people, who has not only etched his footprints in the academia but also in all fields of humanity.
In his speech, the honouree, Ali Ahmad, who went down memory lane, said the reality of ACJA in the criminal justice in the country was not just game changer but a breakthrough, adding that such initiative should not be confined to criminal matters.
He said a replica of the legislation was needed to tackle needless delay in civil matters.
"The Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 (ACJA) is no doubt a game changer. Of all the legislation that I was actively involved with in the Seventh National Assembly, I am most proud of this Act. I tied my success not only to the passage but also to the signing of the law. Speaker Tambuwal, perhaps because he is also a lawyer, abridged all known procedures and processes for the Act and gave a standing order on the Bill.
"Given that it was considered a Tambuwal House and a PDP administration, the then Hon. Attorney-General Adoke proved extremely helpful in this regard. On 13 of May, 2015, a day I will never forget, the Clerk of the National Assembly transmitted the clean Bill to the Villa. Few hours thereafter, Mr. Adoke called that I should inform the Clerk of the National Assembly that the Bill had been assented to. It has never happened before that a 400-clause legislation becomes law in three hours.
The lesson that the implementation of the Act teaches me is that good governance will continue to elude Nigeria, if the three arms of government would not agree to cooperate and work in the same direction.
"I remember, someone would say what did the Judiciary had in following legislative process. On this Act, the Judiciary headed then by Justice Alooma Mukhtar, GCON donated, so to say, Justice Ishaq Bello, now the Chief Judge of Abuja, to the legislative process of the ACJA.
No wonder, we have witnessed an equally unprecedented iteration of the ACJA to the Supreme Court 5 different times within its first two years.
"I remember in a bid to protect the ACJA, the Seventh National Assembly was not sure whether the Act might be shut down in some respects by the judiciary on constitutional ground, thereby making it to propose a constitutional amendment to parties constitutional entitlement to appeal as of right in interlocutory matters. With the Supreme Court's decision in Olisah Metu's Case a few months ago, the Judiciary is saying nothing is stopping implementation of ACJA. Today we are celebrating that spirit of togetherness among stakeholders of the three arms of government.
"Yes, ACJA is a breakthrough, but it is only limited to the criminal aspect of the law. We need a similar groundbreaking legislation to address undue delay in civil matters, especially commercial cases", Ahmad said.
At the book presentation were President, National Industrial Court, Justice Babatunde Adejumo; National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi; Director General, National Institute of Legislative Studies, Prof Ladi Amalai; Chairman, Nigeria Speakers' Conference and Speaker, Kebbi State House of Assembly, Alhaji Ismail Kamba; members of the House of Representatives; representatives of the Chief of Army Staff, Inspector General of Police, Comptroller General of Customs Service, members of the Kwara State House of Assembly, members of the state executive council, politicians and captains of industry among others.