Be proactive to obsolete Laws – Ndarani, SAN charges Nigerian Law Reform Commission

A Senior Advocate of Nigerian (SAN) Mohammed Ndarani says the Nigerian Law Reform Commission (NLRC) should be proactive over the obsolete and outdated laws in the country.

Ndarani said this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on Sunday in Abuja.

He said the commission should be made more active and proactive and properly funded to deliver on its mandate by constantly researching, reviewing, and reforming the laws of the land.

He noted that one of the major problems bedevilling our economic progress and development is the ubiquitous and all pervasive presence of obsolete sections and aspects of our 1999 Constitution.

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“These laws do not have any practical relevance to the realities of today’s Nigeria, but they are still being relied upon as binding laws’’.

The senior lawyer also said that the reliance on obsolete and outdated laws is counterproductive to the nation’s aspirations and economic growth and development.

“The presence of laws which are not in alignment with the laws in operation in the countries with which we do business would defeat the intendment of such operations as it would erode the basis for such activity’’.

According to him, such laws also erode and retard administration of justice based on their weird and odd prescriptions, innocuous fines imposed and strange provisions, when compared with the present day.

“Examples include Sections 210 (Witchcraft) and 370 (Bigamy) of the criminal Code Acts and criminal Code Laws of States.

“Witchcraft Act stipulates that anyone caught practicing magic and witchcraft has committed an offence. The problem is how do you ascertain what is magic and witchcraft? No one has been tried and convicted of this offence till date.

“Bigamy refers to the act of entering into a marriage with one person while still legally married to another. It applies to both men and women, especially under the Matrimonial Causes Act. No one has been successfully prosecuted on this offence since the law was made.

“The legality and validity of this law is put to serious question in the light of cultural and Islamic values which support marriage to more than one wife at the same time’’.

He, however, noted that only Lagos State has decriminalized bigamy, which means that it is no longer a crime in Lagos State to marry another woman/man, where there is an already existing valid statutory marriage.

He said although NLRC was established in 1979 to reform in consonance with changes within the machinery of administration of justice, little or no visible change has come to our corpus of laws, thus confirming that they have not lived up to expectation.

“We still have such laws as the Nigerian Educational Bank Act, Cap N102, LFN, 2004; Casino Taxation Act, Cap C3, LFN, 2004; Nigerian Railway Corporation Act, Cap N131, LFN, 2004.

“These sadly have provisions for penalties for offences committed under it which are, to be honest, simply ridiculous.

“Laws like the Finance (Control and Management) Act, 1958; The Coins Act, Cap C16, LFN 2004 (even when the use of coins is no longer in vogue today); Evidence Act, 2011; The Entertainment Tax Act, Cap 498, LFN 2004; Sale of Goods Act, Hire Purchase Act, and the Nigerian Penal Code Act’’, are also cases in point here.

Ndarani decried the inability of the Nigerian elite to conceive, design, create and implement manufacturing activities based on the dictates of the Nigerian economic climate and local conditions.

“This has led to a regime of laws that dictate the importation of outdated and discarded machineries dismantled and dismembered from the western industries as they are changing to newer models and brought into Nigeria.

“These importations are attached with state controlled benefits including such as expatriate quota, protected subsidies and tariffs, expatriates remittances, tax holidays.

“Such profitable opportunities and benefits have been used by the elite and power brokers to share in the spoils of the Nigerian economy and to accumulate capital.

“Examples of these laws include the Oil and Gas Free Zone Authority Act, 1996 and the Nigerian Minerals and Mining act, 2007, which give large tax holidays and moderated benefits to foreign investors’’.

He said that dependence on obsolete and outdated laws is responsible for Nigeria being perpetually underdeveloped.

“The exclusivity of the rights vested on the federal government is what has made several states lazy as they just wait to receive and share monies accruing to them from the federal allocation every month.

“These laws make us bound to misguided policies of exploitation, frustrates import – export substitution, and diversification drives.

“Obsolete maritime laws in the country result to huge losses through non-enforcement of mandatory registration for all rivercrafts and sea going vessels on our waterways.

“It has also promoted illegal activities which were hitherto banned, such as illegal fishing, poaching and plundering of our nation’s fish reserves and importation of fish products’’.

He said that any law that does not reflect the realities of the present day, in science, technological development, cultural advancement, and are based on local factors, should not be lavishly deployed.

“This is one sure path to a better Nigeria and also a good path to pulling this country out of the woods,’’ he added.

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