Obsolete laws our bane, SAN tasks FG on reform, advocates proactiveness

The Nigerian Law Reform Commission (NLRC) has been tasked with the need to demonstrate proactiveness in identifying and dealing with obsolete and outdated laws in the country.

A Senior Advocate of Nigerian (SAN) Mohammed Ndarani made the observation in a chat with our Correspondent in Abuja.

According to the learned silk, the Commission responsible he noted should be made more active and properly funded to deliver on its mandate by constantly researching, reviewing, and reforming the laws of the land.

The major problems bedeviling the country’s economic progress and development he observed, had been the ubiquitous and all pervasive presence of obsolete sections and aspects of our 1999 Constitution.

He cited obsolete laws and non-enforcement of Nigerian Educational banks, maritime, witchcraft, bigamy, Finance, Oil and Gas Free zones Authority Act among others as capable of eroding and retarding administration of justice based on their weird and odd prescriptions, innocuous fines imposed and strange provisions, when compared with the present day. 

He expressed further concern, saying the laws did not have any practical relevance to the realities of today’s Nigeria, but that they are still being relied upon as binding laws.

The senior lawyer also cited reliance on the obsolete and outdated laws as counterproductive to the nation’s aspirations, economic growth and development.

He said, “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 intention of such operations as it would erode the basis for such activity’’.

“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.

He gave examples of the Oil and Gas Free Zone Authority Act, 1996 and the Nigerian Minerals and Mining act, 2007, which according to him gives large tax holidays and moderated benefits to foreign investors, arguing that depending on such obsolete and outdated laws could make Nigeria being perpetually underdeveloped.

He also mentioned Nigerian Educational Bank Act, Cap N102, LFN, 2004; Casino Taxation Act, Cap C3, LFN, 2004; Nigerian Railway Corporation Act, Cap N131, LFN, 2004, 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’’, as having led to a regime of laws that dictate the importation of outdated and discarded machineries dismantled and dismembered from the western industries.

Ndarani added that those laws have not only promoted illegal activities like fishing, poaching and plundering of our nation’s fish reserves and importation of fish products, obsolete maritime laws in the country he maintained has caused huge losses through non-enforcement of mandatory registration for all river crafts and sea going vessels on the waterways.