Lawyers want ”archaic, obolete” laws reviewed to reflect current realities

 Some Abuja-based lawyers on Monday called for review of laws which provisions no longer reflect realities to advance justice administration in Nigeria.

The lawyers made the call in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria.

They said that provisions of some laws had been overtaken by societal development.

Speaking on NAN, Mr Friday Abu, a lawyer said some laws are obsolete, particularly in terms of the circumstances or situations they intend to regulate.

Abu said that for people to consider as adequate, laws that regulate their conduct and activities, such laws must be at par with the occasion it was provided for.

“ The law is made for the people and not the people for the law. Therefore, any law regulating the conduct and activities of the people in a particular area must be such that the people will regard as adequately meeting the occasion in order for such law to attain the desired effect or efficacy as the case may be.

“There are several obsolete laws in Nigeria that require either a total repeal or amendment to bring them in line with the current reality as regards the situations they are meant to regulate.

“One example of such obsolete laws requiring substantial amendment is the Entertainment Tax Act CAP 498 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.

“A closer look at this Act (Law) will reveal that the Law must have been passed during the colonial era because the Act mentioned entertainment centers like casinos, gaming events, horse racing events and the likes.

“In addition to the fact that this Law mentioned archaic places of entertainment, the fees specified as entertainment fees/tax are so extreme that if the government is to embark upon collecting the fees as mentioned in the Act, the cost of collecting the fees will be much higher than the fees collected at the end of the day.

”This law which is applicable in the FCT, Abuja and the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA), headed by the Minister of the FCT ran into difficulties when it attempted to use the said Law (Act) to start charging and collecting tax from entertainment centers in the FCT including clubs, casinos, Bars and events centres.

“The former Minister of the FCT, Senator Bala Mohammed attempted to include events centers and gardens and halls in the Act by passing The Entertainment and Events Centers Regulations Act in 2014

“This action by the FCT administration was challenged by some hotels and events centers who dissected the law and realized that the Act did not mention Halls within hotels, Gardens and events centers/Halls”, Abu added.

Another legal practitioner, Seprebofa Oyeghe said “Sales of Goods Act (SOGA), which is about 128 years old was fashioned along the Britain, Scotland, Ireland commercial climate and being a Statute of General Application, was received upon our independence and is the extant law that governs commercial transactions bordering on sale of goods.

“This ancient law Act which is a relic of our colonial history is totally out of touch with modern realties and the dynamics of the commercial world.

”The place of e-Commerce, cyber laws and the various rights, liabilities of buyers, sellers and principles that applies in commercial transactions is totally out of touch in the old Sale of Goods Act

According to Oyeghe, “ another law that needs urgent amendment that readily comes to mind is the Hire-Purchase (Amendment) Act 1970”.

”This is the law that governs Hire-Purchase transactions. It was enacted in 1965 and amended in 1970.

“In spite of the far reaching changes and advancement in commerce and industry, the extant still remain the 1970 Act which was only recompiled in the 2004 Laws of the Federations as Cap. H4, LFN, 2004.

”The implication, even without saying is that, a lot of problems confront hire-purchase transactions.

“The introduction of technology, the dynamism in the business environment coupled and the increasing globalisation of businesses/transactions and new models of commercial transactions have nearly rendered the Hire-Purchase Act irrelevant, archaic and outdated piece of legislation that cannot fix the challenges in the modern business world.

“Section 1 of the Act provides that: all hire-purchase agreements and credit-sale agreements, other than agreement in respect of motor vehicles, does not exceed two N2,000

“This monetary fixation as well as others like twenty-kobo for expenses on memorandum or note from hirer to the owner now sounds ridiculous owing to the current value of money.

”One can only but imagine how anyone will undertake hire-purchase agreements other than motor vehicle, valued at not more than N2,000.

”he monetary limit is strange, offensive, unrealistic”, the legal practitioner opined.

Another grouse Oyeghe had with this Act was also in the requirement of personal signature of the hirer (while the owner can sign himself or by an agent) otherwise the owner would be unable to enforce the transaction.

”The different treatment of the parties on the issue of signing the hire-purchase agreement or note or memorandum appeared unfair, according to him.He also faulted that the Act did not take into account the place of online transactions relating to hire-purchase.

“The National Assembly and the National Law Reform Commission need to embark on a comprehensive review of the Act”, Oyeghe added.

In her opinion, Toyin Yimika said “the Land Use Act 1978 is one law too many that is outdated, obsolete, poorly drafted, poorly implemented and long overdue for an amendment.

“There is so much power granted to the governors which is unnecessary due to wide scale abuse. Sections 1, 34, 36 and several other provisions of the Act has been exposed to different interpretations.

“By Section 29, the governor who is expected to pay compensation upon revocation of rights in land. By Section 30, disputes with respect to dispute over compensation is referred to the Land Use and Allocation Committee, which is a Committee set up by the Governor, who equally appoints the members.

”That section of the Act contravenes natural justice which requires that no one should be a judge in his own case.

“The above provision is offensive, unconstitutional as it clearly ousts the power of court to entertain matters bordering on vesting of lands on governors.

“The above among several other defects, coupled the age of the Act, 43 years which to a large extent is no longer in consonance with modern reality, there is an urgent need for the National Assembly to embark on a comprehensive review of the Act”, she concluded.

Another lawyer, Josephine Ijekhuemen, said:”a clear example of an obsolete law is the criminalisation of bigamy in Nigeria”.

According to her, it is a criminal offence in Nigeria which is punishable by the criminal law.

“By law, bigamy, a by-product of polygamy, is a criminal offence punishable with imprisonment in Nigeria.

“It is an offence which arises from what is otherwise an incidence of marriage. You can see Section 370 of the Criminal Code,” she explained.

Ijekhuemen, a Principal Partner with Odikpo, Okpe and Associates, Lagos, however, said since the law was introduced in the criminal code, “I do not think that there has been a single case of conviction. It has simply become an obsolete provision.”

She said another obsolete provision due to lack of enforcement was Section 210 of the Criminal Code, Cap C38 of the Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“This section provides that any person who is engaged in witchcraft practice as set out in subsections is guilty of a misdemeanor, and is liable to imprisonment for two years.

“There are also several other such legislations that are either outdated, unenforceable or not enforced,” she said.

The lawyer suggested that the only way to change the status of an obsolete law was to amend, repeal or expunge it from legislation.

“Remember the quarantine law has been in existence since the 1950s not enforceable until it was amended last year?

“This is because it was designed during the period of emergency and the situation then was more about public health than human rights and for many years, it wasn’t applied because there was no necessity until COVID-19 came.

“It was used to isolate people and was amended to allow it be in tune with today’s reality,” she explained.

Ijekhuemen stated that the amendment allows voluntary isolation rather than a near prison isolation for suspected cases.

“First Quarantine Act was in 1926 then amended in 1954 before the one amended last year.

“So from 1954 to 2020, it was obsolete,” she said.

According to her, another example is the Infectious Disease Act of 1908 which was obsolete until 2020 when coronavirus pandemic came.

“This law came alive when President Muhammadu Buhari signed the Infectious Diseases Regulations in 2020,” the Lagos-based lawyer said.(NAN)