FG Sued Lagos in Error over Local Govt Autonomy, Says Sanwo-olu

•Senator commends Tinubu on litigation

Sunday Aborisade in Abuja

Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State yesterday argued that the state should have been left out of the legal action instituted by the federal government against governors at the Supreme Court over alleged misconduct in the administration of local governments.

Sanwo-Olu stated it was a legal anomaly for the federal government to join Lagos in the court matter, decades after the local governments in the state had been enjoying full autonomy.

Sanwo-Olu, who spoke in support of the suit, however said the Attorney General of the Federation should have identified those that were not in compliance with the law before filing a blanket lawsuit against all states.

The governor spoke at the ongoing Justice Reform Summit organised by Lagos State Judiciary with the theme: “Enhancing the Administration of Justice for Economic Growth, Investment Protection and Security in Lagos”.

The summit, attended by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) is being held at Marriott Hotels, Ikeja.

Sanwo-Olu said infringement on the local council autonomy was an affront to the spirit of the constitution to which the judiciary must make a clear interpretation for equity and fairness.

He said a better justice system would protect the interests of parties and discourage actions limiting efficiency of any government entity.

He said: “It is interesting to read the news that the Honourable Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation has sued all the 36 states because governors did not give autonomy to the third tier of government. The only mistake, which I am going to tell our Attorney General, is that some of us are in compliance.

“The Attorney General should have done his due diligence to identify which states are not in compliance, so that we don’t sue all the 36 states together. You can determine which states are not violating the constitution. If it is three, four or five states are in compliance, then you can sue the 31 states violating autonomy of the local governments. That is part of the back work that we need to do.”

Sanwo-Olu said the judicial reform must remain on the agenda in a functional society in order to improve administration of the justice system and make the court the last hope of the common man.

The governor said the judiciary in Lagos had remained a beacon in protecting the rule of law and setting good examples for other jurisdictions in dispensation of justice. But he challenged judges and law officers to change the status quo in order to raise the standard of the justice system.

Drawing a parallel with Singapore – a fishing village with environmental similarities with Lagos, Sanwo-Olu said Singapore’s faith in rule of law and fairness transformed the efficiency of the country’s justice system, leading to the country’s rapid economic growth and prosperity.

He said: “Just like Lagos, Singapore has no resources. Singapore is what it is today because of Ease of Doing Business. It takes less than 30 minutes to register a business in Singapore, which makes it to surpass many countries in Ease of Doing Business. Singapore has one of the best judiciary system in the world; they have quick turnaround time in mediation and dispute resolution.”

Sanwo-Olu said Lagos needed strong judicial system to attain all its investment potential, while promoting transparency and accountability. The governor urged the Bench and the Bar to collaborate to promote an efficient justice system.

Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Kayode Ariwoola, represented by Justice Iyabode Yerima of the Supreme Court, hailed Lagos judicial system for being “a forerunner” in justice development, stressing that other jurisdictions usually borrowed from examples set by Lagos.

The CJN listed some of landmark examples set by Lagos judiciary in the justice system to include Administration of Criminal Justice laws, which after implementation, set the template for the designing of Criminal Justice Act at the National Assembly.

Fagbemi,represented by Mr. Fernandez Marcos-Obiene, said robust and transparent reforms embarked on by Lagos in the justice system had promoted economic growth, pledging that the Federal Government would continue to provide platforms for reforms that would improve public trust in the judiciary.

Chief Justice of Lagos, Justice Kazeem Alogba, commended Sanwo-Olu for his non-interference stance in judicial matters in Lagos.

Alogba said: ”No society thrives without robust justice system. The essence of any society is to have justice, without which there will be no peace and order. Security is an integral element of a robust justice system. When you have judges who are incompetent and corrupt in the system, the society will suffer for it.”

Other speakers at the two-day event included the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Yakubu Maikyau (SAN) and Lagos State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Lawal Pedro (SAN) among others.

Meanwhile, the New Nigerian Peoples Party (NNPP) Senator representing Kano South Senatorial District, Suleiman Kawu on Monday in Abuja , commended President Bola Tinubu for dragging the 36 state governors to court for undermining the functionality of the 774 local government councils .

 Tinubu had through Fagbemi had filed multiple cases against the 36 state governors at the Supreme Court ,  bordering on violations of relevant provisions of the 1999 constitution on governance and functionality of the local government councils in the country.

In his reaction to the litigation , through a statement made available to journalists, Kawu who penultimate week, sponsored a motion in the Senate for local government autonomy , said the move by the federal government was in the right direction .

The litigation according to him,  was timely, as he Nigerian masses are in dire need of policies that will alleviate their sufferings at the local government level

He said: “I am happy, Mr. President has begun to toe on our path to salvage our people by given the local governments autonomy to operate as enshrined in the constitution. The decision to compel the 36 states of the federation to give autonomy to local governments is a step in  the right direction.

“This will surely help in bring developments to our people, particularly the grassroots in the rural areas. It will equally boost the nation’s economy by increasing our Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) through agricultural value chain and other commercial activities that will come up after the local governments got their autonomy,”

He, however, appealed to Tinubu to also look into the problem of local government election, as according to him,  is another problem affecting the progress of the grassroots under democratic governance.

He said: “I would be glad if Tinubu will also address challenges affecting the conduct of local government elections in the nation. The president should do something to stop politicians from messing up with processes of local governments elections for their personal interests.

“We are all aware how local government election is being conducted under the watch of states governors in this country. From the primary to the mainstream election, the processes are always being manipulated by politicians for their personal interest against interests of the majority,” he added.

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