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LG autonomy: FG sued Lagos in error – Sanwo-Olu

LG autonomy: FG sued Lagos in error – Sanwo-Olu

…says Lagos LGs enjoy full autonomy

Lagos 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, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, said on Monday.

According to Sanwo-Olu, it was a legal anomaly for the Federal Government to join Lagos in the Supreme 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.

He 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”.

At the summit attended by Lateef Fagbemi, the AGF and minister of justice, 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 the efficiency of any government entity.

“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 comply.

“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 for violating the autonomy of the local governments. That is part of the back work that we need to do.”

Sanwo-Olu said that judicial reform must remain on the agenda in a functional society to improve the 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 the dispensation of justice. However, he challenged judges and law officers to change the status quo 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 the 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 the Ease of Doing Business. It takes less than 30 minutes to register a business in Singapore, which makes it surpass many countries in Ease of Doing Business. Singapore has one of the best judiciary systems in the world; they have quick turnaround time in mediation and dispute resolution.”

Justice Kayode Ariwoola, the chief justice of Nigeria (CJN), represented Justice Iyabode Yerima of the Supreme Court, hailed the 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 landmark examples set by Lagos judiciary in the justice system to include the Administration of Criminal Justice laws, which after implementation, set the template for the designing of the Criminal Justice Act at the National Assembly.

Fagbemi, represented by Fernandez Marcos-Obiene, said 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.