Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has expressed his belief that Lagos should have been excluded from the Federal Government’s recent legal action against all 36 state governors, alleging misconduct in the administration of local governments.

Speaking at the Justice Reform Summit organized by the Lagos State Judiciary, themed “Enhancing the Administration of Justice for Economic Growth, Investment Protection, and Security in Lagos,” Sanwo-Olu highlighted the legal oversight in grouping Lagos with states not complying with local government autonomy.

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Sanwo-Olu criticized the Attorney General of the Federation, Lateef Fagbemi, for failing to distinguish between compliant and non-compliant states before filing the lawsuit. He emphasized that Lagos has long adhered to granting full autonomy to its local governments, making its inclusion in the lawsuit an anomaly.

He urged the Attorney General to perform due diligence to identify specific states violating the law rather than filing a blanket lawsuit.

He stated, “It is interesting to read the news that the Honorable 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 in compliance, then you can sue the 31 states violating the autonomy of the local governments. That is part of the back work that we need to do.”

Sanwo-Olu argued that judicial reform is essential for improving the administration of justice and ensuring the judiciary serves as the last hope for the common man. He praised the Lagos judiciary for its role in upholding the rule of law and setting a high standard for other jurisdictions.

However, he also challenged judges and law officers to continually strive for improvement to enhance the justice system further.

Drawing a parallel between Lagos and Singapore, Sanwo-Olu pointed out that both regions share environmental similarities, but Singapore’s commitment to the rule of law and fairness has significantly boosted its economic growth.

He noted that Singapore’s efficient judiciary and ease of doing business, such as the ability to register a business in under 30 minutes, have contributed to its rapid economic prosperity. He suggested that Lagos could achieve similar success with a robust judicial system promoting transparency and accountability.

Sanwo-Olu called on the judiciary and legal professionals to work together to create an efficient justice system that can attract investment and ensure fairness. He highlighted the need for strong judicial institutions to realize Lagos’s investment potential and maintain public trust in the legal system.

The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Kayode Ariwoola, who represented Justice Iyabode Yerima of the Supreme Court at the summit, commended the Lagos judicial system for its pioneering role in justice development.

He noted that other jurisdictions often look to Lagos for innovative judicial practices, citing the Administration of Criminal Justice laws as a model for the National Assembly’s Criminal Justice Act.

Fagbemi, represented by Fernandez Marcos-Obiene, acknowledged the positive impact of Lagos’s judicial reforms on economic growth and pledged that the Federal Government would continue supporting initiatives to enhance public trust in the judiciary.

Chief Justice of Lagos, Justice Kazeem Alogba, praised Governor Sanwo-Olu for his non-interference in judicial matters, underscoring the importance of a robust justice system for societal peace and order. He warned that a judiciary plagued by incompetence and corruption would ultimately harm society.

Other prominent speakers at the two-day event included Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President Yakubu Maikyau, SAN, and Lagos State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Lawal Pedro, SAN, who all emphasized the critical role of an efficient judicial system in promoting economic growth and protecting investments.

The Federal Government’s lawsuit, filed by Justice Fagbemi, seeks to secure full autonomy for all local government areas across the country.

The suit calls for an order prohibiting state governors from unilaterally dissolving democratically elected local government leaders, aiming to ensure adherence to constitutional provisions and enhance local governance.

Sanwo-Olu’s remarks highlight the necessity of accurate legal targeting and the importance of ongoing judicial reform to maintain a fair and effective justice system that can drive economic growth and ensure the protection of investments in Lagos and beyond.