LAGOSâ€”The Federal Government, yesterday, made a u-turn in its decision to employ extra-constitutional means to force the Lagos State Government to abolish the 37 Local Council Development Areas and revert to the old 20 Local Government Areas.
Speaking at the openingÂ of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Annual Conference hosted by Lagos, Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Chief Michael Aondoakaa said the Federal Government would not use unconstitutional means to resolve its dispute with Lagos State Government over the creation of council areas.
His words: â€œAlthough views may differ between the Federal Government on one hand and various interest groups, professional associations and indeed other tiers of government, including Lagos State Government, it is however the firm stand of this administration that unconstitutional means will not be used to resolve such issues.â€
Defending the policies of the Federal Government, Aondoakaa said that the Federal Government was not out to tango with the Lagos state government on the creation of the 37 LCDA but to defend the Nigerian Constitution.
Chief Aondoakaa then reiterated the commitment of the Federal Government to ensure a lasting security situation in the Niger Delta, noting that the proclamation of general and unconditional amnesty by the President Musa Yarâ€™Adua is a major step in this direction.
Speaking on the negative effect of the recent Boko Haram crisis which engulfed some states in the northern part of the country, the Attorney-General said â€œthis government will not tolerate extra-judicial killing, torture or abuse of human rights and any one, no matter how highly placed, found culpable of engaging in these acts will be appropriately sanctioned according to law.â€
He then commended Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State saying, â€œin spite of some â€˜comaâ€™ which I have with him, I make bold to say that the monumental achievements that have been recorded in the governance of Lagos State under his able leadership remain a source of pride for all members of the bar.â€
The NBA president, Mr Oluwarotimi Akeredolu in his welcome address, said the Nigerian Bar had resolved not to spare anything in defending the rule of law and all processes that could liberate the country from its present political and economic quagmire, noting that Nigerian lawyers would not be intimidated from any quarter on its decision to move the country forward.
Expressing their unshakable resolve to shape the country, Akeredolu said: â€œWe are resolved that never again will we allow those who habour interests extraneous to the well being of the generality of the people hold sway without a challenge. It s a cruel paradox that a country so richly endowed in human and material resources wallows in abject poverty while the commonwealth is concentrated in the hands of an avaricious few.
He therefore expressed serious doubts concerning the commitment of the government in combating the menace of corruption.
According to him,Â Â â€œcorruption ranks as the vice with the most debilitating impact on the country. There is virtually no sector of the national life of the people that the pernicious influence of graft, extortion and outright thievery are not noticeable.
The immediate past administration attempted to combat the menace. The little success achieved by the agency (EFCC), established by it was overshadowed by the strident accusation of selective persecution of perceived enemies of the ruling potentate, Gen Olusegun Obasanjo, especially those who stood up against his desire to transmute into a life president.â€
He argued that the present government has not in anyway shown a fierce attempt to curtail the menace of corruption in the country.
â€œThere are outstanding issues of corruption practices in government circles. Despite assurances from the government that beneficiaries of corruption will be exposed and punished, it would appear that the government is not keenly interested in bringing to justice those involved in high scale scams.â€
He noted thatÂ â€œtwo years into the Yarâ€™dua administration it is regrettable that not one core justice sector bill has been passed in the National Assembly. A cursory look at the more than twelve administrations of justice bills presently before the National Assembly will indicate the unsatisfactory nature of this state of affairs.â€
The Speaker, House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole, in his remarks took the lawyers to task for not contributing to the reforms embarked upon by the National Assembly and its efforts to enact enabling laws for the country.
He noted that several public hearings on some national issues have been organized, which NBA did not make substantial inputs.
Those who graced the opening session of the conference included the host Governor, Fasola, his counterpart from Edo and Kano states, Comrade Adams Oshiomohole and Malam Ibrahim Shekarau, the Speaker, House of Representatives, Mr Dimeji Bankole,Â Mr. Kayode Adetokunbo (SAN), ChiefÂ Judge of Lagos State, Justice Inumidun Akande, former Governor, Donald Duke of Cross Rivers State, Justice Umar Eri, the Administrator of the National Judicial Institute who represented the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Minister of external Affairs, Mr Ojo Maduekwe, President, International Bar Association (IBA), Mr. Fernando Pelaez, and his counterpart in African Regional Forum, Mr.Â Jacob Saah, IBA.