Ekiti state governor and Chairman NGF, Kayode Fayemi

By Henry Umoru, Abuja

Governors, under the aegis of Nigeria Governors’ Forum, NGF, yesterday urged all the Attorney Generals in states to be proactive to ensure that funds designed to address problems were not lost because of security challenges.

According to the governors, it has become imperative for state Attorney-Generals to be at alert for loss of funds because o  the battle for local government autonomy and the ongoing suit to retrieve the $418 million Paris Fund.

Speaking at the two-day meeting for Attorney Generals of the 36 states, Chairman, NGF and Ekiti State governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi, said the meeting was to seek inputs of state Attorney-Generals on the controversies surrounding the autonomy of the Judiciary and revenues from Value Added Tax, VAT.

Fayemi, who tasked the states chief law officers to be on the alert, said:  “The spate of insecurity across many States, political and economic uncertainties in the country and the States have placed the office of the Attorney-General on red alert in ensuring that the state is not ambushed through frivolous cases/ court orders that may lead to heavy financial losses and grounding of government business.

“We have no doubt that this meeting will afford you the opportunity to seek solutions.

“The NGF chairman, who was represented by the governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong, noted that the meeting would review some pertinent legal issues, including the Administration of Criminal Justice System in the country.”Some of them are sufficiently contentious as to require resolution in court. We have a number of these cases and there is need to carry you along and seek your input.

“This is one of the reasons for this gathering and some of the lawyers handling these cases will be here to address you.

“You are all aware of the controversy occasioned by the question of the autonomy of the Judiciary and Legislature.

“The Forum has often been in support of autonomy, but we felt that the onus was on the states to determine and implement it.”

It is, therefore, expedient that as chief law officers, you exercise the right to review and monitor the extent of implementation in your states.”On the controversy surrounding local government autonomy, the NGF chairman explained that governors were not against the financial autonomy of local government, adding that the system must be ready to bear the consequences.

He said:  ”I have given financial autonomy to local governments in my state since last year, after five months, they run back again. So its not that governors are not willing to give the autonomy because of the repercussion.

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”He further tasked the states, chief law officers, to note some of the burning issues, such as the “administration of the  criminal justice system, stamp duties, Value Added Tax, the fallout from the London Paris Club Refunds culminating in the criminal bid to deprive states of $419m.

”These require your attention, and the Forum looks forward to your views and advice on the way forward,”, he said.

Fayemi said the meeting was put in place   to achieve an alignment of purpose between the activities of the NGF and the work the Attorneys General were appointed to do, noting that the forum, through its Peace and Inclusive Security Initiative, PISI, had commenced discussions with stakeholders on diverse ways to handle some of these security challenges and restore peace to communities.

In a presentation on insecurity at the sub-national level, the role of Attorney-General, the former Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr Kanu Agabi, charged the participants to always uphold the rule of law and be champions of liberty in their states.

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