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Sanwo-olu faults FG’s suit on 36 governors over LG Autonomy

Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu has faulted the Federal Government’s suit on 36 state governors over local government autonomy.

The Attorney General of the federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi had sued the 36 state governors at the Supreme Court seeking the enforcement of full autonomy of the local governments in Nigeria.

Speaking while declaring open the two-day Lagos State Justice Reforms Summit in Ikeja, Lagos on Monday, Sanwo-Olu said the only mistake the AGF made was to sue all states of the federation not minding that some states were in compliance with the local government autonomy.

He said the AGF should have done due diligence by identifying the states that were not in compliance with the local government autonomy and take them to the Supreme Court.

In his words: “It was in the news today that the Attorney General of the Federation sued all 36 states because we are not with the local government autonomy law.

“The only mistake made by the Attorney General of the Federation was that some of us are in compliance. The AGF should have done due diligence to identify the states that are not in compliance, whether it is 31 or so and take them to the Supreme court.”

Speaking on the Summit, Sanwo-Olu compared Lagos with Singapore that has made giant stride in its judiciary system and access to justice which had boosted the ease of doing business in that country.

He said Lagos is home to international businesses and has also taken a lead in judiciary reforms in the nation, adding that what the state needed right now is to take the level of its success to the international scale, stressing that “we cannot sit back, Singapore is less than the population of Lagos.”

On rule of law, the governor stated that no nation could be peaceful without rule of law, charging members of the judiciary in Lagos to think out of the box at the summit.

“We cannot sit back and hope that is the best we can do. As a nation, do we just want to be the giant of Africa for nothing with no proper rule of law and access to justice? Singapore has make wave on ease of doing business. We are not near the level they have attained on the ease of doing business,” he said.

Sanwo-Olu also said Singapore had also ensured that their best brains work in the public service, saying that Lagos State has a public service “we can be proud, but we need to do more. We are restricted by a bigger name call Nigeria, but that will not be excuse for us. Leadership is all about what you put in your heart.”

The governor charged members of the Lagos judiciary to move very quickly and think out of the box on how best to reform the justice system in the state.

Sanwo-Olu also questioned how long it would take the federal government to allow for the operation of state police, lamenting that people are playing politics with it.

He added that “We are planning to make Lagos an international financial centre, an haven for investment worldwide and for us to do that, we need a strong judicial system. We expect a lot from the bar and bench, there is a lot we can do. Transparency and accountability is important to build a society to be proud of and if we don’t have it, we will just be passers-by.”

In his welcome address, the Lagos State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Lawal Pedro, SAN, said the dispensation of justice and the need to ensure an effective judicial system is a paramount role that all stakeholders in the Justice system must strive to achieve if the State and the Nation must achieve the desired development.

“At the recent Press briefing of the Ministry of Justice I was asked a pertinent question what is different from this summit and the previous justice summits held by previous administration? My answer was, to focus not only access to justice for all but to enhance administration of justice for improved economic activities, investment protection and security in Lagos State.

“Therefore, at the end of the Summit it is expected that stakeholders will recommend lawful ways and means to
address delayed justice. It is my desire that civil cases in our trial courts should not last more than 18 months from date of commencement of an action and 6 months in cases of simple recovery of debt and 3 months in cases of recovery of arrears of rents and possession of premises,” he said.

To underscore the objectives of this summit, Pedro stated that the the State Ministry of Commerce, Cooperatives, Trade and Investment just revealed that in the last one year the State government successfully attracted about N50 billion investment in both foreign and local direct investment.

“Therefore, in case of any dispute the investment should not be unduly tied down by protracted litigation. Therefore, my Lords, my colleagues and other stakeholders in the justice sector, my appeal is that as we continue to safeguard the rule of law and promote access to justice, the administration of justice should be used for enhancement of economic growth, investment protection and security in the State and Nigeria in general.

“I, therefore, call on all us to join this partnership so that together we can improve and transform the justice system in the State to meet the needs of our people and restore the public trust and confidence in the judiciary and the rule of law,” Pedro said.

The Chief Judge of Lagos State, Kazeem Alogba, in his remarks, emphasised that without justice, no society could thrive, saying that the justice system must be robust and healthy.

Alogba said the discuss at the summit is about the basic foundation of any society as there would not be peace if there is no proper justice system.

“If there is no justice, there will not be peace in the society. Security is very important. Whatever you do with the law will impact directly on the society,” he stated.

He charged the stakeholders at the summit to make workable suggestions and not just speaking grammar.

The CJ also emphasied on the integrity of the judges, saying this would go a long way in determining the kind of society built.

“When we have judges who lack integrity and incompetent, the society will suffer. If you have judges with integrity and competent, the society will not suffer and be happy,” Alogba said.

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Student loan scheme will thrive on equity and inclusiveness says President Tinubu

President Bola Tinubu says the Nigerian Education Loan Fund (NELFUND) will thrive on fairness and equity and promote inclusiveness by removing the financial barrier to higher education for Nigerian students.

The President, who launched the digital NELFUND disbursement exercise at the State House on Wednesday, said the provision of loans to students will encourage more people to seek knowledge, go for higher education, and become valuable contributors to national development.

“As I earlier said, my belief is that education is the greatest weapon against poverty. Without education, there is no vision; without education, there will be no development; without education, you cannot successfully conquer poverty, insecurity, and abuse in society.

“Education is that light at the end of the tunnel, and no matter how sluggish it moves, it will give you light and the hope you need. We are investing in it. We do not want to try ignorance as an alternative. We want education from the foundation to the topmost level.

“I am glad we are achieving it with NELFUND and that the leadership has accepted this responsibility, and they are working hard,’’ the President said.

President Tinubu commended the Chairman of the Fund, Mr. Jim Ovia, and the Managing Director, Mr. Akintunde Sawyerr, for their efforts in driving the critical agency.

The President expressed his determination to ensure the success of the Fund and the fulfilment of the dream of higher education by indigent Nigerian students.

“The tool is available, and the hope is here; genuine, and the commitment to inclusiveness is what democracy is all about. I am fulfilling one of my greatest promises of the campaign. We are building an inclusive society. You can find many ways around any opportunity, but you cannot find a way if you are not well-educated,’’ President Tinubu stated.

The President emphasized that education is an essential antidote to some of the challenges faced by the nation.

“We cannot even fight terrorism and banditry unless there is inclusiveness, and our people are properly educated and can invest in their own lives. I promise that we will hand a banner without stain to our children. Therefore, it is my honour to launch the portal,’’ the President said.

In his remarks, the Chairman of NELFUND thanked the President for the privilege to serve the nation.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to be here today for Mr. President to formally launch the Nigerian Education Loan Fund (NELFUND). Mr. President, I would like to make reference to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, of which education is number four.

“The President has recognized that; hence, he inaugurated and also signed into law in February the NELFUND. We are all grateful for Mr. President’s time for inaugurating and also sanctioning the activities of NELFUND,’’ Mr. Ovia said.

The Managing Director of NELFUND affirmed that there were enough funds to meet the initial requests of students across the country.

“Your Excellency, at this stage, we have more than enough funding. When we start to promote properly, we might need more, but right now, we can disburse to any single person who has applied,’’ he said.

Mr. Sawyerr said the portal was opened on May 25, 2024, and had so far received 110,000 applications, with more than 164,000 visits; noting that the applications have been increasing daily.

“Clearly, what we want to ensure is that there is equity in the distribution of the loans across the six geo-political zones. So, we are having to look very closely at the data we are receiving to ensure that we are doing the right things and pushing the right buttons to ensure that those who need these funds get them, and that it is seen to be fair and equitable,” Mr. Sawyerr added.

President Tinubu presented cheques to some of the students and institutions that had already been processed by NELFUND. Students are to receive stipends for their upkeep, while tuition goes directly to the institutions.

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Imo House of Assembly recommends sack of Chief Judge for misconduct and age falsification

The Imo State House of Assembly has recommended the removal of the state’s Chief Judge, Justice Theresa Chukwuemeka-Chikeka, citing misconduct and alleged age falsification.

This decision was reached during a plenary session on Thursday, with a two-thirds majority of the lawmakers voting in favour of the recommendations made by an ad hoc committee.

The committee was established to investigate a petition filed by the Civil Society Engagement Platform (CSEP), which accused the Chief Judge of falsifying her age. The petition, titled “Petition Against The Chief Judge of Imo State, Hon Justice Theresa Chukwuemeka Chikeka For Age Falsification Which Is A Grave Criminal Offence And An Act For Which Many Other Judges And Justices Have Been Summarily Dismissed And Some Are Currently Being Prosecuted By The Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC),” prompted the House to take action pursuant to Section 292 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).

The ad hoc committee, chaired by Hon Ikenna Ihezue, included Hon Bernard Ozoemenam, Rt Hon Clinton Amadi, and Hon Ebonine Beneath, with Mrs. Anne Martins Ezirim serving as the committee clerk. They conducted thorough investigations by inviting relevant individuals and institutions to provide oral and documentary evidence.

Despite the committee’s invitation, Justice Chukwuemeka-Chikeka declined to appear, citing the Constitution and insisting she would only appear before a panel set up by the National Judicial Council (NJC).

Key testimonies and documents were obtained from the Civil Society Engagement Platform, represented by its Director of Investigations, Comrade Ndubuisi Onyemaechi. Additionally, the Head of Service of Imo State, the Secretary of the Imo State Judicial Service Commission, the Secretary to the Council of Legal Education, and the Director of Administration at the Nigerian Law School were consulted. These consultations aimed to verify the actual date of birth of the Chief Judge, as recorded during her admission to the Nigerian Law School in 1981 and her employment with the state’s civil service in 1993.

Evidence revealed that Justice Chukwuemeka-Chikeka had altered her date of birth from October 27, 1956, to October 27, 1958, via a statutory declaration of age sworn in 2006. This adjustment was made long after she had initially declared her birthdate when enrolling in law school. The statutory declaration was later submitted to the Judicial Service Commission.

The ad hoc committee concluded that Justice Chukwuemeka-Chikeka had indeed engaged in misconduct and recommended her removal from office by Governor Hope Uzodimma. The House also resolved that this recommendation be forwarded to the National Judicial Council for further action.

All 19 members present at the plenary session unanimously adopted the committee’s recommendations. The resolution marks a significant development in the state’s judicial administration, with further actions anticipated from the NJC.

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Labour accepts President Tinubu N70,000 minimum wage offer

Organised Labour leaders have confirmed accepting the N70,000 minimum wage President Bola Tinubu approved for Nigerian workers.

Mohammed Idris, Minister of Information, disclosed on Thursday, July 18, that the president announced the offer earlier in the day at a meeting with the labour leaders at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.

Speaking after the meeting, Comrade Joe Ajaero, President of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), flanked by Comrade Festus Usifo, President of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), and other representatives of Nigerian workers, said the unions agreed to the offer because of other incentives attached.

He said another reason for accepting the offer is that the president promised a review every three years as against what was obtainable in the past.

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