Lagos State Governor, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode on Sunday called on lawyers in the country to raise their voices in support of the demand for devolution of power to States and fiscal federalism, especially the review of the current revenue sharing formula.
By the current revenue allocation formula, the Federal Government takes as much as 52.68% of centrally-collected revenues in the federation account, while States and Local Governments share 26.72% and 20.60% respectively.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the 57th Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) held in Lagos, Governor Ambode tasked lawyers to utilize the golden opportunity of the ongoing review of the 1999 Constitution to lend their voices to the call for redress of all the aberrations that had stunted growth and inhibited capacity of States to harness their potentials.
He said: “Let me use this opportunity to call on the Nigerian Bar Association as a body and members to raise your voices in support of the demand for devolution of power to States and fiscal federalism, especially the review of the current revenue sharing formula.
“These, in my view, are fundamental and critical to creating an enabling environment that will accelerate development in all parts of the country. The ongoing process for the review of the 1999 Constitution presents a golden opportunity for us to redress all the aberrations created by the interjection of the military that have stunted growth and inhibited the capacity of States to harness the huge potentials of our nation.”
Speaking on the theme of the conference, “African Business: Penetrating Through Institution Building,” Governor Ambode identified weak institutions as a major factor inhibiting growth in Nigeria and Africa, saying that the development had constituted a major disincentive for investment in the continent, which in turn, was hampering efficient and effective harnessing of the huge resources in the continent.
He said in most cases, institutions are weak because their establishment is influenced by personal and short-term considerations, while in some other cases, institutions are deliberately weakened in order to make them subject to the whims and caprices of the leadership.
As a way out, Governor Ambode said: “Building and sustaining strong institution requires our collective commitment to the rule of law. It entails building the capacity of such institutions to be able to discharge their responsibilities effectively and transparently while also being accountable to the people. It must create an atmosphere of confidence, mutual understanding and protection against arbitrariness.
“We must take a cue from developed economies where the integrity of their institutions is not compromised for whatever reason. In those climes, it is the institution that puts officials of the State in check and not vice versa as we have experienced and are still experiencing in most parts of the continent.”
The Governor said such ideal situation and global best practice was what Lagos State had been striving very strongly to attain in order to build an economy that is globally competitive.
“This has been one of our key commitments in the past two years as exemplified by the fa- reaching reforms we are implementing by way of security and judicial sector reforms. Happily, these efforts are yielding the expected outcomes,” Governor Ambode said.
Besides, Governor Ambode expressed excitement at the recovery and return of President Muhammadu Buhari back to the country after long medical vacation in the United Kingdom.
“Let me firstly on behalf of all the people of Lagos State and all Nigerians thank God for the safe return of Mr President, General Muhammadu Buhari. Mr President, we wish you well always,” Governor Ambode said.
In his opening remarks, NBA President, Abubakar Mahmoud (SAN), acknowledged the efforts of the Lagos State Government at building strong institutions, saying that the State had made greatest institutional transformation in recent times.
He said the decision to host the conference in Lagos again was not just because of the facilities and infrastructure but also to support the transformative journey which the State had witnessed.
“Our last conference in Lagos was in 2009. We are delighted to be here once again, especially to join the State to celebrate its 50th anniversary. We have come back here not just because of the conference facilities and other infrastructure but also to support the transformative journey that this State has witnessed in the last several years.
“If we are talking of institutions, there is no better place to do that than in Lagos. Lagos is a State that has perhaps made the greatest institutional transformation in recent times. Many of us remember Lagos in the 80s and 90s with the state of the frustrating traffic, the very frustrating pollution, the hold-up, the smoky roads and army of unemployed youths rooming the street to what you now see as a much more modern city, a true centre of excellence. I therefore wish to thank His Excellency, Governor Ambode for the tremendous work he is doing in Lagos and also for being a strong partner to the Bar Association,” Mahmoud said.
The conference, which is still ongoing, was attended by 11,935 delegates and 142 speakers from 15 countries.