On behalf of the government and people of Lagos State, it gives me great pleasure to welcome you all to the nation’s Center of Excellence and the 5th largest economy in Africa.
Lagos State is connected in many ways to the history of Nigeria including the study and practice of law. It is home to the brightest legal minds that laid the foundation for the legal profession in Nigeria. It is home to great and world acclaimed men such as Chief Frederick Rotimi Williams, the first Nigerian to become a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Taslim Olawale Elias, the first black African President of the International Court of Justice, Christopher Sapara Williams, first indigenous Nigerian Lawyer called to the English Bar. e.t.c.
These distinguished and illustrious sons and daughters of our nation contributed greatly not only to the evolution of the legal profession in Nigeria but also to the greatness of our State over the past 50 years.
Indeed it will be extremely difficult if not impossible to identify the icons of the profession in contemporary time without a story to tell about the limitless opportunities which Lagos offers for all to realise our dreams and reach the peak of their potentials irrespective of race, ethnic, religious or socio-economic background. This is the legacy that has been jealously cherished by succeeding generations and which we will continue to build on because it is the source of our strength, leadership and prosperity.
It is against this background and in the spirit of Lagos at 50 celebration that we feel excited to partner with the Nigeria Bar Association in hosting this year’s annual conference.
The NBA has chosen for this 57th conference, a theme that speaks pointedly to one of the issues that have kept Africa far behind on the scale of ease of doing business. Weak Institutions constitute a major disincentive for investment which is extremely important for the efficient and effective harnessing of the huge resources that nature has blessed us with.
Our Institutions are weak because in most cases, their establishment is influenced by personal and short term considerations. In some other cases, they are deliberately weakened in order to make them subject to the whims and caprices of the leadership.
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.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, this is the ideal and best global practice which we, in Lagos State are striving very strongly to attain towards building an economy that is globally competitive. It has been one of our key commitments in the past two years as exemplified by the far reaching reforms we are implementing by way of security and judicial sector reforms. Happily, these efforts are yielding the expected outcomes.
I have no doubt in my mind that this conference will produce new and useful ideas which will help in deepening the effects of ongoing efforts to build and strengthen our institutions in line with global best practice.
Before I end this brief remark, 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.
Once again, I welcome you all to the Nation’s Centre of excellence. I would have been one of you. I made a failed attempt to become a lawyer but JAMB messed me up.