Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo yesterday said the failure of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) administrations to invest in infrastructure resulted in the congestion of the Apapa Port, Lagos.
He said the past administrations failed to invest in the other ports and the rail system when Nigeria earned higher revenues from oil.
Prof. Osinbajo spoke during a special plenary at the ongoing Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) in Abuja.
The Vice President said: “I think one of the major failings that we have had as a nation is the failure to invest in infrastructure, especially when we were earning significant sums from oil, and I think that has led to several of what we’re seeing today.
“The Apapa Port has a 35million metric tonnes capacity; now it’s handling 85million tonnes. So we have so many trucks coming out of Apapa, destroying the roads.”
According to him, the Federal Government is aggressively addressing the Apapa Port congestion through the development of the rail system and the other ports.
“We’re opening up the ports in the Southsouth and fixing the rail system. You cannot transport goods around the country without investment in rail,” Osinbajo said.
The Vice President urged the NBA to purge its ranks of lawyers who specialise in delaying cases and frustrating the anti-graft war.
According to him, lawyers who abuse court processes are disbarred in other jurisdictions, whereas such practices appear to have become acceptable in Nigeria.
Asked by the moderator Prof Koyinsola Ajayi (SAN) if Nigeria could end corruption by having leaders with morality, Osinbajo said: “We must understand where we’re coming from and how to resolve that problem.
“There is a great deal of institutional and moral decay. There is no question about that at all. Just take an example of corruption – it is systemic and has eaten so deep into the society’s fabric.
“It’s difficult to simply say that we can end corruption by just being exemplars of moral conduct. A lot more needs to be done.
“One, there is a need to establish a system of consequences for misbehavior. That is a pertinent issue and is one I believe applies to the Bar.
“The most important thing is that everyone has a responsibility to ensure that there is a consequence (for wrongdoing). One of the major problems that we’ve had is that the legal process is not able to deliver justice within a reasonable time.
“There are issues that concern public corruption and there are several cases that have been in the court and the government has been criticised for not being able to secure a conviction. There are those who say the prosecution was not prepared. There are those who say the defence engages in dilatory tactics. There are those who say the judiciary is compromised.
“All of this has to do with our administration of justice system. We must accept some responsibility. The Law Society in England for example accepts responsibility of the discipline of lawyers, including those who engage in dilatory tactics in court.
“If a lawyer wants to delay a case, or has a strategy of hoping that years after, the matter will be forgotten, that kind of lawyer will lose his shirt in any other jurisdiction. But here, it has become an accepted fact. So, it’s beyond government.
“All institutions such as the NBA must do something. And it really calls for self-regulation. Government is not going to come up with a law to change that. This is something we (NBA) are in control of. We should be able to say that we’re going to have to put our foot down here.”
He advised the NBA to take a cue from the Law Society in England and accept the responsibility for conduct of lawyers.
“There is a sense in which we must accept responsibility for the discipline of lawyers. The Law Society in England accepts responsibility for the discipline of lawyers, even when lawyers engage in dielectric tactics in court.
On the questions on Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration and how it was transforming the life of the poor people in Nigeria, Osinbajo said that the government started it in 2016 by crafting a budget that took a bottom-to-top approach to tackling the problem of the poor.
“The approach we adopted from 2016 is two-pronged. One is in first creating safety nets and for the first time we put in the budget a line for what is called the Social Investment Programme. That is N500billion for the Social Investment Programme. That is the largest programme of its type in the history of this country.” he said
He said the Social Investment Programme covered the Conditional Cash Transfer to one million of the poorest, the N-Power Programme, a scheme for providing jobs to 500,000 young graduates and the “Trader Moni” Scheme to two million people.
“It is working because we can see a substantial improvement in the capacity of people to earn money and to do better for themselves,” he said, adding that the “only way to deal with poverty is to incrementally improve the capacity of people to earn money.”
He also answered questions on infrastructural development, technological development, ease of doing business and the ideological underpinnings that drive government programmes.
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