Amended Constitution Must Allow Nigerians Take Charge Of Their Destiny Through Their States - Fashola
Jun 22, 2012 - Lagos State Governor, Mr Babatunde Fashola (SAN) on Friday presented the State Government's Position Paper on the proposed amendment of the Constitution by the National Assembly, stating that the prosperity of Nigeria and her people does not depend on what the Central Government can do for Nigeria but on what the Central Government allows Nigeria and her people to do for themselves.
Governor Fashola spoke at the Lateef Jakande Auditorium of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Alausa where several stakeholders including members of the State House of Assembly, royal fathers and members of the public gathered to speak their minds on the proposed amendments to the 1999 Constitution.
The Governor posed a number of germane questions which showed that without decentralization of powers and functions it would be impossible to have a true and fiscal federal republic. "Does the Central Government have the human, institutional and governmental capacity to provide basic needs such as primary education, water supply, sanitation and primary health care in a reliable manner in all the 774 Local Governments?".
"As a corollary, we might also ask whether the Federal Government is able to maintain all the 9001 roads in Lagos State and make them pothole free all year round and whether it is able to do the same thing in the remaining 35 states".
Governor Fashola argued that in the face of the foregoing realities, there was an urgent need to move away from the current Unitary order. Noting that that he has consistently argued on behalf of the State for decentralization of powers and functions which is at the core of the case for true fiscal and federal republic, the Governor submitted that for effective governance, Nigerians must be able to take control of their own destiny through their state.
"This is the reason why the shackle of unitarism evident in policies like a quota system, central agriculture, central electricity, central VAT, central driving license, central judiciary, central Police, central railways and so many like them must be immediately removed, to enable the people of Nigeria take control of their own destiny through their States".
The Governor stated that his paper is an aggregation of the harmonization of the 2005 and 2009 Lagos reports and position and relevant parts of the various communiqués that was issued during the various State Executive/Legislative parleys.
He informed that his presentation covers the areas of devolution of powers, creation of states, geo-political zones, traditional rulers, local government, land use Act, NYSC Act and Code of Conduct, fiscal federalism, Immunity clause, Mayoral status for Abuja and Nigerian Police as stipulated by the National Assembly.
On the issue of fiscal federalism, the Governor stated that revenue allocation is central to the existence and functioning of both the Federal Government and the federating units and proposed a new formula that gives the Federal Government 35percent, State Governments 42percent and Local Government Councils 23 percent.
He added that in the case where Local Government Councils are eventually expunged from the Constitution and the states having to fund the councils, a further amendment would be sought to give the Federal Government 25percent, State Governments 45percent, Derivation 25percent and Intervention/Support Fund makes up 5percent.
The Governor also called for a re-examination of the concept of derivation in order to ensure equity and fairness. "In addition, we take the view that derivation should not be limited to petroleum alone. It should be applicable to all resources and all revenues collected into the federal purse. Further, the right of all communities in the management and exploration of resources within their territories should be guaranteed by the Constitution."
"Also, it is necessary to guarantee the integrity of the entire process of revenue allocation by appointing an Accountant General for the Federation to manage the Federation Account, as distinct and different from the Accountant General of the Federal Government", he submitted.
On the issue of creation of more states, Governor Fashola said Lagos State believes that the Nigerian federation does not at this time require the creation of additional states when cognizance is taken of the huge cost which the administrative machinery and personnel of the new state will entail.
He added that most states are currently not sufficiently viable to justify further subdivision, stressing that it may well be that the agitation for more inclusiveness in governance and for rapid development may be better addressed by the creation of more Local Governments than it can be done by the creation of more states.
On the issue of Local Government, the Governor declared, "it seems therefore that the proper thing to do is to leave the Local Governments out of the Constitution or vest the entire responsibility for them in the States and amend the Constitution accordingly by deleting or amending as the case may be, all sections that introduce them into the Constitution such as Section 3 subsection 5, section 7 (1), section 8, section 167 and part of the First Schedule dealing with boundary descriptions".
The Governor also sought and made a case for fiscal support in the Constitution for Lagos State in her capacity as a former capital of the Federal Republic to continue to support the infrastructure that serves millions of people who choose Lagos as their home.
While speaking on the issue of the immunity clause in the Constitution, the Governor said it should be retained in the Constitution because its retention would prevent unfounded allegations of criminality against top public officials which, if allowed, would bring massive distractions.
Governor Fashola stated that what would have been achieved with the removal of the immunity Clause could still be achieved at the expiration of the tenure of the serving officials.
In terms of devolution of powers, the Governor said that the principle of appropriateness (i.e. which order of government is more appropriate to deal with and effectively supervise a particular subject) should guide the sharing of powers between the Federal and State Governments.
"We therefore recommend that the items on the exclusive list should be substantially reduced to reflect the principles of appropriateness and state autonomy", adding that state legislatures should have or share jurisdiction on subjects like Police, Criminal Records, Prisons, Evidence, Establishment of Air, and Seaports, Railways, Electric Power generation and distribution as well as the taxation of incomes, profits and capital gains.
On the judiciary, he said it is the position of Lagos State that the appointment, remuneration and discipline of Judges of the State High Court should be the exclusive responsibility of each State of the Federation.
"The functions now conferred on the National Judicial Council with respect to State High Court Judges should be part of the judicial powers of the States which ought to be carried out by the State Judicial Service Commission. We are also of the view that interlocutory appeals should terminate at the Court of Appeal, thereby reducing the time spent on litigation", Governor Fashola said.
He also called for a restoration of the scope of jurisdiction of the State High Court as provided in the 1979 Constitution so that they may enjoy unlimited jurisdiction except for the jurisdiction conferred on the Federal High Court which should be limited to Federal Government revenue, Admiralty, intellectual property matter and criminal jurisdiction as may be conferred by an Act of the National Assembly.
On the Nigerian Police, the Governor called for the conferring of powers on a State House of Assembly to establish State Police Force with clear jurisdiction and well articulated protocols for the regulation of its relationship with the federal Police.
In terms of rotation of executive offices, the Governor stated that it is the position of Lagos State that inclusion of provisions relating to rotation of executive offices in the Constitution is antithetical to the unity of the country and its federal essence.
He added that rotation of executive offices is not an antidote to the challenge of federal character unless the system of rotation will accommodate each of the over 250 ethnic groups and sub-groups in the country.
In terms of certain enactments like the National Youth Service Corps Decree and Land Use Act, the Governor said the land is a residual matter which is not one of the powers which the component units gave out to the centre and that the Land Use Act should instead read Land Use Law enacted by each state while now is the time to take out the NYSC Act so that as there is agitation now about reforms of the programme, it could be resolved by a single bill on the floor of the House.
In terms of the recognition of the six geo political zones, the Governor said the State does not support the inclusion of the zones in the Constitution which though is not currently recognized by the Constitution, but have become representative of a political configuration of some sort.
On clamour for the creation of a role for traditional rulers, the Governor said unlike the Federal Government, State Governments which are created by the Constitution and Local Governments which are created by laws made pursuant to the Constitution, the institution of Obaship predates constitutional governance in Nigeria.
He explained that it is therefore contrary to Nigeria's federal intent to seek to unify diverse cultural traditional institutions in the Constitution. Subjects of local peculiarity must be kept with the sub-national entities. Each state should therefore be encouraged to use their relevant Obas and Chiefs laws rather than make it a constitutional matter.
Also speaking, a former Speaker and two- term Senator who represented Lagos East Senatorial District, Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora challenged the members of the National Assembly to put in place an Act to establish a Constituent Assembly which will have powers to put in place a peoples Constitution.
Senator Mamora said despite the anomalies in the 1999 constitution, it has not been given enough time to germinate, mature and blossom when compared to United States of America which had its constitution for over 200 years and with less than 30 amendments made.
He also called for the granting of a special status to Lagos State through the provision of one percent of the federation account to the state to maintain the infrastructure left behind after it ceased to be the federal capital.
The Speaker of the State House of Assembly who also spoke said whatever conclusions are reached at the end of the parley will go a long way in reshaping the nation adding that everyone should feel free to voice his or her opinion.
He added that just as the State House of Assembly ensured that it made its position known on amendments to the 1999 Constitution through the 2009 attempt, the same will be done with the present attempt to amend some parts of the 1999 Constitution.
Also speaking, the chairman of the ad-hoc committee, Hon Ajibayo Adeyeye said the public hearing was convened to create a platform for members of the public to air their views on the proposed amendments.
He said the public hearing will come up with a position of the people of Lagos State which will be presented to the National Assembly as it makes efforts to amend the 1999 Constitution.
The event attracted dignitaries like the first civilian Governor of Lagos State, Alhaji Lateef Jakande, members of the State House of Assembly including the principal officers like the Deputy Speaker, Hon Kolawole Taiwo, members of the State Executive Council including the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Ade Ipaiye, and the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Aderemi Ibirogba, Local Government Chairmen and Councilors, the Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Akiolu, Akran of Badagry, Aholu Menu Toyi 1, several traditional rulers, former political office holders and members of the public.