By Olaolu Oladipo, Lagos
Two prominent lawyers and right activists, Professor Itse Sagay and Mr. Femi Falana have called for true federalism in Nigeria.
They also called for what they termed political and economic restructuring for a secured and prosperous future for the country, saying that the way the country is being currently run would stifle development.
The two spoke as guest lecturers at the first anniversary of the 8th Lagos State House of Assembly and 23rd year of June 12 struggle, with the theme: “Lagos State In A True Federalism And State Police,” on Tuesday.
The two Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) agreed that Nigeria needs both political and fiscal federalism for rapid development.
Prof. Sagay observed, in his lecture, that the constitution of Nigeria should be a reflection of its historical development, adding that Nigeria’s federalism is too centralised and limiting the development of the country.
Condemning the current federalism which he described as a decentralised unitary system the celebrated scholar maintained that each of both the federal and states governments ought to enjoy a measure of autonomy in a true federalism, and that governments have horizontal relationships in a federal system of government.
“Nigeria has deviated from an ideal federalism because of over-centralisation of power. It is wrong to centralise institutions such as Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), Nigeria Police Council, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and others. Chief Obafemi Awolowo was right to have said that Nigeria is not a nation, but that it is mere geographical expression.
“It is therefore crucial that we as a country must be ready to be loosed from the shackles of suffocating unitary federalism and revert to true political and fiscal federalism.
“There should be respect for nationalities and the basis of our association should be explained. Under the regional government, the regions kept 50% of its resources, gave 20% to the central government and the remaining 30% is sent to a pool, which would be shared among the states according to their needs,” he said.
He said that restructuring would compel governors to be productive, live on their own resources while contributing towards the running of the federal government.
According to him, the restructuring would lead to healthy competitions among federating units for the development, peace, justice and welfare of the country.
According to him, in the first republic each region had its own coat of arms, constitution and motto, but that the independence and autonomy of the regions were destroyed by the military in 1966.
Sagay stated that the arrogation of power to the central government got to the peak during the era of the late General Sanni Abacha as head of state.
He submitted that Nigeria is the only federal republic without a state police, and that apart from states, local governments and even schools could have their own police.
The scholar berated the states in Nigeria for what he termed over-dependence on Federal Government, while stressing that the unitary system of government being operated in Nigeria is stifling the states.
“The 36 states commissioners for finance gather in Abuja every month at a meeting chaired by the Minister of Finance to share federal allocations. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo operated the worst federalism in the history of Nigeria between 1999 and 2007,” he said.
Sagay stated that in a federal system of government, Lagos State should control the Apapa and Tin Can Island Ports, and that even if they are controlled by the Federal Government, the state should get 13% derivation.
All these were corroborated by the second guest speaker, Mr. Femi Falana, who added that the local government in Nigeria is a bastardisation of federalism.
Falana stated that the constitution of Nigeria makes it clear that the Federal Government should provide security for the people, but that social security is the most important aspect of security.
“Social welfare should be provided for the people by the government. In many countries, the right to social security is a fundamental right,” he said.
He added, “Economic of Nigeria is in the hands of few people, we need economic restructuring. If the oil blocks were given to states, many of them would have been able to pay salary.”
On the June 12, 1993 presidential election, he said that Chief MKO Abiola was voted for by Nigerians not because of his money but because he had a programme, ‘Farewell to Poverty.’
The radical lawyer added that it was the first time the country had Muslim-Muslim ticket, and that If not for the annulment of the June 12, 1993 election, the nation would have had 23 years of democracy. “If IBB had allowed June 12 we would have had 23 years of democracy and we would have moved forward”, he said.
“It is the failure of the states to have social security that we have armed robbers and kidnappers that kill people everytime. The Niger Delta Avengers are not fighting for restructuring, but for their own country.
“The fundamental human right to life is guaranteed by the constitution. The government has failed to police the country properly, if anybody is killed by armed robbers, kidnappers or thugs, the family has a right to go to court to sue the Federal Government,” he said.
Falana commended the Lagos State Government, which he said fought for restructuring in Nigeria through litigation under ex-governor of the state, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Falana commended the House, Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode and past governors of the state for being at the vanguard of struggle for restructuring of the country.
He stressed that it was not only in Lagos State that local councils were created in the era of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, but that it was the only state that did not obey the order of Obasanjo to go back to the status quo.
In his welcome address earlier, the Speaker, Hon. Mudashiru Obasa said the House has served residents conscientiously since its inauguration on June 8, 2015.
Obasa said, “We are here to serve the people and we must not forget we have an assignment to promote the interest of residents and move the state forward.
“We have been fully occupied so that our promises to the people are fulfilled. We have done everything within our capability to come up with people-oriented legislations that have helped the people of Lagos.
“Our members have displayed commitment to their job. We promised to live up to the expectations of the people.
“We have strived towards retaining the pride of the House. We have advanced legislations and policies that would improve the quality of lives of Lagos State.”
The speaker said that the House passed seven bills and more than 80 resolutions within a year which have improved on the welfare of the people.
Obasa said that the House had worked harmoniously with the Executive arms to move the state forward.
“We shall remain undeterred in our resolve to move Lagos State forward,” Obasa said.
Dignitaries present at the special parliamentary session include: Senators Olorunimbe Mamora, Ganiyu Solomon and Anthony Adefuye, former speaker of the Assembly Hon. Adeyemi Ikuforiji, his then deputy Hon. Kolawole Taiwo and Majority Leader, Hon. Ajibayo Adeyeye; uch as senators, former deputy wife of Governor Ambode, Bolanle; former deputy governor under Asiwaju Tinubu, Prince Abiodun Ogunleye; Razaq Okoya, Lagos state commissioner of police, Fatai Owoseni, Oba Ayangburen of Ikorodu, former IGP Musliu Smith, kemi Nelson, Cardinal Odunbaku, Professor Eghosa Osaghae, Prof. Suyin Oyefeso, members of Lagos State Executive Council, Lagos white cap chiefs.