By Akinwunmi Ambode
I welcome you all to Lagos. Let me start by thanking you for your commitment to the ongoing process by the legislature to review the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I must also state that Lagos State has always responded and participated in several review exercises and calls for amendments of our Constitution as initiated in the past by the National Assemblies in 2005, 2009 and 2011. We will continue to do so.
The defining feature of federalism is the autonomy and recognition of the separateness and independence of each government that makes up the federation. If this is true, we must therefore ask ourselves these salient questions:
Why should states be precluded from performing several important constitutional responsibilities?
Why does the Federal Government hold legislative and executive powers on matters of local concern which over-stretch its administrative and supervisory abilities?
iii. Why should the Land Use Act, NYSC Act, Code of Conduct Act form part of the Constitution?
Should we not have a sharing formula that ensures that states and local government councils are empowered to discharge their constitutional responsibilities? We need to be truthful and frank about fiscal federalism.
Should the Constitution not confer power on state Houses of Assembly to establish state police with clear jurisdiction and well-articulated protocols for the regulation of its relationship with the federal police?
Ladies and gentlemen, these questions are at the centre of the issues Lagos State wants addressed in this constitutional review. We must identify and address the provisions in our constitution which have become stumbling blocks in the spirit of true federalism and in our efforts to fully realise our potential in all sectors of the nation.
Some selected areas identified by our state for amendment are as follows:
The executive list and devolution of powers
We believe that the principle of appropriateness should guide the sharing of powers between the federal and state governments. Our political experience and long era of military rule has resulted in the Exclusive Legislative List being tilted heavily in favour of the Federal Government at the expense of the state governments.
The effect is that whilst the states are precluded from performing several important constitutional responsibilities, the Federal Government is equally unable to function effectively as it holds legislative and executive powers on matters of local concern which over-stretch its administrative and supervisory abilities.
It is the position of the Lagos State Government that the Land Use Act be separated from the Constitution and made applicable only to the Federal Capital Territory. Land has always been and should remain a residual matter for the state Houses of Assembly to legislate upon, hence the Land Use Act should become Land Use Law of the states.
Revenue allocation/special status
The current revenue allocation formula by which the Federal Government takes as much as 52.68% of centrally-collected revenues in the Federation Account, leaving the states and local governments with 26.72% and 20.60% respectively has created a glaring and unacceptable imbalance in the financial resources of the three tiers of government.
The sharing formula should be limited to federal and state governments. Since local governments are to come under the purview of the states, allocations to them should be shared to states as they can have as many local governments as they wish. The 774 formula is inequitable.
We also strongly posit that Lagos State be granted a special status in the proposed Constitutional amendment being the former federal capital territory of Nigeria, the economic and commercial nerve centre of the nation, taking into cognisance of the high population density and continuous influx of people into it.
Over the years, the Federal Government has been unable to prioritise and provide the resources that are necessary to pay, equip and train policemen to the level required by the challenges they face. With about 300,000 policemen to a population of more than 140 million (a ratio of 1 to 467), it is obvious that Nigeria is grossly under-policed.
These inadequacies are most keenly felt in the more populated areas of Nigeria like Lagos and in spite of a growing army of educated job seekers flocking the cities, this inadequacy in the number of policemen has not been remedied due to funding constraints and administrative inefficiencies of the Police Force itself.
For a state like Lagos, the problem is particularly acute. With a population of over 22 million people and the most rapid population growth profile in Nigeria, the inadequacies of the security system have been most keenly felt. We have had to take some radical steps to aid the force and bring succour to our people.
We have had to inject huge financial resources to support all security agencies in the state. However, this level of involvement is still inadequate, mainly because the state government has no influence over the number of men recruited for or deployed to Lagos State and the operational command of the force within the state.
It is the position of Lagos State Government that the provision of Section 214 (1) should be amended allowing the states to establish their own state Police Service.
Federal land registry
It is an aberration for the Federal Government to continue to operate land registry in Lagos State. The Federal Land Registry which was established when Lagos was Federal Capital Territory ought to have been closed down and all title therein moved to the Lagos State Land Registry. The National Assembly is urged to look into this and correct this anomaly.
I will also like to seize the opportunity of this occasion to express to you the imminent dangers inherent in the proposed stamp duties bill which no doubt seeks to cripple the internally generated revenue due to states in the federation in favour of a Federal Government Agency- NIPOST.
The bill is presently before the National Assembly and it is a grave threat to the principles of fiscal federalism and as representatives of the true beneficiaries of the Act as it presently stands, there is need to put an urgent and immediate end to its further coordination by the National Assembly which also has the noble tradition that once a matter is before the court, all activities on the matter would be suspended. Lagos State Government in Attorney General of Lagos State Vs Attorney General of the Federation has approached the Supreme Court on this matter.
The Lagos State Government is committed to transforming Lagos into a thriving state where the quality of the lives of its citizens is guaranteed through legal parameters. It is therefore our hope and earnest expectation that the proposed amendments will be given due consideration.
On this note, I have the great pleasure of declaring this retreat open and wishing you a successful deliberation.
I thank you for your attention.
Itesiwaju Ipinle Eko lojewalogun
Governor Ambode of Lagos State delivered this speech to the Constitutional Amendment Committee of the National Assembly last week in Lagos.