Fashola Opposes Geo-political Zones, Autonomy for Councils

04 Feb 2013

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Governor  Babatunde Fashola

  • Proposes new revenue allocation formula

By Gboyega Akinsanmi

Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), has described as erroneous attempts to grant legal recognition to six geo-political zones and autonomy to local councils under the on-going review of the 1999 Constitution.

He also expressed strong opposition to the current revenue allocation regime, thereby proposing an entirely new formula that would allocate 35 per cent for the Federal Government; 42 per cent for state governments as well as 23 per cent for local government councils across the states of the federation.

The governor expressed these standpoints in a presentation he made to the Constitution Review Committee (CRC) recently in Abuja, as the position of Lagos State, thereby calling for significant reduction in the constitutional responsibilities allocated to the Federal Government in the exclusive legislative list.

Fashola, who was represented by the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Adeola Ipaye, decried the adverse effect of the current federal structure, which he said, precluded the state governments from performing several constitutional responsibilities under the prevailing legal regime.

He said 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,” thus lamenting that the state governments “is at the expense of the Federal Government under the current regime.”

He therefore advocated the principle of appropriateness to guide the sharing of powers between the federal and state governments, saying the principle simply “suggests which order of government is more appropriate to efficiently deal with and effectively supervise a particular subject.”

He, therefore, recommended that the items on the exclusive list be substantially reduced “to reflect the principles of appropriateness and state autonomy. The state legislature should have or share jurisdiction such subjects as police, criminal records, prisons, establishment of air and seaports, electric power generation and distribution and the taxation of incomes, profits and capital gains.”

He also opposed the inclusion of geo-political zones in the constitution, explaining that recognition of a body in a constitution “presupposes that it will have a definite purpose or responsibility and its composition, leadership and administrative structure will have to be defined.

“Since the geo-political zones are not intended to be regional governments, their inclusion in the constitution may cause needless confusion as to their status or significance. Section 14(3) is comprehensive enough to reflect the federal character of the country and the need to promote national unity,” he said.

On the autonomy for local government councils, he said though local councils “guaranteed a share of the funds accruing to the Federation Account, their share is in fact required to be allocated to the relevant states for their benefit in accordance with the applicable state law as stipulated section 162(5).

“While States are federating units, the local councils are intended as administrative structures to assist the state governments in bringing government closer to the people. In this context, any proposal to confer local councils with autonomy, distribute funds directly to them, create a new legislative list and make them into federating units would be erroneous.

“The use of number of local councils in revenue allocation has also created an obvious imbalance to the disadvantage of some States. It is best to keep local councils out of the constitution and allow each State to create the number it considers appropriate for its local administration,” he said.

Fashola also rejected the current revenue allocation formula, which according to him, allows the Federal Government take 52.68 per cent of centrally-collected revenues in the Federation Account, leaving the states and local councils with 26.72 per cent and 20.60 per cent respectively.

He explained that the formula “has created a glaring and unacceptable imbalance in the financial resources of the three tiers of government taking cognizance of the fact that revenue is central to the existence and functioning of both the Federal Government and federating states.”

Having regard to the constitutional allocation of functions as it currently exists, Fashola therefore sought the following for adoption as the new revenue allocation formula, which would allocate 35 per cent for Federal Government; 42 per cent for state governments and 23 per cent for local councils.

On the state creation, Fashola said: “It is the position of the Lagos State Government that the Nigerian federation does not at this time require the creation of additional states. This view takes into consideration the huge cost which the administrative machinery and personnel of the new state will entail.”

According to him, most states are currently not sufficiently viable to justify further subdivisions. Also we want to draw attention to the largely untapped administrative potentials of the existing local councils, which can easily be used to cater for local or sectional interests.

He also opposed the federal police apparatus, which had proved ineffective in a federation with 36 states, 768 local councils and a population of over 140 million persons, who belong to various ethnic groups with distinctive population, language, land mass, religion and cultural attitudes.

He, therefore, said it “is the position of Lagos State Government that the constitution should confer power 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 force.”

He described the inclusion of provisions relating to rotation of executive offices in the constitution ad antithetical to the unity of the country, noting 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.”

He also expressed the support of the Lagos State Government for the proposal seeking “to amend the constitution to confer elective mayoral status on the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). This will give the administration a measure of autonomy and make the Mayor accountable to the people.”

Tags: Nigeria, Featured, Politics, Babatunde Fashola

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