Lagos Demands Return to First Republic Federal Structure

Tunji Bello

Rejects plan to allow INEC conduct council polls
Gboyega Akinsanmi

In what appears to be an expression of its frustration under the current federal arrangement, the Lagos State Government yesterday said Nigerian federalism “is skewed and military in nature,” adding that it is inhibiting socio-economic progress of the federating units.

In a clear reference to the First Republic, the state government therefore canvassed the need to institutionalise the principles of true federalism, the kind that would allow each federating unit to contribute agreed percentage of its revenue to the national government.

The state government equally rejected a recent proposal by the National Assembly that the power “to conduct local government elections be taken away from the states and added to the functions of the national electoral body controlled by the government at the centre.”

The Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Mr. Tunji Bello, espoused the position of the state government on the need to fairly review the 1999 Constitution at the 57th annual conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) currently on-going at Landmark Centre, Oniru, Lagos.

At the same conference last Sunday, the state Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, lamented aberrations in the 1999 Constitution, saying the legal framework would continue to stunt the country’s economic growth and inhabit capacity of states to harness their potential.

The governor had challenged the NBA and its leadership “to support the demand for devolution of power to states and fiscal federalism, especially the review of the current revenue sharing formula.”
In a follow-up engagement yesterday, Bello took advantage of the NBA conference to speak extensively on the position of the state government on restructuring, thereby describing the current federal structure as “skewed federalism or military federalism.”

He, therefore, canvassed the need to institutionalise the principles of true federalism, which he said, was as the catalyst of socio-economic development in every federal state across the world.
The SSG noted that the principles of true federalism “are not new to Nigeria,” which he said was the core features of the First Republic in which each region was allowed to manage its resources and contribute to the federal purse.

Bello recommended the federal governance structure under the First Republic which he said obliged Nigeria with legal framework that guaranteed that each region kept 50 per cent of its natural resources.

Under the First Republic, Bello said each region contributed 50 per cent “to the federal government, and the remaining 50 per cent was shared by all the regions on the basis of need. Unfortunately, our nation today has unwittingly locked up itself and it urgently needs to free itself so that the full potential of our country in its entirety can blossom.”

Even by logic, he argued that a federation “derives its strength from its constituents. So, how then do we reconcile the recent proposal that the power to organise local government elections be taken away from the states and added to the functions of the national electoral body controlled by the government at the centre?

“If we say the reason is because the ruling party in the state tends to win all seats in council polls, what is the guaranty that it will also not become the turn of the party that controls the government at the centre to make a clean sweep of all the council seats as well?

“The practice of the current skewed federalism or what I call military federalism being camouflaged as genuine federalism must stop as most of the states are currently hemorrhaging socio-economically. As such, they cannot be counted in the effort at genuine institution-building.

“We need to do away with this and imbibe the principles of true federalism as being practiced in Canada, Australia, India, Germany, United States among others. For genuine institution-building, legal practitioners should join forces with the Lagos State Government.”

Between 1993 and 2003, Bello said the US Supreme Court advanced the cause for true federalism through granting of rights due to states against the US federal government in several landmark judgments.
According to him, it is instructive that this happened in a country whose democracy has evolved as a federation for over 200 years. This indicates that the cause of a stable federation is a continuous process.

He, therefore, said Lagos “has the capacity and potential of becoming the African version of Hong Kong. But the challenge before us is first to overcome the obstacles posed by the present federalist structure.
“Let me give you a clear poser. Would Apapa port and the Lagos International Airport remain so derelict and obsolete if they were allowed to be managed by proper private investors under the local authorities as they do in most advanced economies?” Bello asked.

In a separate development, the state government said it would begin supply of Lake Rice in preparation for the forthcoming Eid-el-Kabir celebration, noting that the sale “has been scheduled to commence tomorrow in various centres across the state.”
The Commissioner for Agriculture, Mr. Oluwatoyin Suarau, disclosed in a statement yesterday, that Ambode “has since inception, embarked on agricultural policies and programmes that will enhance the availability of food in the state.”

He listed distribution centres to include all 57 local government areas and Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs); the Agricultural Development Area Complex, Oko-Oba, Agege; LTV Blue Roof Complex, Agidingbi, Ikeja, and other designated centres across the state.
He added that 50kilogrammes bag of Lake Rice would only cost N12,000; 25kg N6,000 and 10kg for N2,500, noting that the rice “is for all Lagos residents irrespective of their religion or tribes.”