Damilola Oyedele in Abuja
The House of Representatives wednesday passed through second reading a bill seeking to grant special economic status to Lagos State to ensure that the state receives the necessary support from the federal government to develop critical infrastructure and cater to its rising population.
A similar bill had suffered defeat in the Senate, but was repackaged in the House of Representatives to include consideration for special status to Kano, Anambra and states with cities within the threshold of 10 million inhabitants, which meet the criteria for megacity by the United Nations.
The bill is named ‘A Bill for an Act to Alter the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2004, to grant Special Economic Consideration to Certain States in Nigeria and other matters related thereto.’
If passed into law, any state with Special Consideration Status would be entitled to 20 per cent of all proceeds accruing to the federal government from the state, to mitigate the pressures of urbanisation, overcrowding and decaying infrastructure.
It was sponsored by Hon. Babajimi Benson (Lagos APC), Hon. Linda Chuba Ikpeazu (Anambra PDP), Hon. Danburam Abubakar Nuhu (Kano APC) and Hon. Sadiq Ibrahim (Adamawa APC), who described it as the ‘unity bill’.
Benson, leading the debate, said the 20 per cent would assist in revival of the economic potentials of such states to contribute significantly to economic prosperity in the country.
“This bill, asides being in conformity with global demands, will position Nigeria as a proactive country ready to address the urban challenges of overpopulation, poverty, infrastructure decay and environmental degradation, also cater for the teeming youths who represent 70 per cent of our demography,” Benson said.
Justifying the inclusion of Anambra, the lawmaker noted that Onitsha has been known for trading and inflow of people from all regions of Nigeria since the mid-1850s, following the abolition of slave trade.
It should therefore be considered for special benefits that will enhance its economic output and rich potentials, Benson said.
“In the same vein, the textile, apparel and footwear industry in Kano, played dominant role in the manufacturing sector of the Nigerian economy in the 70s and 80s, but today the textile industry that influenced the inflow to such cities, is moribund and require urgent attention that can only be achieved if the states have a sustainable fund dedicated to economic regeneration,” he said.
Kano also has the capacity to host more than 10 million Nigerians if given the needed support, Benson added.
The lawmaker made a much more passionate appeal for Lagos, where he represents, emphasising that the state remains the economic hub of the country, and provide 60 per cent of Nigeria’s gross domestic product.
“The GDP of Lagos State ranks fourth in Africa below Cairo, Johannesburg, and Cape Town. Lagos houses headquarters of national and global companies, and the complex business and professional services that support them.
“Despite the revenue and ambiance contributed to Nigeria, poverty and social exclusion remains a major challenge because of the decay in infrastructure as occasioned by overpopulation and urbanisation,” he add