RIGHT OF REPLY
BY LANRE AKINSOLA
I have just read an article on the back page of Thisday of March 11, 2019 authored by Mr. Femi Falana SAN with the above as its title.
In making a case for politics of inclusion in Lagos State, the learned senior advocate made reference to what he described as “the politicisation of the 2013 expulsion of beggars and destitute from Lagos by the Babatunde Fashola administration.” He went further to say that: “the anti-poor policy acquired an ethnic coloration when 47 beggars and destitute of Anambra State of origin were expelled from Lagos.
With respect, I consider the references made by Mr. Falana needless and irrelevant to the points he strove to make in his article. The fact is that at no time were people –whether beggars or not- ever expelled or deported from Lagos during the time of Mr. Babatunde Fashola as governor of Lagos State.
For the sake of those who might have not been aware of what transpired in 2013 which Mr. Falana referred to as “anti-poor policy” of the Lagos State Government, as well as those who might share Mr. Falana’s perception of events, I consider it imperative to respond to Mr. Falana, if only to put the records straight. This is more so that a court of competent jurisdiction – the Federal High Court – had made a definitive pronouncement on the subject in a case which I believe Mr. Falana ought to have been aware of.
Following the decision of the government to assist those who indicated their intention to return home, a number of cases were instituted on their behalf against the government. These include: Suits No. FHC/AWKS/211/2013, ID/736M/13, FHC/L/CS/1369/13, FHC/L/CS/1218/2013 and FHC/L/CS/1218/13, amongst others.
In none of these cases was Lagos State government or Mr. Babatunde Fashola ever indicted.
For example, in dismissing Suit No. FHC/L/CS/1218/2013 Incorporated Trustees of Media Rights Agenda v. Lagos State Government on December 5, 2014, the Federal High Court [Coram Justice Musa Kurya} found that contrary to the allegations of the applicants, the Lagos State Government did not deport them or any other person or group of persons to any place outside the territory of Lagos State.
In that case, the applicants’ claim for “the sum of N1,000,000,000 [One Billion Naira] damages as compensation to the applicants from the Respondents jointly and severally for unlawful violation of the applicants’ constitutional rights” was found to be without merit having regard to the court’s finding that Lagos State did not ‘deport’ the applicants as alleged.
As a matter of policy, Lagos State Government caters for the welfare and wellbeing of all residents of the state irrespective of their state of origin. In furtherance of this policy, the state government does its best to ensure that residents are gainfully employed and properly accommodated so that they do not constitute themselves into destitute, vagrant and beggars.
What happened in 2013 was that Lagos State Government rescued a number of people from different parts of the state while they were living under bridges and by roadsides, and others who were engaged in other social vices with no discernible means of livelihood or physical address in the state.
The affected individuals, who could not provide details of their places of residence or location of their businesses in the state, were taken to Lagos State Rehabilitation and Training Centre at Majidun – a facility established by the state government to rehabilitate and give vocational training to residents for the purpose of making them useful members of the society. At the centre, they were provided with opportunities to acquire vocational skills in tailoring, carpentry, craft making, bead-making and interior decoration, amongst others
Upon satisfactory completion of the skill acquisition programmes, they were given every reasonable opportunity and assistance to make contacts with members of their families for the purpose of releasing them into their care to ensure that they did not return to the streets.
Returning home was a decision of those individuals who did not have discernible place of residence or relations in Lagos State and who indicated their desire to return to their home state. They were requested to provide details of their home states to enable the government to make necessary provision to hand them over to their respective governments who would in turn assist to reintegrate them with their families.
This, in fact, is an established practice amongst state governments in the country. State governments regularly hand over rescued individuals to their home states for purposes of rehabilitation and reintegration with their kith and kin. On many occasions, states had handed over a number of Lagosians to the government for rehabilitative purposes.
I believe that with the decision of the court given more than four years ago, the issue of what happened in 2013 had finally been settled.
Even against this isolated one-off suspicion of alleged exclusion and alleged deportation, there are daily recurring incidents of people from other states enjoying and benefiting from government policies of free health and non-discriminatory access to educational and economic opportunities in Lagos State from time immemorial to date. Even in some other federations that we aspire to be like, such accesses are not taken for granted.
I believe that these acts of inclusion need to be appreciated, applauded, saluted and spoken more about than suspicious acts of isolated exclusion which a court of competent jurisdiction had ruled upon as unfounded.
- Lanre Akinsola, a legal practitioner, writes from Lagos
INEC’s Fresh Powers to De-register Political Parties
In the case of Independent National Electoral Commission v. Balarabe Musa (2003) 10 WRN 1, the Supreme Court upheld the fundamental right of Nigerian citizens to form or belong to political parties of their choice in accordance with Section 40 of the 1999 Constitution of the Republic. But the expansion of the democratic space was exploited by people of ill-motivated agenda who set up all kinds of political associations and proceeded to register them as political parties. Regrettably, INEC has failed woefully to enforce the relevant provisions of the Constitution and the Electoral Act on the registration and operation of political parties.
However, the opportunism of some of the political parties was exposed when elected legislators decamped from one party to another without resigning from the legislative houses to renew their mandate. INEC did not insist on internal democracy when a few godfathers engaged in the imposition of candidates to contest elections contrary to the provisions of the Electoral Act. As if that was enough, some of the registered political parties shamelessly abandoned their presidential candidates and adopted Alhaji Mohammed Buhari and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidates of the All Progressives Congress and Peoples Democratic Party respectively in the recently concluded general elections.
Disturbed by the mockery of multi party democracy in the country through the unprincipled proliferation of political parties, the National Assembly amended the Electoral Act 2010 to empower INEC to de-register political parties that failed to win any election. Since political parties were registered pursuant to section 222 of the Constitution the suits filed by the affected political parties succeeded as the Federal High Court declared the amendment unconstitutional and set it aside. However, the National Assembly took advantage of the 2017 constitutional review to reduce the number of registered political parties in the country. Thus, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (Fourth Alteration, No 9) Act, 2017 enacted on May 4, 2017 has amended section 225 of the 1999 Constitution to empower the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to de-register political parties on grounds of:
“a. breach of any of the requirements for registration;
- failure to win at least twenty-five percent of votes cast in- (i) one State of the Federation in a Presidential election; or (ii) one local government of the state in a governorship election; © failure to win at least- (i) one ward in the chairmanship election; (ii) one seat in the National or State House of Assembly election; or(iii) One seat in the councillorship election.”
From the foregoing, it is indubitably clear that INEC has been conferred with enormous powers to de-register political parties that fail to meet the fresh constitutional prerequisites. Going by the results of the 2019 general elections, the 91 registered political parties may have been reduced to less than 10 that may have scaled the constitutional hurdle. Not a few people would hail the constitutional amendment in view of the prostitution of the political system by political parties which are ill-equipped to promote participatory democracy, economic freedom, human rights and rule of law. But it ought to be pointed out that the planned de-registration of political parties that fail to win elections is likely to limit the political space to the so called mainstream political parties that are not committed to any political philosophy or ideology.
Finally, to sanitise the political system, INEC is called upon to formulate new guidelines for the registration of political parties within the ambit of the Constitution. This should be done in view of the fact that not less than 100 political associations are said to have submitted applications for the registration of new political parties. With respect to registered political parties INEC must fully comply with section 225(2) of the Constitution by sanctioning them if they fail to submit a detailed annual statement and analysis of their sources of funds and assets. This will go a long way to check the monetisation and brazen manipulation of the democratic process by political godfathers. More importantly, INEC should henceforth exercise its powers under Section 224 of the Constitution by ensuring that the programmes as well as the aims and objects of every political party conform with the provisions of the fundamental objectives and directive principles of State Policy enshrined in Chapter II of the Constitution.
- Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, writes from Lagos