The 3rd anniversary of the 8th Legislative Session of the Lagos State House of Assembly (LSHA) was recently celebrated with a special plenary session that had the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo and Governor Akinwumi Ambode, among other dignitaries in attendance. Also in attendance were leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC) at local, state and national levels.
The anniversary provided an opportunity for elected legislators in Lagos state, under the leadership of Rt Hon. Mudashiru Obasa to give account of their stewardship and to present their score card to the electorate for necessary appraisals.
Speaking on the theme: ‘Strengthening Legislative Institutions as a Panacea for Enduring Democracy,’ Obasa emphasized the need for a strengthened legislature beyond engaging the electorate in form of debates, and consideration of motions, resolutions and bills but through the promotion of democracy and all-inclusive governance.
He stated that the executive had a role to play in the survival of the legislature, adding that an executive arm that negatively influences the business of the legislature could not be categorized to be democratic. He also noted that relationship between the Executive and Legislature should be cordial in order to ensure political stability.
The Speaker disclosed that the 8th Assembly, since its inauguration on June 8, 2015, had passed 28 bills into laws; with 13 of them being passed in the past one year.
With over hundred resolutions passed, the 8th Assembly of LSHA, is undoubtedly a trail blazer in the discharge of legislative duties: formulating laws for the benefit of the good people of Lagos State and in the promoting an inclusive, participatory, open and people-oriented democracy.
“Some of these laws address issues relating to the environment, power and energy sector, health, transport, as well as education. Notable among them is the Lagos State Electric Sector Reform Law 2017, which aims at ensuring the protection of consumer interest and compliance with environmental laws. The law is to further strengthen electricity generation, distribution and transmission for improved power supply in Lagos State,’’ Obasa said.
According to him, the Land Use Charge Law 2018 was also reviewed to weed off parts of it that were perceived obnoxious by the public. The review was necessary in view of public outrage against the law.
Also worthy of note, is the enactment of a law seeking to establish the Lagos State Cancer Research Institute to provide for the promotion, aid and coordination of researches relating to cancer and cancer-related illnesses. According to Obasa, the law was formulated institutionalise the campaign against cancer and improve the health and welfare of the citizenry.
The need to ensure that only professionally qualified teachers are employed in the state also necessitated the Lagos State Teaching Service Commission Law 2018; while the Lagos State Transport Sector Reform Law 2018 is expected to address issues relating to the challenges of road commuters in the state.
While condoling with the families of Otedola bridge tanker explosion, Obasa reiterated that no meaningful development can take place in an unsafe environment. He stated that the LSHA had (during the year under review), called for the urgent upgrading of all fire service stations in Lagos State with modern firefighting trucks, service equipment and personnel, to enable the Agency combat fire incidents with a view to preventing loss of lives and property in the state during fire or flood disaster.
While affirming the importance of the legislature, the Guest Soeaker and Vice President of Nigeria, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, said “Of the three organs of the government, the place of primacy belongs to the legislature. The function of government begins by law-making and is followed up by law-enforcement and adjudication functions. As such, the legislature is the first organ of the government.”
Professor Osinbajo advocated for a decentralized government towards the speedy eradication of poverty, adding that it was the needed structural change for Nigeria, at this time of huge socio-economic challenges.
“There is no question that poverty remains one of the most critical contemporary challenges of our nation. It is both a cause and effect of the conditions of squalor, disease and misery that millions of our people live in by creating stronger States (powered by collaborative efforts of the executive, legislature and judiciary), the Nigerian government would eradicate poverty quicker than imagined, Osinbajo says.
“Nigeria is a Federation of 36 sub-nationals and a Federal Capital Territory. The people, land, the busineses, the schools and healthcare facilities are all in the states. It is simply impossible for the nation to be wealthy when its component parts are poor. The standard of living of the federation depends on the standard of living of people who live in the states,” he said.
The Vice President also opined that the devolution of more power to the states would enable them to control more of their resources and make more of their own administrative decisions such as creation of Local Governments; the state and community police, including the state prisons; creation of special courts and tribunals of equivalent jurisdiction to high courts.
Referencing the phenomenal achievements of the Western Regional Government of Chief Obafemi Awolowo in industrialization and free quality education, Professor Osinbajo said that strengthening state governments would enhance rapidly the socio-economic development in the country.
While itemizing education, healthcare and job opportunities as three major indicators of poverty, Osinbajo said that “a combination of visionary leadership and strong autonomous states is a winning formula for economic development.’’
“Our population growth, as you know, is almost over 3 percent, and economic growth today, is certainly under 3 percent. By 2050 we would have the third largest population in the world. Three issues are critical to resolving the poverty problem. The first is education, second is healthcare, and the third is the provision of jobs.
“There is a need to focus, spend time and put resources behind education, not just at the Federal level but in particular, at the State level. This is because the States have primarily, the duty to ensure that primary and secondary education is funded. It is within the province of the State government, Federal government does not own primary and secondary schools, except the unity schools.
“It is time for compulsory Health Insurance. Every State can have its own, this is an important conversation for the executive and legislature to have, in setting a legislative agenda. There is no question at all, that we must spend more on healthcare just as we must spend more on education.
The Vice President also lauded the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF) established by a law of LSHA in 2016, adding that it is an excellent example of state intervention in creating opportunities for small businesses.
“As of May 2018, the fund has given out 7,000 loans totalling almost N5 billion, it has created over 12, 500 jobs in its first six months of operation. We think that this is a very important initiative of the State government, because it understands and addresses and important segment of our society; the young bright minds that require some capital to be able to multiply their ideas and thoughts,’’ he said.
Governor Akinwunmi Ambode commended the efforts of the 8th Assembly for formulating people-oriented laws and for remaining steadfast in the discharge of their duties.
He however called for more collaboration with the executive arm of government, in order to ensure accelerated.
In his opinion, the Governor of Osun State, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola believed that the Legislature is the most important arm of government.
Thus, for him, because of its importance, the Legislature should “be sacrosanct to democracy without which no democratic institution can function”.