Renowned constitutional lawyer, Professor Itse Sagay, SAN, and human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, SAN, have called for the entrenchment of true federalism in Nigeria, saying that the way the country is being currently run would stifle development.
This position was made know after the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Obasa disclosed that the legislative house has performed excellently in satisfying the yearnings of Lagosians.
Speaking as guest lecturers at the first anniversary of the inauguration of the present membership of the Lagos State House of Assembly, with the theme: “Lagos State in a True Federalism and State Police,” on Monday June 13, the two Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) agreed that Nigeria needs both political and fiscal federalism for rapid development.
In his speech, the Speaker, who declared that the Assembly has made remarkable improvements on the lives of Lagosians, informed the gathering that seven people-oriented laws and 88 resolutions have been passed towards making life meaningful for the people.
“We have been preoccupied with activities geared towards improving the quality of lives of our people and I stand proudly and fulfilled to say today that we have performed excellently in fulfilling promises made during our inauguration in June, 2015,” he stated.
The Speaker assured that the Assembly would not rest on its oars as members are determined to enact laws that would enhance the welfare of the people as well as ensure that dividends of democracy are delivered to them even at their doorsteps.
Sagay however observed, in his lecture, that the constitution of Nigeria should be a reflection of its historical development, adding that Nigeria’s federalism is too centralized and stunting national growth.
The celebrated scholar maintained that each state ought to enjoy a measure of autonomy in a true federalism, and that governments have horizontal relationships in a federal system of government.
“Nigeria has deviated from an ideal federalism because of over-centralisation of power. It is wrong to centralise institutions such as Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), Nigeria Police Council, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and others. Chief Obafemi Awolowo was right to have said that Nigeria is not a nation, but that it is mere geographical expression, Sagay stated.
To him, “There should be respect for nationalities and the basis of our association should be explained,” insisting that “under the regional government, the region keeps 50% of its resources, gives 20% to the central government and the remaining 30% is sent to the pool, which would be shared by the state”.
According to him, each region had its own coat of arms, constitution and motto, but that the independence and autonomy of the regions were destroyed by the military in 1966.
Sagay disclosed that the arrogation of power to the central government got to the peak during the era of the late General Sanni Abacha, as head of state.
He submitted that Nigeria is the only federal republic without a state police, and that apart from states, local governments and even schools could have their own police.
The scholar berated the states in Nigeria for what he termed over-dependence on Federal Government, while stressing that the unitary system of government being operated in Nigeria is stifling the states.
“The 36 states commissioners for finance gather in Abuja every month at a meeting chaired by the Minister of Finance to share federal allocations. Former president Olusegun Obasanjo operated the worst federalism in the history of Nigeria between 1999 and 2007,” he said.
Sagay argued that in a federal system of government, Lagos State should control the Apapa and Tin Can Island Ports, and that even if they are controlled by the Federal Government, the state should get 13% derivation.
All these were corroborated by the second guest speaker, Mr. Femi Falana, who added that the local government system in Nigeria is a bastardization of federalism.
Falana stated that the constitution of Nigeria makes it clear that the Federal Government should provide security for the people, but that social security is the most important aspect of security.
“Social welfare should be provided for the people by the government. In many countries, the right to social security is a fundamental right,” he said.
On the June 12, 1993 presidential election, he said that Chief MKO Abiola was voted for by Nigerians because he had a programme ‘Farewell to Poverty.’
The radical lawyer added that it was the first time the country had Muslim-Muslim Ticket, and that If not for the annulment of the June 12, 1993 election, the nation would have had 23 years of uninterrupted military rule in Nigeria.
“It is the failure of the states to have social security that we have armed robbers and kidnappers that kill people every time. The Niger Delta Avengers are not fighting for restructuring, but for their own country.”
“The fundamental human right to life is guaranteed by the constitution. The government has failed to police the country properly, if anybody is killed by armed robbers, kidnappers or thugs, the family has a right to go to court to sue the Federal Government,” he said.