By Innocent Anaba & Olasunkanmi Akoni
Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State, yesterday, replied the letter earlier written to him by President Umaru Yarâ€™Ãdua to revert to 20 Local Government Areas, saying it is impossible since the Local Council Development Areas were created by law of the stateâ€™s House of Assembly.
A statement by the Senior Special Adviser to the Governor on Media, Hakeem Bello, said: â€œThe letter underscores the fact that when there is a constitutional disagreement in a federal system like ours in Nigeria, it is not open to any of the parties to pronounce on the constitutionality or lack of it on the issue at stake. It is the age long responsibility of the Judiciary to determine disputes pertaining to the Constitution.
â€œThe letter also points out that no party in the dispute has the right to resort to self-help in a polity governed by law and order.
â€œIndeed as explained in the letter, in the case at hand, it is impossible for His Excellency, the Governor of Lagos State, to accede to the request to dismantle the currently existing Local Governments and Local Council Development Authorities, strictly because they were created by laws validly enacted by the state House of Assembly.
â€œAccording to the letter, as Head of the executive arm of government, the Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), is unable to unilaterally invalidate the laws made by the House of Assembly,â€ the statement said.
AC, Aturu react
The Action Congress (AC) and Lagos lawyer, Mr Bamidele Aturu, also yesterday faulted the threat by President Yarâ€™Adua.
While AC insisted that the creation of additional 37 Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) to the existing 20 councils by the Lagos State Government was not illegal, Aturu said the Supreme Court pronouncement on the matter confirmed that all necessary steps for the creation of the LCDAs had been met, except that the National Assembly has not given its final endorsement.
He said: â€œThe indisputable implication of the judgment of the Supreme Court is that the referenda were validly conducted and concluded and also that the law passed by the state House of Assembly was validly done.â€
National Publicity Secretary of AC, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, also accused the Peopleâ€™s Democratic Party (PDP) led Federal Government of attempting to distract the government of Lagos State from its development efforts.
He said: â€œFor the avoidance of doubt, the Supreme Court did not say the creation of 37 additional councils in Lagos was unconstitutional and illegal, as President Yarâ€™Adua wrote in his letter. It merely said the creation was incomplete because the National Assembly has yet to carry out its own part.
â€œThe court never asked Lagos to revert to 20 local governments. And the 37 are development areas for which Lagos State is not getting additional funds from the Federal Government,â€ he said.
Aturu on his part said: â€œWhen the matter went up to the Supreme Court. The apex court found as a fact that the state complied with all the steps required for creating new local governments and that what was left was for the National Assembly to make the necessary consequential amendments to the Constitution as required by section 8(5) of the constitution.â€
â€œThe threat of the President if carried out would amount to a blatant act of aggression and subversion of the rule of law and the principles of federalism. It would expose the President as a war monger who does not understand how aggrieved Nigerians are with his failure to deliver on any item of his advertised seven point agenda.
â€œBy the way which organs of state is Mr President referring to? Is he going to draft the army or the Police to seal up the Secretariats or level the Development Areas just as he did to Gbaramatu Kingdom? If that is his plan, I have little doubt that he would meet his waterloo in Lagos. The President seems to have run out of governance ideas and he is desperately seeking all means to heat up the polity in order to distract peoplesâ€™ attention from his embarrassing failings as a leader. The President needs to substantiate the allegations that the LCDAs are being run on money allocated for the 20 Local Governments. It is not just enough to make the allegationâ€, he added.