By Adekunle Adekoya, Dayo Benson, Political Editor and Dapo Akinrefon
THE whole nation must be on tenterhooks, wondering what the Federal Government will cause to happen in Lagos today as the ultimatum it handed the state government expired last night.
A crisis that many thought would eventually be resolved in the fullness of time, given President Umaru Musa Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s oft-touted rule of law posture was re-ignited last weekend when the President wrote the Lagos State Government, ordering it to revert to the 20 local governments recognised by the Constitution. Lagos State had created 37 additional local governments, which it styled LCDAs (Local Council Development Areas), as the National Assembly was yet to finalize their creation.
In a letter dated July 14, 2009, the President gave a 14-day ultimatum to the Lagos State Government to comply with the directive, failing which he (the President) â€œshall be compelled to direct that necessary actions be taken by the relevant organs of State to defend the Constitution and preserve the authority of the Federal Government.â€
In the same letter, the President had said that the Lagos State Government should wind up the operations of the 37 LCDAs within the 14 days it prescribed.
â€œThe operations of the 37 Local Council Development Areas should equally be stopped forthwith within the same period by the state government.â€
Expectedly, the Lagos State Government, hinging its position on constitutionalism and the same rule of law rebuffed the Federal Governmentâ€™s demand. In replying the President, Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Raji Fasola (SAN), said, inter alia:
â€œAs the head of a State Government that is committed to the highest standards of Constitutionalism and legality, I regret that I am unable to accede to your request to alter the current status quo by stopping the operation of the 37 Local Council Development Areas,â€ adding â€œit would require me as head of the Executive arm of the State Government to alter the provisions of an existing and valid law made by the Lagos State House of Assembly.â€
The LCDAs were created in 2004 following a referendum conducted by the state government, but the matter became mired in legal and political controversy that is yet to be fully settled, in spite of a Supreme Court ruling to the effect that they were constitutionally created, but remain â€œinchoateâ€ until the National Assembly had made such orders that would legally complete their creation.
Despite this, the Obasanjo administration withheld funds meant for the councils, which sparked another legal battle resolved in favour of Lagos State, but which the Obasanjo presidency ignored.
In boxing terms, the gloves are off with the latest from the Yar’ Ãdua administration as far as the creation of local governments by the Lagos State Government is concerned.
Given the latest development, and as the ultimatum expired last midnight, what will the President do?
Will the President live up to his threat? Having made it clear that he is not averse to bringing the federal might down on Lagos State, will the troops be called out? Will Lagosians wake up to see armed men manning the secretariats of the 37 LCDAs?
Will workers at the LCDAs still have access to their offices? If they report for work, will they be rounded up and arrested? And the officials of the LCDAs: will they be picked up from their homes? Since the Federal Government wants the operations of the LCDAs stopped forthwith, will it use federal might to freeze their accounts?
Or, as the President of the Nigeria Bar Association, Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) has advised, will the President pause, reflect, and seek solutions at the law courts? Another sunrise is imminent, and answers to some, if not all of these questions will start emerging.
Lagos quest is not before National Assembly – Senator Ayogu Eze
SENATOR Ayogu Eze is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Media. In this interview with Vanguard, he bared his mind on the recent face-off between President Yarâ€™Adua and Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos over the local government council areas. Excerpts:
Why is it taking the National Assembly so long to attend to Lagos State request to create more local councils?
The matter is not for the National Assembly because you cannot approve local government creation in any part of the country without amending the constitution. We have to look at section 8 and section 9 of the constitution which clearly states the number of local government recognised in the country, 774 of them and listed them in the constitution. Unless you amend that constitution, any creation of local government exercise is a nullity.
Which one should come first, approving the local government as created and later amending the constitution or amending the constitution first before you ratify?
They must go pari passu, the constitution must recognise it before it can happen, they must follow the process of clearing the constitution for the amendment and it is not just a ratification. Just look at that section closely, you will understand what I mean.
One would have expected the National Assembly to ratify it and then subsequently, it will now be reflected in the constitution…
(Cuts in) How can we ratify something that is not constitutional. They must follow the process as outlined in the constitution.
But I believe it is the ratification by the National Assembly that will legitimize it before it now reflects in the constitution.
No. Because to amend a constitution is not an affair between the National Assembly and Lagos State alone. It is an affair between the National Assembly and 2/3 majority of the Houses of Assemblies of Nigeria.
But is it true that it is because of other political undertone of the request, that it is being delayed for so long?
I donâ€™t want to respond to that.
So, when are we going to have the constitution amendment?
We are on it and it will come through in the life of this government before getting to 2011. Anybody who has a genuine matter that required inclusion in the constitution including local government creation, should take advantage of that opportunity, but before then, anything anybody has done outside the constitution is an illegality.
But what we have in Lagos State are not local governments, they are local council development areas and I believe the law permits each state that wants to do that to do so?
I donâ€™t know.
The Supreme Court says that the power to create local governments lies with the state……
I am not aware of that
What of the Supreme Court judgement between Federal Government and Lagos State where the court says the power to create local government lies with the state?
We are saying the same thing because for it to be ratified in the National Assembly, it must involve 2/3 majority of Houses of Assemblies in Nigeria. So, whether you go through a long route or short route, you must come back to that point.
Are you assuring Nigerians that in the life of this administration, the constitution will be amended because there are fears already; even Justice Uwais raised that concern few weeks ago?
We are doing everything we can within the constitutional amendment committee of the National Assembly to ensure that we do that before 2011. We can always say that as human beings because we are not God, but within the limit of our powers as, we are doing everything to ensure that we bring about progress.
FG’s breaching the constitution – Prof Sagay
IT is obvious that the Federal Government is trying to forcefully encroach on the autonomy of Lagos State government. And with that process, they are committing a violent breach of the constitution because the constitution is clear in Section 7 that â€œa state is exclusively in charge of its local governmentâ€ and the Federal Government has no role.
What the Federal Government is trying to do, is to break the barrier created by the autonomy between state and local governments by now coming inside the exclusive jurisdiction and authority of a state government, to dictate to that state the internal arrangement for its local government administration.
That falls foul of the constitution. This is not something one is saying off the cuff; apart from the provision of the constitution of Section 7 itself, you have several judgements already between the Lagos State Government and the Federal Government on this issue and in other cases where the Supreme Court made it clear that the Federal Government has no role in local government administration and that it should leave the state to organise itself.
On this very issue itself, the Supreme Court had already declared that the local governments created by the Lagos State government, were validly created, but should not come into operation because the last stage, which is in the National Assembly, has not been completed. Now, what the Lagos State Government has done, is to create sub-local government units, the 37 so called Local Council Development Areas, they are not local governments. And the state government is authorised to organised itself, internally, and create such sub units for the better administration and development of the state.
And the other thing I want to add is that this is a Federal Government that is incapable of generating electricity, that is plunging the whole country into darkness, that cannot repair its infrastructure, all our roads are bad, there is no water. The hospitals are in a disgraceful state, they cannot function properly, this is a government that cannot carry out its primary function as a federal government needs to deal with its responsibility now, it is contesting with the Lagos State government over local council. The Federal Government is way out and the underlying threat which the President stated at the end of his letter is very alarming.
And if he’s not (Yarâ€™Adua) careful, he will turn this country into a major crisis, in spite of the warning by the Supreme Court that any disagreement the Federal Government may have with a state, about the legality of any action, must be brought before the court.