BY DAPO AKINREFON, OLASUNKANMI AKONI & MONSUR OLOWOOPEJO
Lagos— PRESIDENT of the Senate, Senator David Mark, and Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State have agreed on the need to give Lagos State a special status in the constitution.
They said this, yesterday, at the South-West zonal public hearing on proposed amendment of the 1999 Constitution, in Lagos.
Also, Senator Gbenga Ashafa (ACN, Lagos East) justified the need to accord Lagos a special status, saying: “From the opinions of the people of this district, there is no going back on our resolve that Lagos be given Special Status.
I have continually stressed that Lagos remains the commercial and industrial capital of Nigeria in spite of Abuja. It is also the largest employer of labour in Nigeria, a situation, which only a special status can sustain and enhance for the benefit and welfare of all Nigerians.”
This came as Mark dismissed insinuations that the leadership of the National Assembly had a hidden agenda in reviewing the 1999 Constitution.
He explained that the public hearings being held across the six geo-political zones of the federation, were aimed at ensuring that Nigerians make contributions to the constitution amendment exercise.
No hidden agenda—Mark
Dismissing allegations of a hidden agenda, Mark said: “The Senate and indeed, the National Assembly has no hidden agenda. Nobody can say what will happen and what will not happen. There are so many topics that are before us, but we may not be able to take all of them in one single sweep.”
Fashola restates need for state police
On his part, Fashola restated his stand on the need for a state police and a special status given to Lagos State.
He said: “As far as Lagos State is concerned, its strategic importance to the Federal Republic of Nigeria cannot be over-emphasized; its contributions in terms of GDP, political, social and economic development cannot be argued. All those who have defined themselves in this country can call Lagos their first or second home.
“Lagos is a place where you would see somebody who looks like you, who dresses like you, who eats your kind of food and who speaks your language. Lagos State was a federal capital of Nigeria but this is the only former capital that has been left on its own. And I think that in the national interest, Lagos now deserves and should be treated as a special state.”
I do not say it because of Lagos, but I say it because of Nigeria. This is where all the food producing regions sell their food, this is the market for the whole country. Now, the reality is that if this state (Lagos) does not prosper, prosperity will become difficult in any part of the country. And therefore, it is my humble opinion that Lagos be given a special status.”
While identifying the limitation of time, he advised the leadership of the National Assembly to take necessary steps that will ensure the process ends well.
Speaking further, Fashola said it was imperative for each state in the federation to develop at its own pace saying that will enhance development in the country.
According to him, “a federal arrangement for this country, in my view, is not negotiable. We are so different yet the same and the best way therefore is to allow each independent state to develop at its own speed, according to its own resources, according to its own ability in a way that the prosperity of each state can become the prosperity of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
So to issues like fiscal federalism and political federalism, I will put them on the top of the line. What is most important to deal with is our national security because without national security, people will continue to live in fear and there is very little we can do.
It is only in an area of peace and security that we can do business, that we can govern and plan. Therefore until each state is able to enforce its own laws, we will continue to be beset with this problem of national security. And my advocacy for a state police does not mean that it will exist without the federal authority, but very clearly, the central government has been unable to recruit enough personnel to distribute across the state.
There state laws relating to local issues that even the federal police is not bothered about any more. In advisory manner, the issue of more states and more regions must be looked at by balancing the agitation with realities of our finances.
On the one side, the Nigerian people are strong in their views that there is too much money being spent in running governance. Let me also advise that the constitution does not create any organ without responsibility and with responsibility comes personnel.
So, if you decide to create more regions and more states, it will bring more money.”
Earlier in his remarks, the Senate Minority Whip, Senator Ganiyu Solomon explained that the zonal public hearing was aimed at bringing the review closer to the people.
Senator Solomon assured people from the South West that the committee would consider all inputs in the ongoing process to amend the constitution.
Eminent personalities from the South West region present at the public hearing include: Senators Femi Lanlehin, Gbenga Ashafa, Oluremi Tinubu, Gbenga Kaka, Sola Adeyeye, Ayo Otegbola, Kunlere Boluwaji, Anthony Adeniyi, Akin Odunsi and Gbenga Babalola.
Others are former governors of Lagos and Ondo states, Alhaji Lateef Jakande and Dr Olusegun Agagu; Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwanu Akiolu, former Minister of Works, Senator Seye Ogunlewe; Chief Niyi Akintola, Speakers of the Oyo and Ekiti State Houses of Assembly.