By Our Reporters
LAGOS â€” AS the 14-day ultimatum President Umaru Yarâ€™ Adua handed down to Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State to revert to 20, the number ofÂ local government councils in the state expires midnight today, the state’s local government employees, under the aegis of NULGE, has thrown its weight behind the state government.
With the tone of President Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s letter, fears have been expressed that armed security men may be deployed to seal off the 37 Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) created by former Governor Bola Tinubu which led to a protracted face-off between him and former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
President Yarâ€™Adua, in his letter to Governor Fashola had stated, inter alia, â€œMay I add that if the Lagos State Government persists in breach of the constitution in respect of this matter beyond the asserted 14 days, I shall 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€
Apart from locking up the LCDAs and possibly arresting the Chairmen, the president may adopt his predecessorâ€™s measure of withholding Lagos Stateâ€™s monthly allocation from the federation account.
This will be in spite of the Supreme Court judgment that the federal government has no power to withhold local government allocations.
However the Federal Government has an option of approaching the apex court for proper interpretation of parts or the whole judgment.
While the Supreme Court acknowledged the power of the state government to create local government councils, as it was done by Lagos State, it however pointed out that the process is â€œinchoateâ€ until it is ratified by the National Assembly and listed in the constitution
Reacting to the latest development, President of Nigeria Bar Association, Mr Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), told Vanguard in a telephone chat that, â€œWe have different levels of government. We have the local, state and federal levels of government. If the Federal Government believes there is infraction against any aspect of the Constitution it should go to court.â€
Also speaking, constitutional lawyer, Professor Itse Sagay, said that â€œthe constitutsion is clear in Section 7 that a state is exclusively in charge of its local government and the Federal Government has no role. The state government is authorised to organise itself, internally, and create such sub-units for the better administration and development of the state.â€
In his own reaction Professor Oyebode of the Faculty of Law, University of Lagos advised President Yarâ€™Adua not to endanger the nationâ€™s democracy by engaging the Lagos State Government in an unnecessary dispute.
Meanwhile, executive members of National Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) yesterday paid a solidarity visit to Governor Babatunde Fashola and members of the State House of assembly.
The Lagos State Council of Obas and Chiefs in the state has summoned a crucial meeting today of all recognised obas, baales and chiefs to deliberate on the Presidentâ€™s letter on LCDAs.
However, National and the state Publicity Secretaries of the Action Congress, Alhaji Lai Mohammed and Joe Igbokwe respectively condemned President Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s letter to the Lagos State government to revert to the former 20 local government councils, describing the threat as another way the president wanted to divert attention from the sordid state of Nigeria at present.
However, Lagos State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in a statement by the Secretary, Mr Tunji Shelle, said the order of President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua to the Lagos State government to revert to 20 local government structure remains inevitable.
NULGE backs Fashola
Although, members of the media were excused from a meeting with the Governor, Vanguard howver learnt that NULGE members expressed their unflinching support for the state government on the creation of the 37 LCDAs.
It was also learnt that Governor Fashola expressed his administrationâ€™s determination not to tamper with a validly enacted law, stressing that the councils have come to stay.
AC asks Ya’Adua to direct energy elsewhere
AC in its statement advised Yarâ€™Adua to direct the unnecessary attention he was wasting on a long-settled issue to the disastrous floundering of the ship of the Nigerian state under his watch.
According to Igbokwe,: â€œLagos AC says it is pleasantly surprised that President Yarâ€™Adua still finds ample room to play very cheap politics when Nigeria is sinking and has become the butt of the ribaldry of the entire world under his incompetent watch.
â€œThe party advises that he finds more room for his petty partisanship than dissipate energy on an issue that had been satisfactorily settled by the highest court in Nigeria because he would fail woefully in his new partisan adventure.
â€œWhile Nigeria has been plunged into the pit of darkness, while the roads have become permanent death traps, while armed robbery, kidnapping and sundry crimes assail Nigerian people without let, while our hospitals have converted to huge mortuaries, while our educational institutions have become wastelands, while hunger, want and despair afflict Nigerians like never before, while the poverty gloom encircles Nigeria at its worst state, while the Niger Delta has become an intractable enclave, while corruption and official stealing have become norms, while electoral fraud and chicanery have been promoted to state creeds, Yarâ€™Adua still finds time to mischievously try to coerce Lagos into witling down its strength to appease his narrow and warped political interests.
â€œWe find it annoying that while Nigerians groan under Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s clearly incompetent watch, he still finds enough space to embark on the mission of making a sophisticated state like Lagos his vassal enclave when the last PDP government of his predecessor sought in vain to do that impossible task.”
Reversal, a must â€”PDP
PDP in its statement noted that the legal pronouncements on the matter both by the Supreme Court and the High Court in Lagos State had â€œeffectively rendered the additional local council development areas illegal and invalid and the argument of the state government baselessâ€.
According to the party, â€œThe statements credited to the Lagos State Government on the order byÂ President Musa Yarâ€™Adua that the 57 local government structure in the state is invalid and should accordingly revert to the 20 local governments recognized by the constitution did not come to us as a surprise.
The whole agenda is political and it is being driven by the selfishness of an individual. Though our expectation is that Governor Fashola as a legal mind would be more circumspect and act as custodian of the law by abiding with what is appropriate and legal instead of being goaded to act in a manner that amounts to lawlessness.
In any case, we are convinced that the president is right in his judgement because he is on the right side of the law, hence our belief that the governor is just buying time and the dissolution of the illegal councils is inevitable.”
While faulting the Lagos State government on the creation of the areas, it said â€œWe cannot understand the premise of such claim by the governor when the Supreme Court expressly stated that the process of creating these councils is inchoate and inoperable, which in essence renders them invalid and he is still making the baseless defence that they are legal.”