By Nosike Ogbuenyi

IT is an irrefutable fact today that Abuja and Lagos stand outas Nigeria’s two most important cities. Abuja as the federal capital of the Nigerian federation is the bureaucratic hub of the country. It is the head of Nigeria from which all major policies and administrative measures concerning the entire federation flow.

Lagos on the other hand is the commercial and industrial nerve centre of Nigeria. In other words, it is the economic turbine which propels the engine of the nation. Lagos, more than any other Nigerian city best combines and typifies the character, diversities, strengths and foibles of Nigeria. The coastal city state is an all-embracing mosaic which sums up the defining essence of the Nigerian being.

There are obvious similarities and dissimilarities between Lagos and Abuja. Being a coastal city state, Lagos has its idiosyncratic challenges. For instance, ocean surge is a major hunch threatening to wipe out the state in a fit. In Abuja, neither land nor water mass is a source of nightmare. Indeed, the problem of land space is much more telling in Lagos than Abuja.

Being a seaside swampy state, the soil and terrain of Lagos is intriguing making such things as road construction and other physical infrastructure a herculean task. Despite few rocky spots and valleys here and there, Abuja generally has excellent topography.

In many other salient aspects, however Lagos has a clear edge over Abuja. For instance, in matters concerning institutional frameworks and human resources base, Lagos is far ahead of the nation’s capital.

Lagos, today, boasts its own House of Assembly which churns out relevant laws and Abuja has none to fall on. Again, Lagos is a vast commercial/industrial hub with huge IGR potential, Abuja is not despite being the headquarters of ECOWAS and a leading international conference centre on the African continent. Lagos has a reservoir of experienced manpower in virtually all endeavours unlike Abuja which still lag behind in this area.

Beyond that, Abuja and Lagos have many things in common. First, the two have been capital cities of Nigeria. One can therefore profit from the gains of the other and learn from its mistakes as well. As the saying goes those who cannot learn from the mistakes of history are bound to repeat them.

Therefore, the recent exploratory visit by the Minister of Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Senator Bala Mohammed and his team to the Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babatunde Fashola was indeed significant.

Public transportation

The FCT Minister sounded quite unassuming and committed when he stated frankly that he resolved to visit Lagos with a large delegation of directors and senior special assistants from the FCT Administration to understudy relevant aspects of the Lagos formula which have worked so miraculously especially in the areas of internal revenue generation, tax collection, traffic control and regulation, infrastructure development and public transportation. No doubt these are areas of great concern to all genuine administrators of modern city states in the cast of Lagos and Abuja.

As Abuja understudies the Lagos formula, one area of glaring disparity to the disadvantage of the former which must be meaningfully tackled to ease the administration of the FCT is law and legislation.

In Abuja, there is no State Assembly to legislate for the FCTA. The constitution of the federal republic provides that the National Assembly, comprising the Senate and the House of Representatives should make laws for the FCT. That explains why Abuja has been largely depending on relics of colonial statutes and outdated military decrees, etc, for its enforcements and sanctions rather than modern laws passed by a representative law-making body of FCT.

Today, no fewer than 20 bills relating to the FCT are gathering dust at the National Assembly. Some of the bills were indeed sent to the National Assembly in the formative years of the FCT during the Second Republic. Interestingly, after the demise of that republic, some of those old bills were dusted, updated and re-tabled in the current Fourth Republic. Sadly, all the bills are still awaiting passage. Perhaps, the bills will be passed by our ‘hardworking’ Distinguishes and Honourables the year tortoise will take after goats and dogs by growing hairs. Odiegwu!

But the inescapable fact is that if Abuja must overcome its multiple challenges then the current federal constitution needs to be reviewed. The bitter truth is that FCT needs its own legislature to make relevant laws for the sound administration of the territory. Such a nation’s capital’s legislature must be truly federal in character and not skewed. Giving Abuja its own law making body is where the shoe pinches as far as effective legal administration of the FCT is concerned. The National Assembly has its fingers in several pies and is therefore incapable of legislating for the FCT.

*Nosike Ogbuenyi, former Special Adviser to the FCT Minister on Media, wrote from Suite 2 – 068, Ladi Kwali Lane, Area 1 Shopping Plaza, Abuja. He can be reached through nosikeogbuenyi04@yahoo.com.

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