The Imperative Continuity Of The Struggle To List Lagos Councils



The struggle for the listing of the 37 additional local government councils of Lagos State in the federal legislature has gone to the back burner since the inception of the current National Assembly. This is surprising considering that at no other time in recent history as our party, the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, boasted of greater number of committed democrats and advocates of the cause than now.

Six months into the new dispensation, unless a resurgence of agitation is consciously articulated to engage the National Assembly to rectify the injustice inflicted on the good people of Lagos State by its precursors, the citizens of Lagos State shall continue to lose billions of naira of funds required to face the gargantuan challenges of development that daily confronts this expanding megacity.

No one dares to argue that Lagos State does not deserve more than 57 local governments. The rising expectation of the people for efficient and effective delivery of services has dwarfed the performance of the local governments. The revenue from local residents is directly proportional to the poverty and misery that plagues the land. Pressured by citizens to perform and shortchanged by a federal allocation system that allocates only one third of its real share, the local governments are caught between the devil and the blue sea. Now that they have their back to the wall, they have no other option but to fight back.

The agitation for the listing of the new councils is based on the conviction that Section 8 subsection 5 and 6 of the 1999 Constitution are clear and unambiguous enough to lead any and every reasonable citizen to the conclusion that the House of Assembly of a state is the repository of the power to create local governments. And it is only after the local government areas are created that the returns to the National Assembly to enable it list the new local government areas can follow.

Those of us who believe that the drafters of the 1999 Constitution demonstrated a high sense of responsibility and respect for fiscal federalism by enabling the state Assembly to conclude the process of creation before directing the National Assembly to list disagree vehemently with the majority opinion of the Supreme Court which held the process to be inchoate. We believe that this majority opinion is the product of political intimidation for at least two reasons. First, if indeed, it was inchoate, the learned justices of the Supreme Court bear the burden of resolving this undesirable situation by directing the National Assembly to do what the Constitution demands of it in subsection 6. The justices lost the courage required to carry out their noble functions by refusing to effect the consequential provisions. Second, the Supreme Court could not enforce the brazen breach of its order asking President Olusegun Obasanjo to release the funds even as the former president disobeyed the orders with impunity.

By their conduct, the Supreme Court, in this instance, failed to live up to the doctrines of the independence and impartiality of the judiciary. It could neither compel the first arm to list nor the second arm to release funds. It is a matter of history that it took the inauguration of a decent and responsible President Umar Yar’Adua to reverse the bullish conduct of his predecessor and rescue the image of a lawless presidency.

And here lies the crux of the matter: leaders and values. President Yar’Adua demonstrated early that he was going to subscribe to a different ethos of governance by making respect of the rule of law a cardinal element of his vision. The release of the Lagos local government funds flowed naturally from this principle. But the National Assembly of the Fifth Republic did not articulate such an agenda. It continued the injustice inflicted on the people of Lagos State. There were insinuations that any attempt to place the issue on the agenda of the Senate was brusquely rejected by the leadership dominated by the Peoples Democratic Party.

There are two reasons why the time seems ripe to resume the struggle. First, the chickens came to roost during the October 2011 local government elections in Lagos State. The PDP, which had buried its head in the sand like the ostrich, refusing to recognise elections into the Local Council Development Areas, jumped on the bandwagon by contesting all the chairmanship and councillorship seats. This tacit endorsement of the creation and operation of the 57 local government structure in Lagos State removes any moral and political basis for the PDP leadership of the Sixth National Assembly to continue the reactionary and wicked policy of its predecessors to strangle Lagos councils to death. Second, the significant numerical increase and political influence of the Action Congress of Nigeria, the vanguard for the listing of Lagos councils, in both houses of the National Assembly, should give it a better bargaining power.

In strategic terms, the weakening of the position of the PDP and the strengthening of the Action Congress should logically facilitate the kind of positive outcome which diplomacy and negotiation- the standard practices of legislative engagement- should procure for the benefit of the Lagos councils and their ultimate beneficiaries- the good people of Lagos State.

This is therefore a wake up call to our representatives in the National Assembly to demand the listing of Lagos councils immediately and step into the corridors of history as the set of lawmakers who went, saw and conquered the injustice against the industrial and commercial capital of the foremost black nation on earth. Victory is Certain.


—Kehinde Bamigbetan

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