Amended Constitution: Nigerians Must Take Charge Of Their Destiny (II) - P.M. News

Amended Constitution: Nigerians Must Take Charge Of Their Destiny (II)

Opinion

Opinion

By Babatunde Fashola

Fiscal Federalism

Revenue allocation is central to the existence and functioning of both the Federal Government and federating States.

The current revenue allocation formula by which the Federal Government takes as much as 52.68% of centrally-collected revenues in the Federation Account, leaving the States and Local Governments with 26.72 and 20.60% respectively has created a glaring and unacceptable imbalance in the financial resources of the three tiers of government.

Having regard to the constitutional allocation of functions as it currently exists, the Lagos State Government proposes the following for adoption as the new Revenue Allocation Formula for Nigeria:

Federal Government – 35%

State Governments – 42%

Local Government Councils – 23%

However, if functions are moved from the Exclusive List to the Concurrent or if they are made residual, the formula should be further adjusted.

Also, if LGCs are expunged from the Constitution, the States will have to fund their Councils with a proportion of their revenues as may be decided by the State House of Assembly.

In the event that Local Governments are removed from the Constitution as we propose, our Government accepts the recommendation of the Femi Okunnu Committee and proposes a further amendment to the revenue allocation formula as follows:-

Federal Government – 25%

State Governments – 45%

Derivation – 25%

Intervention/Support Fund – 5%

In addition, we take the view that derivation should not be limited to petroleum alone. It should be applicable to all resources and all revenues collected into the federal purse.

Further, the right of all Communities in the management and exploration of resources within their territories should be guaranteed by the Constitution.

Also, it is necessary to guarantee the integrity of the entire process of revenue allocation by appointing an Accountant General for the Federation to manage the Federation Account, as distinct and different from the Accountant General of the Federal Government.

In fact, we think it is an anomaly for Federal Government officials to bear titles suggesting absolute nationwide jurisdiction when they are officials of the Federal Government only.

Nigerian Police

It is view of Lagos State Government that the unification of the main security apparatus of the Federal Capital Territory as well as the 36 State Governments and 768 Local Government Councils has proved inefficient in a country of over 150 million persons who belong to various ethnic groups with distinctive population, language, land mass, religion and cultural attitudes.

It is therefore the position of Lagos State Government that the Constitution should confer power on a State House of Assembly to establish State Police Force with clear jurisdiction and well-articulated protocols for the regulation of its relationship with the federal force.

Judiciary

It is the position the State Government that the appointment, remuneration and discipline of Judges of the State High Court should be the exclusive responsibility of each State of the Federation.

The functions now conferred on the National Judicial Council with respect to State High Court Judges should be part of the judicial powers of the States which ought to be carried out by the State Judicial Service Commission.

We are also of the view that interlocutory appeals should terminate at the Court of Appeal, thereby reducing the time spent on litigation.

Furthermore, the scope of Jurisdiction of the State High Court as provided in the 1979 Constitution should be restored.

In other words, the State High Court should enjoy unlimited jurisdiction except for the jurisdiction conferred on the Federal High Court, which should be limited to Federal Government revenue, Admiralty, Intellectual Property matter and criminal jurisdiction as may be conferred by an Act of the National Assembly.

In essence, the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court as provided in Section 230 of the 1979 Constitution should be restored.

In the same vein, the jurisdiction of the National Industrial Court should be limited to matters of collective labour relations, collective bargaining and resolution of trade disputes.

Rotation Of Executive Offices

It is the position of the Lagos State Government that inclusion of provisions relating to rotation of executive offices in the Constitution is antithetical to the unity of the country, and its federal essence

Rotation of executive offices is not an antidote to the challenge of federal character unless the system of rotation will accommodate each of the over 250 ethanic groups and sub-groups in the country.

Gender And Special Group

Section 42 of the Constitution has already made comprehensive provisions for gender and special groups.

If the essence of proposed inclusion of provisions relating to gender and special group is to ensure that discrimination is avoided, the solution should be for each state to give effect to section 42 of the Constitution through appropriate laws.

Immunity Clause

It is the position of Lagos State that the immunity Clause as provided in Section 308 of the 1999 Constitution should be retained in our constitution.

The clause is more for the protection of the office, rather than the officeholder. It preserves the dignity and ensures the effectiveness of administration.

While it is regrettable that there may have been actions which are indicative of abuses of the privilege by some office holders the privilege of immunity is not for the benefit of the office holder.

It is for the benefit of the people he serves. The immunity attaches to his office not his person, so that he will be unfettered in using that office to serve the people.

The immunity is therefore appropriately limited to preventing him from being arrested or being summoned or compelled to appear in court.

If this were not the case it is possible that the office holder can be severely inhibited from carrying out his duties if arrest warrants or court summons are repeatedly issued and served on him.

Retention of the clause would prevent unfounded allegations of criminality against top public officials which, if allowed, would bring massive distractions.

Even where the allegation that necessitates trial relates to corruption or other criminal offences, it is trite that time does not run against investigation and prosecution of offenders.

What would have been achieved with the removal of the Immunity Clause could still be achieved at the expiration of the tenure of the serving officials.

Mayoral Status For The Federal Capital Territory Administration

Lagos State is in support of the proposal to amend the Constitution to confer elective mayoral status on the Federal Capital Territory. This will give the administration a measure of autonomy and make the Mayor accountable to the people.

Special Status For Lagos

Of course there can be no better occasion to restate the case for fiscal support in the Constitution for Lagos State in her capacity as a former capital of the Federal Republic to continue to support the infrastructure that serves millions of people who choose Lagos as their home.

Conclusion

You will have observed that in most areas where I have made representation, I have argued on behalf of our State for decentralization of powers and functions. This is the heart and matter of our case for a true fiscal and federal republic.

Perhaps the most compelling argument for a true and proper fiscal and political federal arrangement in the purest form that is possible will be found if we ask ourselves this question:

Does the Central Government have the human, institutional and governmental capacity to provide basic needs such as primary education, water supply, sanitation and primary health care in a RELIABLE manner in all the 774 Local Governments?

As a corollary, we might also ask whether the Federal Government is able to maintain all the 9,001 roads in Lagos State and make them pothole free all year round and whether it is able to do the same thing in the remaining 35 States.

Clearly, and very sensibly, the answer to these questions must be in the negative.

It must therefore be plain to those who truly wish this country well, that the prosperity of Nigeria and her people does not depend on what the Central Government can do for Nigeria; on the contrary, it will depend on what the Central Government allows Nigeria and her people to do for themselves.

This is the reason why the shackle of unitarism evident in policies like a quota system, central agriculture, central electricity, central VAT, central driving license, central judiciary, central police, central railways and so many more like them must be immediately removed, to enable the people of Nigeria take control of their own destiny through their States.

As I observed when I started, my presentation only covers the few areas of the Constitution in which the National Assembly is currently interested. Although a holistic review of the Constitution is to be preferred, there is no doubt that some progress will be made if these aspects are dealt with in a satisfactory manner now. I believe that the success of this attempt will provoke further thoughts and action on the fine tuning of our constitution.

•Position paper presented recently by the Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, san, at a public hearing convened by the Lagos State House of Assembly on the National Assembly’s proposal to further amend the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.