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Lagos titled chiefs call for a revisit of constitutional provisions on devolution of power to states

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The Association of Lagos Titled Chiefs has commended the National Assembly for the successful completion of the first step towards the amendment of the 1999 constitution.

“We note with delight that the depth of work done would deepen democracy and improve on the quality of governance at all levels in the country,” they said in a statement by Dr. (Mrs.) Iyabo Foresythe
, President-Association of Lagos Titled Chiefs
 and Iya Abiye of Lagos
.

They added: “However, we join and align with diverse opinion leaders who in their various contributions have noted that the 1999 constitution is an anti-development framework that unhealthily endowed the government at the centre with all economic power, in direct contravention of the most basic tenets of federalism, which presupposes the broad distribution of economic rights and powers within a federation. We are not in doubt that the States have assumed a beggarly status, transformed into dependent serfs who depend on monthly releases and regular bailouts from Abuja for their subsistence.

“The association wonders why the federating units should be precluded from performing several important constitutional responsibilities most listed in the Exclusive Legislative list.  As key stakeholders with varied interests in the cosmopolitan city of Lagos and the economic capital of Nigeria, we are of the strong view that there is a need to identify and address the provision in the 1999 constitution as amended that had become a stumbling block.

“One of such provisions is the “Devolution of Power to States”, vide decongesting the Exclusive Legislative list.  For us, an association of prominent members of the Lagos Community who have served the State and the Nation meritoriously, our request to revisit the position on devolution of power is borne out of our realisation of the potentialities of Lagos State, germane to enhancing its economy and revenue.

“Our position is that if Nigeria is to make progress economically and achieve its goal of a sustainably diversified economy and revenue base, it must reform its political economic institutions in order to reflect the legitimate aspirations of the different groups of Nigerians that are voluntarily resident in cosmopolitan Lagos. The less subjugation of the federating units nay states, that are the engines of our march to economic development, the more the bondage that has shackled Nigeria’s economic potentials will be loosened.

“Again sincere leaders will be needed to manage this newfound state resources for quick and rapid growth in the federating. units. Each state has its comparative advantage and must therefore struggle to raise its revenue profile in order to meet the needs of the people. Until the states are strengthened and made viable, the federal government cannot be strong. Every state has its own peculiarity as we are all naturally endowed. The endowment might not be in equal proportion, but each federating unit sure needs the other.

“Kebbi State is a good pointer to improving internal revenue by harnessing abundant available resources through rice production and processing for the Lagos market. Also, the recent proposal between Lagos and Kano States for a joint economic summit we applaud as an initiative in the right direction towards stronger federating units, repositioning to harness its economic potentials.

What is needed is for a constitution that will: (i) Provide for the healthy and broad distribution of economic power to the states with incentives to encourage the active participation of the states to bolster and sustainably expand the Nigerian economy via harnessing of their comparative advantages. Arising from this will be a diversified economy and revenue base, not susceptible to the volatile, cyclical and dwindling energy market in which present day Nigeria depends.
 (ii)  Ensure social cohesion, devoid of “resource control” agitations, attacks on oil and gas facilities, pipeline vandalisations and militancy. This can only be possible if the states and its residents are given a sense of ownership of both the resources and facilities domiciled in the federating units.

“Our appeal for the revisit on the devolution of power to the federating units should be viewed from the point that this is another path at reworking the country for greater efficiency. Indeed we are in support of the clamour for devolution of power to states as a means for the provision of quality services and dividends of democracy to the residents of Lagos.

“It is a rightful call whose time has come to amend the constitution to vest the control of the revenues derived from Value Added Tax, Minerals, Ports charges, inland waterways and other revenue sources to give the much needed impetus and realism to the Lagos quests for economic and revenue diversification. The Association noted that 55% Nigeria’s VAT is collected in Lagos State with 15% of this located to Federal Government, while the States and Local Governments get 50% and 35% respectively. It is not in doubt that Lagos State accounts for 70 per cent of maritime trade in the country and hosts 60 per cent of industries that help generate the VAT that is shared among all the states.

“Aside from accounting for 86.2 per cent of Companies Income Tax in 2008, according to the Federal Inland Revenue Service, Lagos is also the manufacturing hub of Nigeria.  Figures from the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria also indicate that the Ikeja Industrial Zone alone – not even the entire Lagos – accounted for 55 per cent of goods manufactured in the country in 2016. This also means sustenance of jobs for Nigerians from all parts of the country. The narrative on the abnormal and unacceptable interrupted electricity supply situation in Lagos State and indeed other federating units can be changed if the issue of electricity is devolved to the states allowing each state to generate from several sources, transmit and distribute to consumers within the federating units for manufacturing/industrial and domestic consumption.

“These are issues we suggest must be revisited for justice and equity as Lagos State need not go to Abuja monthly to share from Federation Account Allocation as VAT is a sufficient and veritable internally generated revenue for development. There is sure no justice in the current system where wealth is sitting there in the federating units to be shared and not created.  It is wrong and unjust for states to have an entitlement to a share of other people’s efforts rather than a reward for their own efforts. Surely, this tripod of injustice is a source of concern in the polity.

“It is the humble submission of the association to the 8th Senate to revisit its position on devolution of powers to the federating units. The Association of Lagos Titled Chiefs made up of prominent members of the Lagos community who have served the state and nation meritoriously is making the call in the national interest and fairness to Lagos State especially, a mini-Nigeria, multi-cultural federating unit with a projected population of 40million residents in Year 2025 and an emerging ‘African Dubai’.

“Decongesting the exclusive legislative list and devolving power to the states will no doubt enhance the management of its endowments, potentialities and resources, boost the revenue base and provide quality services and the necessary dividends of good governance to the residents of Lagos. 
”


In this article:
Iyabo Foresythe

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