‘Why Lagos deserves special status’
AS far as a member of the House of Representatives, Mr Solomon Adeola Olamilekan is concerned; Lagos state deserves a special status as the country’s commercial capital and in line with the federal government’s pledge when the capital was being relocated to Abuja.
Olamilekan who is vying for the Lagos West senatorial district’s seat on the platform of the All Progressive congress (APC) in this month’s poll maintained that Lagos deserves at least one percent derivation going by the strategic role the city is playing in the life of the nation.
In an interview with The Guardian, Olamilekan assured he would pre -occupy himself with the pursuit of this agenda, and many more agitating the minds of his constituents if elected into the upper legislative chamber.
According to him: “This is an issue that is in the front burner of the people of Lagos and Nigeria as a whole. We all agree that as we speak, Lagos remains the commercial capital of Nigeria while Abuja is the administrative capital. Since a certain percentage of the federation fund goes to Abuja being the country’s administrative capital a token should also go to Lagos as the commercial capital. President Goodluck Jonathan was in Lagos for almost a week last month where he stayed in his official quarters which shows that the federal government is still in Lagos. Now to maintain all these facilities and to sustain Lagos’ mega city status at least one percent derivation should be given to the state.
He identified some issues that in his view are of utmost national importance.
“From the national point of view, the issue of the revenue allocation is one major area I believe we need to urgently address as a country. There must be devolution of power from the centre to the regions or the state as the case may be. The 52 percent allocation to the federal government and 26 percent to the states, must be addressed without further delay. As I speak, we have some states that could not pay salaries of workers; we have some states whose budget is predicated on the federal allocation; we have some states that cannot even embark on infrastructural projects.
“If you go into all the states and ask for their debt profile, you would be shocked because, some of them cannot function without loans. That is why I will never support the creation of additional states at least for now because the 36 states in the federation are still struggling to survive.
“On the use of the Armed Forces by the president, there is urgent need for us to address the conflicting section of the Nigerian Constitution – Section 217 and 218. Under section 217 sub- section1 (c), the president is allowed to use the Armed Forces for the maintenance of peace and other duties but subject to the approval of the National Assembly while Section 218 only empowers him without any recourse to the National Assembly for the use of the Armed Forces.
This is conflicting and I believe that there is the need for us to take the bull by the horn on this issue. That is what has led to the issue of using the military to conduct election or not. I believe if this lacuna is taken care of, the hullabaloo on the use of soldiers would have been sorted out once and for all because the Constitution would have been clear on when and how the president could deploy troops.
“On autonomy for local government, this is another area we need to address either by expanding section 7 Sub-section 1 (a) of the Constitution which empowers the states to carry on with the administration and finances of local government or allowing it to be; by asking the federal government or whoever is interested in local government to stay off because as we speak, Lagos has created additional 37 local government councils which have met all the statutory provisions as contained in the Constitution and these additional 37 councils have no recognition at the federal level.
“If Kano and Lagos states have the same population and Kano has 44 council and a state like Jigawa created out of Kano has over 30, totaling over 70 councils, Lagos is saying since a new state is not being created out of the state, let us have additional 37 to make it 57 since the councils created out of Jigawa is already part of the 774 councils recognized by the 1999 Constitution. All these are some of the anomalies we need to address.
On his choice of the slogan Yayi, he said: “I believe representation is about the people. I go back home on monthly basis to give account of my stewardship to my constituents stating clearly the activities in the House and what the House has done over the period of one month. And not only that I make sure I attend to their needs one after the other.
“All these and more put together brought out this trademark called Yayi which in Yoruba literally means something is good and is wonderful and in Hausa language it means it is okay, that name has come to stay and I am thinking of making it formally part of my name.”
Speaking on the aspiration of the Poples Democratic Party (PDP) to take over thhe affairs of Lagos State in next month’s polls Olamilekan said that is a day light dreaming.
“I can tell you this, Lagos was built on the foundation of Ten-point agenda right from when Asiwaju Bola Tinubu was the governor and that agenda has been the driving force of what you are seeing in Lagos presently. The Governor of Lagos, Babatunde Fashola who was the then Chief of Staff was part of the drafting of this Ten point agenda which includes transportation, security, infrastructure and a whole lot of programmes and from there Fashola came on board and took Lagos to the next level. Today, everybody coming to Lagos acclaims that Fashola has performed, it is because he had a foundation in place on which he built.
“Today, Fashola has been adjudged if not the best governor but one of the best governors to have governed Lagos. For the legacy that he is going to leave behind to continue based on the ten points agenda, you cannot at this point in time try a new administration.”
“The PDP wants to take over a state where its governorship candidate has not drawn his policies and programmes. I have searched even on the website for the policies and programmes of the governorship candidate and it is no where to be found. And he has not even come out to tell Lagosians what this government is doing that he is going to do differently. All he is saying is that the system is not all that bad, but he is coming to improve it. A new government in Lagos would only stop all the developmental projects in Lagos and we would not allow that to happen.”
On his stewardship in the House of Representatives as chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), the lawmaker said he was able to fall back on his vast experience in both the public and private sectors.
He said as the chairman of the committee, he had been able to, among others, draw attention to the way and manner the office of the Auditor General of the Federation (AGF), is being undermined by the authorities.
According to him: “This is one office I believe if Nigerians pay attention to and ensure that we have an office of the AGF that is truly independent and that backed up with all necessary support, if that office is empowered, the issue of corruption would be greatly reduced and it would be unnecessary to have anti-corruption agencies like the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) and others. It is just the report of the Auditor General that would go straight for prosecution.
“ From year to year the AGF office is seriously under-funded, the office always goes cap in hands begging for funds to sustain itself.
“What we have been able to achieve through constitutional amendment includes ensuring that we have AGF office on the first line charge from the consolidated revenue, empowering the office to have access to the books and records of the entire 601 agencies of the federal government unlike in the past. With this, we have succeeded in giving powers to the AGF office to carry out audit exercise.
“Recent there was this issue of the missing $20 billion which was brought to the public domain by the then Central Bank Governor (CBN). If we have an office of the AGF that is properly funded where we have training and retraining of staffs, there would be no need for the federal government calling in Price-Water-Cooper to carry out a forensic audit. The AGF would have taken up this assignment, carry it out and report back to Nigerians. But because we have a government that is not sincere in fighting corruption, that is not sincere in taking the bull by the horn, they have decided to make sure that they bring the office to the lowest level that they could so that they have access to do whatever they want.
“How could we imagine that the capital budget of the office of the AGF for the Year 2015 was reduced from N1.9 billion to N100 million? Can you also imagine an office of the AGF that has 144 foreign missions to audit and as we speak, between 1999 to date, that office has not audited up to 30 of these foreign mission while three quarter of these foreign missions are also revenue generating agencies. So there is nobody to audit the revenue generated and the expenditure they incurred.
“The office of the AGF has been shortchanged and the budget has been reduced to nothing and as such the government of the day is having a field day to carry out whatever it wants to do because it does know that the AGF office is hardly functional.
“In terms of investigation carried out by the committee, there are one thousand and one and as you know, there is little or nothing we could do in ensuring that actions are taken on them because we are not the ruling party. Just recently we found out that the service wide votes account which I tag as a budget in the budget is a slush fund; is an account that the federal government has been using to siphon money ordinarily needed to be used for the basic needs of Nigerians. I will continue to clamour that this particular aspect of the budget is cancelled.
“And I have my reasons. If you go to government agencies today, they will tell you that the last time money was given to them from the capital budget was in the second or the third quarter, if you go to their overhead expenditure they would tell you the last time fund was given to them was maybe in the third quarter and these are statutory monies approved by the National Assembly for these agencies to function. Now what comes to play is how do we now judge the performance of the budget?
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