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Lagos Assembly contends with minority membership

By Seye Olumide
19 July 2016   |   4:32 am
The Eighth Lagos State House of Assembly has two main challenges to contend with as it proceeds in its legislative assignment one year after inauguration. The assembly must first fashion out a way...
Mudashiru Ajayi Obasa,

Mudashiru Ajayi Obasa,

PDP alleges intimidation from ruling APC
The Eighth Lagos State House of Assembly has two main challenges to contend with as it proceeds in its legislative assignment one year after inauguration.
The assembly must first fashion out a way to engage the executive arm in a more critical, but constructive manner to the general advantage of citizens of the state as against the perceived rubber stamp role to the executive, that the immediate past assembly was tagged with.

Also, the Mudasiru Obasa-led Assembly would have to come to terms with the reality of the voice of the minority lawmakers on the platform of the rival Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). This time around, unlike the Seventh Assembly where the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) controlled the entire members, there are six minority members and they must be considered and given their due respect.

Ironically the PDP has been the first stakeholders in the legislative observers to knock the Eighth Assembly for not legislating or acting differently from its predecessor. This is despite the fact that the party currently has six lawmakers representing different parts of the state in the current assembly.

Speaking on the development, the Speaker, Mudashiru Ajayi Obasa, who represents Agege Constituency 1, said the Eight Assembly was committed to serving the people of Lagos and not necessarily going to get caught up in the web of playing politics with legislation.To him legislative business was not about politics but “seeking the good of the people we represent through good laws and our constituencies’ commitment.”

He said that the rival party would always have something to say, noting that the legislators, whether in the majority or minority, have come to terms with the fact that legislating was different from politics “as the interest of the people come first and not that of the APC or PDP or any other party.”

The Speaker also pointed out that the Lagos Assembly composition was unique among other States Assembly across the country arguing that, “whatever anyone may insinuate, the level of robust argument and the way we open our doors to the people during any of our public hearings is second to none.”

Outlining some of the achievements of the assembly in the past one year, Obasa said, “In line with our aims and objectives that were outlined at inauguration, the House revved its engine by ensuring that the state Budget presented by Governor Akinwumi Ambode was delivered on time. We had to re-order the Budget to enable the state government purchase state-of-the-art crime fighting equipment running into billions of naira. This in itself is historic as no state in the country had ever procured such equipment, which included surveillance helicopters, patrol vehicles, armored personnel carriers and more at the same time.”

He said this was noteworthy in the fact that the Ambode administration’s first major challenge was tackling an upsurge in crime that greeted his assumption in office.Close watchers of the Obasa-led Assembly believe the speed at which the assembly delivered the Budget may not be unconnected with the promise that the legislators made to the people of Lagos last year that they would not unnecessarily tackle the executive in the overall interest of the state.

It was therefore not surprising that the Lagos Assembly made giant strides in the last one year, passing 88 resolutions and six bills within the period. These included the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund law 2015, aimed at tackling unemployment in the most populous state of the nation.This is aside the Local Government Administration (Amendment bill), to deepen grassroots democracy and Neighborhood Watch Bill to enhance Security. Governor Ambode has since signed some of the bills into law.

Apparently keeping to its promise, the House is also currently working on a bill to stem the spread of cancer in the state. Chairman, House Committee on Information, Tunde Braimoh, explained that the bill, which is one of the four sponsored by Obasa, would assist the poor to cope with the high cost of cancer treatment.

Reeling out some of the achievements of the Assembly, Obasa said, “For record purposes, I will like to state that this House within one year, has passed about 60 resolutions while 6 bills have been passed and consequently signed into law by Governor Ambode. These resolutions and laws are those that bordered on the security and well being of Lagosians and have direct impact on them. We shall remain undaunted and resolute in our resolve to take Lagos to a greater height.”

He added that the Assembly has not relented in organising training programs for lawmakers and staff, a factor that has improved their capacity. “Today, I am delighted to inform you that this House now has a multidimensional and functional website,” adding that “very soon, Lagosians would be watching live streaming of the plenary sessions from the chambers.”

While he promised that the Assembly would continue to pursue the demand for special status to Lagos, Obasa said every state that has the resources should be allowed to have state police in the spirit of true federalism, as he also laid emphasis on the demand for a special status for Lagos in view of its strategic position and contributions to national development.

Former Deputy Minority Leader of the Senate and a former Speaker of Lagos Assembly, Dr. Olorunnimbe Mamora in his appraisal, said the Obasa-led Assembly must begin to look for ways to ensure true federalism was entrenched in Lagos as well as ensure it set a standard for other states Assembly to follow.

He also encouraged the Assembly to follow the footpath of the previous ones, which stood its ground in the thick of serious challenges, saying: “When the Federal Government seized the state’s council allocation because we increased the local government from 20 to 57, we stood our ground and went to court. Fortunately we won.”

He however dismissed the allegation that the present Assembly was a rubber stamp to the executive. According to him, “while it is too early to say that, what we have seen so far in terms of legislation does not in anyway portray it as a rubber stamp.”

Mamora also defended the assembly on the insinuation that it abdicated its legislative role by allowing the executive to determine the appointment and removal of local government leaders, which was an elective position.According to him, “We cannot say this is the true picture because the plan to hold council election is on.”

However, the Spokesman of the PDP, Taofik Gani said “the expectations are that the Obasa-led Assembly would be pragmatic and progressive in legislating for the common interest of the citizens because of the variations of lawmakers that now include the APC and PDP unlike the monolithic members we used to have in the past.”

He expressed concern that the Assembly was yet to live up to that expectation because it appeared to have failed to take the advantage of the robust membership adding, “the minority has completely been rendered a weak minority.”
The PDP spokesman admonished the leadership of the Assembly that lawmaking was not politics but seeking the common interest of the masses and that “it does not make sense when you intimidate the minority and make them jittery.”
On the allegation that the Assembly was more like a rubber stamp to the executive, Gani said his party was harping it clearly that, “our argument is why should a legislative arm allow the executive to determine the appointment and removal of elected council officers. We would have expected it to contest the executive’s decision on the way it is handling council election.”