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16 February 2005

 

On 9 February, 2005 the Lagos State National Conscience Party (NCP) issued a statement "LAGOS LOCAL GOVERNMENTS CRISIS" at a press conference that was reported in a number of newspapers.

Four days later the Alliance for Democracy (AD) led Lagos State administration issued a rejoinder attacking the Lagos State NCP, accusing it of being in an "unholy romance" with the People’s Democratic Party of President Obasanjo and describing the NCP’s position as "a disgrace to populist politics".

The NCP statement below refuting the AD’s charges and restating its opposition to both the AD and PDP was presented to press on February 16.

 

Lagos State National Conscience Party statement

 

REJOINDER TO LAGOS STATE GOVERNMENT ON NEW LOCAL COUNCILS

NO AMOUNT OF BLACKMAIL AND GRANDSTANDING SHALL DEBAR US FROM OUR JUST AND DEMOCRATIC AGITATION

Most national dailies of February 14 2005 carried a statement issued by the chief Press Secretary to the governor of Lagos State, Mr. Segun Ayobolu, wherein many disparaging and totally unfounded abuses and blackmail were rained on the Lagos State NCP’s position on the funding and administration of local councils in Lagos State. Unfortunately however, virtually all the newspapers that used the above cited statement did not carry a single sentence from the text of our own original press conference on the subject matter held on Wednesday, February 9 2005.

Without scruple and without citing a single sentence from our press conference, Mr. Ayobolu nonetheless variously described our positions on the issues at stake as having being motivated by "narrow, selfish, partisan greed and opportunism". In addition, Mr. Ayobolu accused the Lagos State NCP of having entered into "an unholy conspiracy to kill the people’s oriented 57 local councils in the marriage of strange bed fellows" with the PDP in Lagos State. In another part, Mr. Ayobolu’s statement reads: "every mass oriented political party must align its interest with the aspirations of the common man on the street. The local governments of Lagos State are the product of the aspiration of the citizens of Lagos State to bring government closer to them"!

When critically examined, many of the above quoted accusations and positions coming from the AD’s government against the National Conscience Party are, to say the least, ludicrous and laughable. Ordinarily, we would simply have ignored these ridiculous charges against NCP as the rantings of a politically doomed ex-pro masses party. However, there are too many misleading impressions and assertions contained in Mr. Ayobolu’s statement which if not taken up now will only help to deepen the current material and political deprivations being suffered by overwhelming working masses and youths of Lagos State, as a result of the elitist and kleptomaniac administration being presided over by Governor Bola Tinubu since May 1999.

But before we make a couple of comments on the above quotations, we think it will be more useful at this stage to reproduce the relevant parts of the press conference which Mr. Ayobolu’s statement was reacting to.

We quote:

"THE DECEMBER 10, 2004 SUPREME COURT JUDGEMENT

"There were two major aspects of the Supreme Court judgment made on December 10, 2004 in respect of the suit filed by the Lagos state government:

1. The Supreme Court held that the federal government had no right whatsoever to withhold allocations meant for local councils in Lagos state or any other state for that matter under the relevant provisions of 1999 constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria.

"2. The Supreme Court also held that the 57 local councils purportedly created by the Lagos state government are "inchoate", that is, inconclusive because specifically, the national assembly has not passed a consequential act as provided by section 8(5) of the 1999 constitution and that for this reason, this purported councils are not entitled to and should not be funded with public money.

"OUR STANCE

"1. We in the Lagos state NCP hereby call on the federal government to unconditionally release forthwith all the withheld allocations for local councils in Lagos state. On the basis of the relevant provisions of the 1999 constitution and the unambiguous pronouncement of the Supreme Court, the federal government has no any valid basis to continue to withhold the allocation meant for local councils in Lagos state even for a second. We consequently demand that the federal government stops all acts of subterfuge and diversions by creating baseless conditionalities before doing its duty under the law. In stating the above position, we wish to state categorically that we are not persuaded nor impressed by the tendentious and blatantly biased analysts, jurists, political jobbers who are often too eager to uphold this aspect of the Supreme Court decision while conveniently ignoring or down played the other crucial aspect of Supreme Court decisions, which we will come to presently.

"2. Although the Supreme Court declined to invalidate the purported election held into the so-called 57 local councils in Lagos State because according to the Supreme Court, the concerned "elected" officers were not parties to the suit ruled upon. Nonetheless, the Supreme Court emphatically pronounced the process of their creation (i.e. local councils) as "inchoate" and in fact, emphasized in different aspects of the judgment in issue that no public fund must be appropriated for the running of the so-called 57 local councils newly created in Lagos state. In fact, to avoid any ambiguity whatsoever, the Supreme Court ruled that the allocation which the federal government must unconditionally release to Lagos state is to be solely used for the running of the 20 local councils listed for Lagos state in the schedule to the 1999 constitution.

"In this respect, amongst other decisions, the Supreme Court held as follows:

"(a) "The Lagos State Government has the constitutional competence under section 8(3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 to promulgate the Creation of Local Government Areas Law No. 5 of 2002 and to amend it by passing the Creation of Local Government Areas (Amendment) Law 2004 which created the 57 Local Governments. Consequently, they are valid, legal and constitutional but that these Laws cannot be operational and cannot have effect until the National Assembly performs its constitutional duty under section 8(5) of the 1999 Constitution.

"(b) However, the 57 Local Governments created by the government of Lagos State out of the 20 Local Governments contained in First Schedule Part I of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 are not operational and cannot take effect until the National Assembly promulgate an Act containing consequential provisions to amend section 3 subsection 6 and First Schedule Part I of the Constitution by increasing the number of Local Governments specified in section 3(6) and particulars of the new Local Governments under Lagos State in First Schedule Part I of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.

"(c) The statutory allocation which the Federal Government must release to Lagos State Government must be for the 20 Local Governments in Lagos State contained in the First Schedule Part I of the Constitution since the National Assembly has not promulgated an Act making consequential provisions in respect of the 57 Local Governments created by Lagos State.

"(d) The new 57 Local Governments of Lagos State established by Creation of Local Government Areas Law No. 5 of 2002 as amended by Creation of Local Government Areas (Amendment) Law 2004 are not entitled to receive fund from Federation Account because those Local Governments do not exist at the moment under the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 and those Laws can only be operational when the National Assembly makes consequential provisions in an Act pursuant to section 8(5) of the Constitution".

"On the basis of this clear ruling of the Supreme Court, we in the Lagos state NCP therefore demand:

"1. The unconditional and immediate disbandment of the purported 57 local councils newly created in Lagos state.

"2. That the Lagos state government immediately and fully restore, without any infraction or loss of asset, the structures of the 20 local governments listed in the schedule to the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This becomes necessary because of the dubious but futile exercise recently carried out by the Lagos state House of Assembly when it decided to retain merely the names of these 20 listed local councils while stubbornly holding that their buccaneering and cannibalization through fragmentation into 57 local council entities stay.

"3. An immediate election into the 20 listed local councils in Lagos state in accordance with the relevant provision of the 1999 constitution and the Lagos State electoral law, especially on the basis of the judicial interpretation of that law by the Lagos state High Court. This becomes necessary because even if the Supreme Court did not invalidate the purported election held on March 27, 2004 into the so-called new councils, this fact without further ado justifies the call for fresh election into the 20 local councils which actually exist in Lagos state, now that the Supreme Court has ruled that there are only 20 local councils in Lagos state and not 57 which was the basis upon which the March 27, 2004 local councils election in Lagos state was conducted.

"4. We call on Lagosians in particular and Nigerians in general to commence forthwith, acts of civil disobedience against the illegal local councils being operated presently in Lagos state. Citizens should henceforth refuse to pay taxes, tenement rates, fines, levies to these illegal councils and neither should their Bye laws be obeyed. Their existence is unknown to the law as pronounced by the Supreme Court and consequently, their activities are illegal and illegitimate.

"5. We in Lagos NCP hereby call on all those parading themselves as elected chairmen and councillors of these "inchoate local councils" to stop doing so forthwith. Simultaneously, we call on Lagos state government to stop forthwith the appropriation of public fund for the running and maintenance of these elements because they do not exist under the relevant provisions of the 1999 constitution.

"The concept behind the creation of local councils is hinged on the premises that positive government services can be brought nearer to the people at the grass root levels. Unfortunately however, the experience of most Nigerians, particularly those in Lagos state, over the activities of local councils has been a total disappointment. Rather than provide succour to the people, the so-called newly created local councils have only constituted themselves into menace on the living standard and democratic rights of Lagosians through many exploitative levies, fines and obnoxious Bye-laws and Regulations. Far from providing any tangible positive service to the community, these councils individually and collectively have been behaving more like locusts with relentless determination to make life difficult for ordinary citizens." (End of Quote)

We have extensively reproduced the relevant parts of the text of the press conference which brought out the poisonous venoms from Mr. Ayobolu’s pen. We consequently leave readers to draw their own conclusions as to the justness or otherwise of the Lagos State government’s blackmail vis-ŕ-vis our position on the so-called 57 new councils in Lagos State.

A FEW COMMENTS ON MR. AYOBOLU’S STATEMENT

1. Mr. Ayobolu gave the false impression that Lagos State NCP’s position canvassed at the press conference in issue and which position was quoted above was a new position. On the contrary however, the position expressed above with respect to the status of the so-called 57 newly created councils in Lagos State has always been the position of the Lagos State NCP abinitio, although space cannot permit us here to reproduce several documents where similar positions had been maintained in the past. Nonetheless, we hereby reproduce the relevant part of the text of a press conference which Lagos State NCP addressed on March 24, 2004, that is about 3 days before the March 27 farcical local government election held in Lagos State by the AD’s government marionette called LASIEC on March 27, 2004.

We quote:

"20 OR 57 LOCAL COUNCILS?

"The Lagos State government and its marionette called LASIEC have declared several times that the March 27 2004 local government election will be held in the 57 so-called newly created local governments in Lagos State. While of course we concede that certain processes to create new local governments in Lagos state under the provisions of 1999 constitution have been commenced, it is however, our strong contention that these processes have not been concluded and as such cannot form the basis of legal entities upon which an election can be conducted. For this reason, the NCP and a number of other parties active in Lagos state have gone to court to challenge the legality of the so-called newly created local governments. Our action in this respect has been primarily motivated by the concern to get the best for the working masses. Right now, because the so-called newly created local governments are yet to fully fulfil the constitutional requirements for such exercise, there would be no additional allocation for the running of local government activities in Lagos state from federation account.

"Faced with this situation, Governor Bola Tinubu of Lagos state, held bent on going ahead to conduct election into these illegal entities has stated that whatever amount is received for the running of the 20 constitutionally recognised local governments in Lagos state will be shared amongst its own 57 illegal entities being called councils. This, without mincing word, is a recipe for the financial short-changing of the ordinary masses because at the end of the day, once the new chairmen, deputies, assistants and assistants to assistants satisfy their own ever greedy appetite from whatever allocation is given, there will always be little or nothing left for genuine development in the living conditions of the masses. Even right now, these so-called local governments have only succeeded in proving their mettle through the intensification of the suffering of the poorest layers of the society via ruthless and repressive collection of all sorts of bogus levies and implementation of bye-laws." (End of Quote)

2. The claim the "the local governments of Lagos State are the product of the aspiration of the citizenry of the Lagos State" is an absolutely false one. What the average Lagosian needs and which are lacking are adequate foods, descent accommodation, good and well maintained roads, functional and affordable education and health care, stable and affordable water, electricity, telecommunication and communication services etc. Only self-serving politicians like those that dominate the AD contrived the creation of more local government as a way of serving the materials needs and egos of their leaders and members. It is an open truth that AD’s party and government in Lagos State has been able to keep appearance of unity on the basis of "jobs for the boys" newly created local councils which are nothing but conduit pipes meant to siphon public money that could have been used to better the lot of the masses into the pockets of individual politicians and their mentors. The so-called new local governments right from inception were warned not to employ additional workers because in truth these councils were not designed to better the lot of the masses.

3. The accusation that the Lagos State NCP has become a "willing tool of the despotic, dictatorial and unpopular charlatans PDP in Lagos State" is nothing but a complete blackmail. This allegation is nothing but a cynical, bold face sham, where a thief turns round to accuse the owner of stealing! Every average politically conscious element knows today that there is no any tangible difference between PDP and AD vis-ŕ-vis their corrupt, anti-people policies and conducts. It should be stressed that this fact has been responsible for the smooth and effortless ease with which AD’s leaders and members have been decamping in droves to the PDP. After all, birds of the same character flock together! Today, every averagely perspective analyst could already see that the self-serving politicking and vaunting ambitions of individual politicians like Governor Tinubu will willy-nilly drive the remnant of the AD and Governor Tinubu himself into PDP or any other PDP like anti-people’s party sooner than may be imagined. In the wake of the massively rigged and manipulated farce called the 2003 general election, at a time when many erstwhile colleagues of Governor Bola Tinubu in the AD were wailing that the PDP controlled INEC had rigged them out of power and as a result calling for the cancellation of the elections, Governor Bola Tinubu, true to his real political character, declared: "the most urgent need of ours is to rally round the president…. We must accelerate the pace of privatisation. We must intensify the liberalisation and open up of the country…. Let this task unites us irrespective of the party affiliation or political disposition" (Tribune, May 27, 2003, Page 2). Occasionally behind the scene, officials of the Lagos State government can be heard complaining about how the prevailing Nigeria’s political configurations has been unfair to Lagos State with its huge population and peculiar socio-economic features.

But when President Obasanjo led PDP government announced the setting up of a National Political Reform Conference on the basis of these unjust political configurations, not a murmur of objection was raised against this arrangement so as not to be branded as radical opponents of the status quo and thereby put their future political ambitions in jeopardy! Time shall soon fully show who the real allies, collaborators of "the despotic dictatorial unpopular charlatans PDP" are!

4. Mr. Ayobolu in the statement in issue gives the impression of someone that believes, or that at least, is familiar with the Bible. Hence his reference to the Biblical victory of the generally believed weak David over mighty Goliath. We shall not here try to x-ray who the real Davids are and who are the real Goliaths in the current conflicts. Time, we believe, will very soon sort this out. However, each time Mr. Ayobolu sets out to do his hatchet job, we advise him to always bear in mind this Biblical words: "Woe unto them that call evil good and good evil, that put darkness for light and light for darkness, and put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter" (Isaiah chapter 5 verse 20).

The struggle continues.