By Adeyemi Adeleye/Oluwatope Lawanson
The Lagos State House of Assembly on Wednesday called on the National Assembly to criminalise undue interference of the executive on activities of state legislature in the ongoing review of the 1999 Constitution.
The Lagos Assembly Speaker, Mudashiru Obasa, who was represented by his deputy, Wasiu Eshinokun-Sanni, made the call at South-West Zonal Public Hearing on the Review of the 1999 Constitution organised the Senate in Lagos.
Obasa commended the National Assembly for responding to the concerns of Nigerians on the need to carry out a review the 1999 Constitution to reflect the current realities and challenges.
“We want criminalisation of undue interference on the activities of the legislature, though, this does not happen in Lagos but we cannot close our eyes to the happenings in the nation, whereby a chief executive can just order the House of Assembly to be closed down.
“This should be criminalised, the police officers who also participate in such act should also be punished to serve as deterrent,” Obasa said.
The speaker said that from the financial autonomy, there should not be interference in legislative activities by the executive in any way.
Obasa also called for removal of railway from the exclusive list to the concurrent list to allow for economic development and integration, among states.
He said that such liberalisation of the railways in the country would further allow economic growth and development.
“If Lagos, Ogun, Oyo and other South-West states want the rail to cut through their states for economic integration, either vertically or horizontally, they should be able to do so because it is best for the states.
“We cannot forever wait on the federal government to take the initiative where we feel we can cooperate and ensure economic integration. We should be allowed to do so.
“So, we want railways matters to be removed from the exclusive and brought back to concurrent which allows economic integration, “he said.
The speaker, who reiterated the need for Lagos to be granted a special status by the Constitution, decried that the state was not benefitting from the 13 per cent derivation despite huge income being generated from the state by federal government.
“The most fundamental flaw we see, from Lagos point of view, is that the provision of the Constitution which gives 13 per cent derivation on natural resource. It is highly discriminatory.
“What should be done is natural and economic resources, which will give Lagos desired leverage because we will be able to get derivation from money collected by NIMASA, (Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency), NPA (Nigerian Port Authority) and Customs here in Lagos.
“What they take away from Lagos is huge. If we get 13 per cent of this we should be able to do more in the state.
“The current Constitution does not take into consideration the economic nerves centre which bear the brunch of these activities. Giving Lagos State one per cent is highly unjustifiable,” he said.
Also speaking, Dr Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, Founding Director, Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre, called for gender equality and equal opportunity in the Constitution to end marginalisation against women.
Akiyode-Afolabi said that the 1999 was discriminatory against women and other vulnerable groups.
Mrs Shebah Jonathan, representing a Civil Society Organisation, Fix Politics, advocated a new constitution as against the ongoing amendment to 1999 Constitution.
Jonathan said: “We urge the National Assembly to initiate a process toward the creation of a new constitution as an amendment is inadequate to address the multiple structural issues that threaten the Nigerian State.”
She urged the National Assembly to halt the current Constitutional Amendment process and immediately initiate a multi-stakeholders discussions on the pathway to a new citizens’ constitution..
Chief Yemi Soladoye, Representative of Ibadan-Ibarapa. emphasised the need for a less cumbersome state creation process in the reviewed constitution.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the two-day public hearing had in attendance senators in Ogun, Oyo and Lagos and various groups and workers’ unions, religious leaders, traditional leaders, civil society organisations among others.