I have often told those who care to listen to even define what they mean by restructuring and I can’t seem to get answers. Or where we get, the answers are discordant and often tending toward federalism resource control and such.
What I understand it to mean is that we operate a truly federal system of government where every component part control their resources, have their domestic laws , have their own police, legal system , their own tax systems etc.
The states should be federating units donating some of their powers to the FG to hold and use in trust for them on matters of common interest such as defence, foreign affairs ,citizenship , immigration , currency and economy etc
Let us adopt the USA model. USA practices federalism.
Restructuring or federalism are totally different from the call for cannibalisation of the country.
Restructuring or federalism howsoever called is not the same as secession.
Suffice to say that when Lagos State Government took the federal government to the Supreme Court several times to insist on the practice of federalism from control of physical planning, local government administration that led to the withholding of Laos State revenue allocation, to issue of land abutting the waterways, control of inland waters, VAT, and many other issues , those states and zones where the call for restructuring are loudest today sadly all opposed the position of LASG at the Supreme Court on the alter of politics. We may go back and read those judgements for confirmation.
LASG won 12 of such cases and against the FG at the Supreme Court. That was the beginning of some elements of federalism and restructuring without calls to war or secession.
I recall that I had to lead speak on behalf of LASG in the company of Dr Akeem Olajide Bello , then an adviser to the governor on Legal matters at the Senate hearing on the National Inland waterways Authority Act and made a robust presentation for state control of Inland Waterways and total repeal of the Act on behalf of Lagos State .
A then top ranking and very outspoken and visible Senator from Enugu State was the most vociferous opponent of our position. He even said publicly at the hearing that Lagos State was being too cantekerous and asked insultingly if Lagos was the only coastal state or with waterways in the country that it was so canterkrous on the issue. This is a man whose state has rivers that could be of economic benefits to his state and people .
I educated him before his colleagues and the public in fine and polite language that he was not fit to be a Senator .
I also recall telling him that if he and his state dont t know the rights of his people and state, we in Lagos did and would assert same using the law.
I asked him if he was proud that by the National inland Waterways Authority Law his people in Enugu state will need to travel to lokoja to obtain licences to own and operate fishing canoes on the rivers and streams in the state
I felt he was very disappointing and was betraying his people.
The senator sought to be Governor and is today one of the major voices and sponsors of secession and restructuring mixed up.
Lagos State House of assembly subsequently repealed the National Inland Waterways Authority Act and promulgated the Lagos State Inland Waterways Authority Act and took control of the Lagos Lagoon and its intra state waters.
There were objections and protests from such bodies as Nigerian Ports Authority and NIWA .
Lagos called their bluff and challenged them to go to court.
Lagos used rhe intrumentality of the law, legislature and intellect to take its destiny in its hands and assert it’s rights.
It was the series of litigation by LASG that has now effectively handed physically planning and land ownership back to the states.
Before then, the FG was giving planning permits for buildings in places like Banana Island and Osborne Foreshore and in many states of the country on lands that they called federal land contrary to the provisions of the Land Use Act.
Before then the FG was issuing certificates of Occupancy on land in the states.
Before then the FG made a decree which vested and made it to own all lands that were within 100 metres from the shore of lagoons, rivers and ocean including the palace of the Oba of Lagos and all lands on Marina, around Bar beach, River Niger and Benue , Oji river, River Imo, Oguta Lake , Kaduna River to mention a few.
Before then, FG had absolute control over even water streams and rivers in the villages and states.
Before then FG had land registries in the states.
Before then, the FG acquired land in states without resort to the the state governments.
I even recall that the FG was planning to develop a 2nd phase of Banana Island. It was going to sandfill some waters of the lagoon. Lagos insisted that it must get a permit and environmental impact assessment approval from it. The FG insisted that it can reclaim the water because it had control over the outer waters in Lagos State.
Lagos then told the FG that once the water is reclaimed and becomes land, it will be vested in the Governor of Lagos State by virtue of the Land Use Act. The FG simply disappeared with its tail between its legs. That is using the law and the brains.
Today, if the FG acquires land in Lagos, it must obtain the governor’s consent.
Today, if the FG wants to build in Lagos, it must obtain LASG approval.
Today, the FG cannot regulate adverts on federal highways or roads in Lagos. Its LASG.
Today, the Lagos waterways are busy with boats, yatches and hovercraft registered and licensed by Lagos Inland Waterways Authority.
Lagos has has a consumption tax in place without allowing VAT stand in its way. It used the law and brains.
Lagos collects Wharf Landing fees from all sea and land ports in Lagos State.
Lagos collects advertisement income from all federal highways and roads in Lagos along with the local governments.
Lagos used the law and good thinking to acquire all lands and open spaces under bridges from the FG. They are all today beauties to behold from the days when FG allowed all sorts to happen under them when they were let out as garages and car parks.
But for the good thinking and law, Lagos may not have been able to recover Oshodi.
And all these also bring in substantial revenue to the state and yet we still wonder why Lagos State has a monthly internally Generated Revenue Income of well over 30 billion Naira . Over 6 times more than what it gets from the federal allocation that some others are crying over as their sole source of revenue.
And we still wonder why it is the 2nd largest economy in West Africa, only after Nigeria and self sustaining?
Let all states put on their thinking caps and use the law, legislature , judiciary, intellectual power to achieve the control of their destinies and resources and not by beating drums of war and secession .
It shouldn’t be by force or might.
Let’s use our brains and intellectual resources to achieve federalism.
By Babatunde Ogala Esq
A Nigerian Legal Practioner