Senate in rowdy session over Lagos State special status bill
Lawmakers throw out proposed law
The Senate was thrown into a rowdy session yesterday following remarks on a bill which sought a special status for Lagos State.Even when the Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu rose and shouted on top of his voice “Order! Order!! Order!!!” he was ignored.
He was shunned by the lawmakers who were angered by remarks by Olusola Adeyeye (APC, Osun Central) who had in his contribution to the debate declared that “the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) is a rotten and over-pampered child.” Eventually, the majority of the lawmakers rejected the bill.
Trouble started when, while canvassing support for the bill, Adeyeye said that the FCT did not deserve the kind of privileges and support being accorded it by the Federal Government. This immediately attracted shouts of condemnation by many senators, including Phillips Aduda who represents the FCT in the Senate.
For over five minutes, Eķweremadu tried to calm down the lawmakers in the upper legislative chamber which had already been thrown into commotion. Oluremi Tinubu who sponsored the bill specifically asked the Senate to use its legislative powers to provide for “special federal grants for Lagos State in recognition of its strategic socio- economic significance.”
Leading the debate on the general principles of the bill, Tinubu said: “Today Lagos serves as the commercial capital of Nigeria and its major nerve centre. The strategic importance of Lagos State is inherent in several sectors of the economy. Available statistics indicate that six out of 10 international passengers arrive in Lagos while eight out of 10 depart from Lagos. This shows that Lagos is the window through which visitors travelling in and out of Nigeria leave the country.
“Lagos is home to the major ports that serve Nigeria. It accounts for over 90 per cent of all maritime exports; the state delivers much of the funds and charges that go into the coffers of the Federal Government. It is incontrovertible that Lagos State generates much of Nigeria’s income outside its oil sector.”
Tinubu lamented that “As a city which caters to the welfare of residents and visitors, Lagos is placed under a huge strain that affects its infrastructure and has welfare implications for residents and citizens of other states in Nigeria. Many Nigerians travelling to Lagos experienced traffic congestion because of pressures on the road. Other problems faced in Lagos include overcrowding, emergence of slumps, overstretched healthcare facilities, decreased productivity because of hours lost in traffic, environmental challenges.”
She continued: “It is sad that Lagos State has been left to deal with these pressures on its own at huge cost. The state bears the burden for the wear and tear that many of the federal revenue- generating activities cause. Irrespective of its contributions to the economy, Lagos receives statutory allocations like other states which often translate into meagre sums when compared with other states generating revenue in the oil sector.”
The lawmaker told her colleagues that “The bill aims to remedy the problems faced by residents and visitors in Lagos by empowering the Federal Government to make provisions for economic assistance through grants as provided for under section 164 sub-section (1) of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
“The bill allows the grants payable to be determined by the president and commander-in-chief on the recommendation of the governor of Lagos State with the proviso that the governor recommends the modest amount not less than one per cent of the share of the revenue accruing to the Federal Government. The amount is payable upon appropriation by the National Assembly.”
According to Tinubu, “This grants will be utilised in meeting the public infrastructural need of Lagos State. For example, improving on rail infrastructure to decongest the roads and for promotion of the conducive social economic environment for federal institutions as well as increasing the state’s capacity to continue to play host.”
But in his own contribution to the debate, Adeyeye argued that the provisions of the constitution should be amended in such a manner that the principle of fiscal federalism is upheld. He suggested that 13 per cent of money collected by the Federal Government as Value Added Tax (VAT) should be reserved for states like Lagos where such taxes are collected.
“We have among us a governor who made a law that banned the consumption of alcohol. That’s what the people want. I supported it. He has the right to make the law. However, if my own people consume alcohol and pay VAT on it, he should not take a penny of what my people have for VAT on alcohol.
“In Lagos, all of us were paying tax. And all of this VAT is taken to Abuja. What we need to do is to say that whatever is good for the goose is good for the gander. If it’s 13 per cent for Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers for oil, let it also be 13 per cent to Lagos for the VAT paid there.”
Adeyeye continued: “Mr. President, you led us to Washington DC on fiscal federalism. We were told that when we see federal roads in the U.S., it’s federal only in name. It’s federal only because the Federal Government of the U.S. provides 80 per cent of the money and the state government provides 20 per cent. Until we have fiscal federalism, Lagos will not work, Calabar will not work, the FCT will not work. By the way, the FCT is a rotten pampered child.”
And just as Adeyeye was about ending his argument, an overwhelming number of senators booed him, shouting him down.Ekweremadu was however swift in asking Adeyeye to withdraw his remark that FCT was a rotten child and it was done. But noticing the anger from senators, Ekweremadu resorted to pleading for calm.
After the rowdiness subsided, Ekweremadu put the question to vote on whether the bill should be allowed to pass the second reading stage. The response was overwhelming as majority responded in the negative. Shocked, Ekweremadu repeated the question thrice. It was rejected and so he ruled that the bill had been thrown out.