Southern Governors Unite On True Federalism, Devolution Of Powers

Southern Governors Unite On True Federalism, Devolution Of Powers

…To Collaborate On Security, Infrastructure, Economy

…Appoint Ambode Chairman, Dickson, Umahi As Co-Chairmen

For the first time in 12 years, Governors of the Southern States of Nigeria on Monday met in Lagos, where they unanimously reiterated the call for true federalism and devolution of powers to States.

The Governors, in a communique at the end of the meeting read by the host Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State, also resolved to collaborate with one another for the growth and development of their economies.

Aside Governor Ambode, the meeting was attended by Governors of Ogun, Senator Ibikunle Amosun; Oyo, Seantor Abiola Ajimobi; Osun, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, Ebonyi, David Umahi; Edo, Mr. Godwin Obaseki; Ondo, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu; Abia, Mr. Okezie Ikpeazu; Enugu, Mr. Henry Ugwuanyi; Bayelsa, Mr. Seriaki Dickson and Ekiti State, Mr. Ayodele Fayose.

Governors of Cross River, Anambra and Delta were represented by their Deputies – Mr. Evara Esu; Dr. Ikem Okeke and Mr. Kingsley Otuaru respectively.

Continuing with the communique, Governor Ambode said the Governors after extensive deliberations, also emphasized priority on security and lives and property of citizens of the regions, while also resolving to work on effective linkage on good infrastructure across the 17 States in the region.

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At the meeting, Governor Ambode was unanimously appointed as the Chairman of the Southern Governors Forum (SGF) while Governors Seriaki Dickson of Bayelsa and David Umahi of Ebonyi States were appointed as Co- Chairmen of the Forum.

The Forum also scheduled the next meeting for Port Harcourt in a yet to be announced date.

Earlier, Governor Ambode, while welcoming his colleagues to the meeting, reflected on the clamour for true federalism and devolution of powers, saying that states will benefit from the envisaged restructuring.

He said the goals of true federalism, which included the strengthening of autonomy and the enhancement of fiscal viability will enable the states to develop at their own pace and based on their peculiarities.

He said the forum had achieved an increased awareness on the sustenance of the national question germane to peaceful co-existence in the country.

However, he said there is a lot to be done and achieved, stressing that true federalism required urgent, meticulous and proactive attention by the forum.

Ambode frowned at what he described as the non-periodic review of the revenue formula as provided by the constitution to reflect evolving realities.

He said the review is crucial to enhance the viability of states and local government and their capacity to fulfil their developmental roles in the polity.

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The governor added: “States are disparaged for always carrying begging bowls to Abuja in quest of hand-outs from the Federal Government. This is a function of our present national constitution that burdens the Federal Government with activities and responsibilities that rightly fall within the province of states.

“The productivity and revenue-generating capacities of most states are thus stifled, thus turning them into no better than street beggar states incapable of even meeting routine obligations of paying workers’ salaries and pensions without federal support.”

Ambode recalled that Lagos State had fought and won several legal battles since 1999 that have systematically strengthened her autonomy and enhanced her fiscal viability.

He noted that the state had won the legal control over the management of its environment, the control of urban and physical planning, the regulation of overhead masts, the registration and regulation of hotels and restaurants, and the control of inland waterways.

Ambode said these victories belonged, not only to Lagos, but also to other states, adding that, if Lagos could achieve so much by fighting alone, the Southern Governors’ Forum will accomplish more through collective planning and strategy.

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The governor said the forum has been reactivated at the time the National Assembly is harmonising its differences over the 1999 Constitution amendment, which will soon be transmitted to the Houses of Assembly for approval

He said: “It is important for this forum to comprehensively look at the proposed amendments with a view to working with our respective Houses of Assembly to ensure a coordinated response on our part that will strengthen the practice of democracy, federalism, constitutionalism and the rule of law.

Ambode clarified that, while pushing for greater devolution of powers, responsibilities and resources from the centre to the states, the goal of the forum is neither to a weak centre and strong states and vice versa.

The governor paid tribute to former Lagos State Governor Bola Tinubu for his initiave, recalling that he hosted the first meeting of the forum in Akodo Beach Resort, Ibeju-Lekki, whe he was at the helm of affairs.

He said while the initiative was received with mixed feelings at the time, Tinubu was vindicated later because of its achievements as the forum became a vocal voice on maters of critical importance, not only to the Southern Nigeria, but to the country as a whole.

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Ambode hailed the forum for advocating for a special allocation to oil-producing states in the Federation Account, adding that its agitation led to the current 13 per cent revenue derivation and allocation from the Federation Account.

He said: “Another major victory won towards strengthening the country’s practice of true federalism was the declaration bybthe Supreme Court in 2002 that the then prevalent practice of the Federal Government deducting monies from the Federation Account as a first charge for the funding of Joint Venture Contracts, the NNPC priority projects, servicing of Federal Government’s external debt, the judiciary and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and other federal obligations were illegal and unconstitutional.

“The Supreme Court in that case abolished the special funds created by the Federal Government to enable it draw funds from the Federation Account to pay for matters that fell within its exclusive responsibility before sharing whatever was left with states and local governments.”

We’ll Continue To Prioritize Welfare Of Judges

We’ll Continue To Prioritize Welfare Of Judges

…As Lagos Chief Judge, Atilade Retires

Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode on Monday said his administration will continue to give utmost priority to the welfare of serving and retired judges in the State so as to enable them continue to give their very best to the economic prosperity of the State.

Governor Ambode, who spoke when the outgoing Chief Judge of Lagos State, Justice Olufunmilayo Atilade paid him a courtesy visit at the Lagos House in Ikeja, said his administration on inception in May 29, 2015, embarked upon reforms in the judiciary to improve on their service delivery noting that the Lagos State has become a reference point of how the judiciary should run.

Alluding to the fact that appreciable progress has been made by the judiciary in the last two years of his administration, Governor Ambode said that part of the reforms was to ensure that judges who retire after meritorious service to the State are comfortable after retirement.

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“Reforms in the judiciary is a continuous thing and in areas, in which we have not done utmost well as you so much envisioned, we would improved on them and we would also ensure that we make life comfortable for our retired judges as you move into that club. I am very particular about the welfare of judges, that is a very sacred institution that we must continue to ensure that even in retirement there is so much for them to look back for the efforts they have made.

“That is why it is very easy for us to bring some of our retired judges to continue to serve us because that basket of knowledge is not found everywhere and we cannot afford to disconnect with the knowledge possessed by our judges,” Governor Ambode said.

Governor Ambode also underscored the contributions of the Judiciary to the Lagos success story, saying that the harmonious relationship among the three arms of government had placed the State on a steady pedestal of prosperity.

He said the Lagos Judiciary over the years, has maintained a tradition that has made the State an embodiment of law and order, saying that it was only in an atmosphere where the Judiciary is seen to be independent that the State can continue to experience peaceful co-existence and economic growth.

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“I want to openly declare here that I’ve had a fantastic relationship with the judiciary and with your good self. One of the things I tried to set out was to emphasize security reforms and judicial sector reforms of which you’ve been a good partner in progress. We have achieved so much in the area of security reforms and you can also attest to the fact that there has been peaceful coexistence of Lagosians in the last two and half years that you have been here.

“I want to say clearly here that if there is actually an arm that I’ve actually had collective responsibility with is actually the judiciary. You have been totally independent and we have not in any way interfered in all the things that have been done in the Judiciary and again everybody see the Lagos Judiciary as the shining example of how the Judiciary should be run,” he said.

Commending the efforts of Justice Atilade, who is expected to officially bow out as the Chief Judge of the State on Sunday, September 24, Governor Ambode expressed optimism that the tradition which the Lagos Judiciary is known for would continue to hold sway long after her departure.

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“Collectively, the judiciary, executive and the legislature arms of government, we have done very well in Lagos to keep that harmony and peace, ultimately for the prosperity of Lagos. I want to thank you for serving this State,” Governor Ambode said.

Earlier in her remarks, Justice Atilade said the visit was to thank Governor Ambode for providing a conducive atmosphere and cordial working relationship between the executive and the judicial arm of government in the State during her period as Chief Judge of the State.

‘On behalf of the Lagos State Judiciary, I’ll like to say a big thank you to His Excellency for all he has done, he is doing and will continue to do for the Lagos State Judiciary. I pray that as I leave, the cordial relationship between the three arms of government would continue and become better,” she said.

My Random Thoughts: On Lagos, and Accelerating Development Across Nigeria

My Random Thoughts: On Lagos, and Accelerating Development Across Nigeria

I am sharing my thoughts in this article, not necessarily as the governor of Lagos State but as a Nigerian; a Nigerian who wants to see progress and sustainable growth in our country.

I am lucky to be administering a State that has been put on the right track by my two predecessors, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN). I do not think I have done anything special except to bring to this my own style of leadership, my own experience and my vision.

Lagos, as it is, has not reached its peak but we can see signs of progress and positive transition to the Lagos of our dreams. What bothers me personally is that I do not see the same level of progress elsewhere in the country. I am not happy that most states in our country are not advancing like Lagos is. It will be unfair of me to think that because Lagos is functioning, then I can go to bed and assume all is well. If only one man is prospering in a village, then it is not progress. Rather, that man is in danger.

According to the statistics released by the United Nations, by 2050, Nigeria is projected to have the third largest population in the world, with two-thirds of the population today below the age of 35. What are we doing today about this? What are we planning to feed them with? How are we going to provide them with jobs, housing and infrastructure? How are we planning to make the country self-sufficient and self-reliant for the future?

One of the key instruments to the permanent prosperity of Nigeria lies in the hands of the 109 senators and 360 representatives in the National Assembly. I just want to plead that we should be open-minded and forward-thinking; we should think about the teeming millions of youth, from Kano to Ibadan, Zungeru to Warri, Jalingo to Yobe, Umuahia to Calabar, and then back to Lagos. We must give serious consideration to what we intend to bequeath to them.

In my opinion, the prosperity of this nation lies with the states. We need to get the states and regions working again and the only way we can unleash the potential of the state is for our representatives at the National Assembly to help their individual states take the next step and move to the next level. In the past, there used to be positive rivalry and competition among the regions prior to the entrance of the military into the national governance. The military split the nation into states and moved the control of all the resources to the centre for their own administrative convenience. Now that we have experienced democracy, I think it is time for us to sit back and think, for the sake of those who are older than us and for the sake of our children, and even those yet to be born.

We need to raise our voice in support of the demand for devolution of power to states and fiscal federalism, especially the review of the current revenue sharing formula. These, in my view, are fundamental and critical to creating an enabling environment that will accelerate development in all parts of the country. The ongoing process towards the review of the 1999 Constitution presents a golden opportunity for us to redress all the aberrations created by the interjection of the military that have stunted growth and inhibited the capacity of states to harness the huge potentials of our nation.

Even with the kind of resources we have in Lagos, it is very clear that there is a huge infrastructural deficit in the State. In addition, the resources are not so huge as to make Lagos globally competitive and deliver the social infrastructure we all crave. So where will the money to drive the Lagos of our dreams come from?

The economy is not doing as well as we want it to. We cannot tax the people any more than we are doing presently, but we have to become more efficient in tax collection because that is the major source of revenue with which we can protect the future, as well as improve the welfare and well-being of all Lagosians.

This takes me to the kind of reforms that we have embarked upon in the last two years. We made security a priority. Our goal has always been to deliver a clean, safe and prosperous Lagos. I want to use this platform to thank the private sector and the corporate Lagos who have been wonderful and have been silently supporting us in the provision of security equipment and infrastructure to our security agencies. Because of them we have been able to improve the performance of our security agencies but we will not take them for granted.

On Cleaner Lagos Initiative. In the last two years, we have found out that Lagos generates one of the highest waste in the world. At the last count, documented waste in Lagos was estimated at 13,000 tonnes per day. Considering undocumented statistics, we can add an additional 4,000 tonnes per day to that figure.

Now, if we want to be revolutionary, if we want to be globally competitive, if we want to deliver on the promise that I made to accomplish a clean, safe, and prosperous Lagos, we cannot use the same template that has been in use from the past. Cleaning Lagos and keeping the environment clean has nothing to do with environmental sanitation and putting your economic productivity at a standstill for three hours every month. That will not clean Lagos.

Cleaning Lagos means we should give Lagosians scientifically treated land fill sites, transfer loading stations, functional dyno-bins, functional compactors, brand new materials and also be able to employ more people. That is why I extended my hand to the private sector for a partnership that will lead to the introduction of 500 brand new compactors, employ more than 27,000 street sweepers across the various wards in Lagos and create 200,000 indirect jobs. And we are commencing this in another few weeks.

I fully appreciate the concerns of the people who have been cleaning Lagos in the past years. I do not take them for granted, neither am I going to ignore them. The new model is a win-win for all of us; I have offered them a 100 percent income from the commercial enterprise, so that our private sector participants (PSPs) can gain capacity and also get more capital to do more work. There are over 5,000 companies in Lagos – enough to go around all the PSP operators, with a minimum of 15 companies to each PSP. The government can support them to make their contract with those companies bankable.

So, while we are using the Cleaner Lagos Initiative to clean private residences and domestic refuse, our original PSP operators are compensated by dealing with companies and getting 100 percent revenues with just one percent administrative charges to Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA). In the past, LAWMA collected 40 percent in charges. This reform is a product of deep thought and serious human consideration for the environment and all stakeholders. We promise Lagosians that effective from September – within six months – they will see the difference. All they need to do to help us achieve this goal is to cooperate with the government and pay the annual public utility levy in accordance with the law. This is what will fund the project. Our bins will be cleared systematically on a daily basis. The same way the refuse on Adeola Odeku is cleared is the same way refuse in Badagry, Ayobo, Agege and other parts of Lagos will be cleared.

In the transport sector, we have decided that to integrate our rail, road and water transportation systems, it will take time; but I believe in the philosophy of Think It, Plan It and then Act It. Sometimes, people can be impatient and say we are not responsive, but the issue is that when you run a government, you cannot run a reactionary government. We are running a responsive government which is one of the tenets of good governance. We must and are expected to think through all our policies properly and to the end before planning and executing. The difference between the thinking time, planning time, the execution time and the action time demanded by the populace is what makes people cry out.

There are a lot of things coming up under the bus reforms initiative. We are introducing new bus terminals; there are already new terminals at Tafawa Balewa Square and in Ikeja. We are constructing more in Yaba, Oyingbo, Mile 2, Ojodu Berger, Ogba and Agege. All these things will be in place before our new buses come in February 2018.

We are doing a lot on water transportation also. We want to make sure that everyone is able to move from one place to another.

Like the transport sector, we are doing new things in the health sector. We do not have enough General and Specialist hospitals. From Lekki to Epe, there is no General Hospital along that axis and we need to do something about it. More Specialist Hospitals are coming up but the government cannot do it alone. My take is that the private sector needs to come on board. The private sector is at the front burner of what we are doing and we have a management team made up of experts from the private sector. We welcome ideas and projects that can bring value to the majority of Lagosians. We believe strongly that value is driven by its impact on humanity and that is what all our story is all about.

We love the criticism that Lagos is the second least livable city. It is a challenge to us and we are working on disproving the fasle basis of this ranking, but people forget that the major considerations for this classification are terrorism and crime, which I believe we do not have in Lagos. I am passionate about Lagos. But I will not compare Lagos with Melbourne. What is important is that we are making some giant strides, positively affecting the lives of our people and even receiving accolades for what we have been doing. There is still a lot more to come and in another one year, I believe that people will see that Lagos has taken proper shape. I am a good listener and I appreciate objective criticism. I read and listen even though I often do not respond.

Lagos is the most thriving cosmopolitan city right now in Sub-Saharan Africa. Our goal is to expand capital expenditure such that in another two to three years, Lagos State will become the third largest economy in Africa.

These are just some of my random thoughts…

Address Delivered At The Special Parliamentary Session To Celebrate Lagos @ 50 & 2nd Anniversary Of The 8th Assembly Of Lagos State House Of Assembly At The Assembly Complex, Alausa

Address Delivered At The Special Parliamentary Session To Celebrate Lagos @ 50 & 2nd Anniversary Of The 8th Assembly Of Lagos State House Of Assembly At The Assembly Complex, Alausa

Today is another very important day in celebrating 50 years of excellence, since the creation of Lagos State. In a democracy, particularly a federal system of government which we operate, modern government is placed on a tripod comprising of the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary. Each arm has its distinct role as prescribed by the Constitution. These roles are complementary and also serve as checks and balances to ensure that no single arm of government is vested with overriding powers over the others.

Lagos State, since creation, has been a shining example and critical hub of socioeconomic and political development. The harmonious relationship between the three arms of government in Nigeria which is reflective in the governance model of Lagos State promotes the interest and welfare of the people.

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Today, we are celebrating the contributions of the Lagos State House of Assembly, particularly the 8th Assembly in the last two years, to the true principles of democratic governance through passage of Bills that advance the principle of governance and promotion of social welfare of the people within the ambits of the Law.

It is on record that military incursion into governance has always made the legislature its first victim by suspending the Constitution with all powers against the wishes of our people. Therefore, the Legislature can be said to be the most exposed in governance model in the current democratic dispensation, if we have to give its true meaning and relevance in a representative government.

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Inspite of this chequered history, the 1st to 8th Assemblies of the Lagos State House of Assembly have been the benchmark for assessing legislative business in governance of the Nigerian State. The 8th Assembly, in particular has been highly responsive and innovative in fulfilling its constitutional obligations and meeting the aspirations of our people for the dividends of democracy.

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The superlative performance of the 8th Assembly, including previous Assemblies, can be attributed to the quality of leadership that has been produced through a matured and democratic process with the purpose of providing a democratic process that would benefit our people.

Over the years, the Legislative arm of government in Lagos State has been a shining beacon of democratic independence and responsiveness. It has never shirked its assigned role or responsibility even in the face of provocation. It has continuously engaged the electorate in the process of making laws through interactive engagements and contributions to the making of Laws.

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The synergy between the three arms of government, particularly the Executive and Legislature has become the benchmark of the democratic process in Nigeria. As we celebrate the last fifty years of the creation of Lagos State, we have laid the building blocks for the next fifty years and I have no doubt that the 8th Assembly of the Lagos State House of Assembly will continue to be relevant by raising the standard of legislative performance in a knowledge driven era.

I congratulate the Honourable Speaker, Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Obasa, the Principal Officers and Honourable Members of the 8th Assembly and by extension past leadership and membership of the Lagos State House of Assembly on the auspicious occasion of golden anniversary of Lagos State and the 2nd anniversary of the 8th Assembly.

I thank you and God bless you all.

Itesiwaju  Ipinle Eko Lo Je Wa L’Ogun!!!

Recession Not A Crime, A Wakeup Call To Rearrange Expenditure

Recession Not A Crime, A Wakeup Call To Rearrange Expenditure

Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode on Saturday said that contrary to the view held by most people, recession was not a crime but a period that calls for government at all level to rearrange its expenditure and give more priority to capital expenditure.

Governor Ambode, who spoke at the opening ceremony of the Biennial Convention of the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) held in Ikeja, Lagos with the theme, “A Nation in Recession: Whither the Nigerian Media?” sighted example of the steps the former U.S President, Barak Obama took few years ago to save the ailing American economy, saying that Nigeria must be ready to toll such line.

The Governor said, “Recession is not a crime, it’s just a notice to say that you rearrange the way you do your public expenditure. That’s what President Obama did. Yes, there was a burst in 2008 and 2009 but he was very bold enough to put public money into General Motors and even the airlines and that is what is missing in this country.

“You need to increase the capital expenditure to help companies, to help other people and even help the government to get the system out of recession. That’s the only template that works.”
Governor Ambode said the State stood in the gap for Nigeria during the period of the economic recession, assuring that his administration would continue to show leadership, demonstrate capacity and be relentless in its pursuit of excellence despite the daunting challenges.

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He said the current recessionary climate not only taught some hard lessons but presented a new challenge as well as an opportunity to think outside the box to change Nigeria’s story from “business as usual” to “business unusual”.

He said with the recession, the rate of unemployment soared as a result of the economic outlook, lay-offs and shut-down of businesses stating that the national unemployment rate rose to 13.9 percent in 2016 from 10.4 percent in 2015; while the unemployment rate in Lagos State increased from 18 percent in 2015 to 27 percent in 2016.

But the Governor said that his administration took definite steps to arrest the trend, recalling that on assumption of office, he created new ministries while some while realigned in a bid to fashion out ways of creating job opportunities for residents.

Besides, Governor Ambode said what his administration did in the last two years was to commit huge resources to capital projects, premised on the fact that the nation had no choice but to spend its way out of recession and create platforms that will stimulate job creation and decidedly reflate the economy.

“Today, with our GDP at US$136billion, Lagos is Africa’s fifth largest economy just because we have been prudent and resilient as well as taking on board the useful opinions and analysis that the vibrant media have ceaselessly provided.,” the Governor said.

Governor Ambode also said that despite the shortfall of federal transfers occasioned by the dip in oil prices, his administration made conscious decisions to partner with the private sector through Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) to bridge the funding gap to deliver key/strategic infrastructure projects especially the Fourth Mainland Bridge; Oshodi Transport Interchange; Badagry Deep Sea Port; Lekki free trade zone, and Lagos Smart City projects, among others.

While commending the Guild of Editors for its outstanding accomplishments and contributions to the growth and development of the media and free speech in Nigeria, Governor Ambode tasked the media to live up to its major responsibility of advancing the cause of good governance.

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“Your role in this pursuit of resilience, therefore, is to lend the needed support in bringing our noble efforts to public consciousness. With your vital partnership, we are hopeful that other governments can borrow a leaf from the Lagos Model and translate same in their respective domains to promote good governance to the greater benefit of humanity,” he said.

He assured that the State Government would not rest on its oars, but would continue to initiate and execute programmes that will make Lagos the investment haven of Africa and the tourism destination of the Continent.

Earlier, President of the NGE, Mrs. Funke Egbemode, said the Convention afforded members to rub minds and fashion out strategies that would help to stabilise the nation’s economy, but also the media industry in business.

The event which attracted the who’s who in the Nigeria Media Industry also saw the Guild conduct elections into various offices.