With 88 resolutions and six bills passed in just a year, the Lagos State House of Assembly may have set a template for governance in the state , Chukwuma Okparaocha writes.
Last year, Rt. Honourable Mudashiru Obasa had emerged Speaker of the Lagos State house of Assembly in a keenly contested battle between him and some of his colleagues. Some had thought he was unlikely to triumph. But even after his victory, some felt he would cringe with fear while being stalked by the long shadows of his intimidating predecessor, Rt. Honourable Adeyemi Ikuforiji, whose leadership stance held many spellbound for years. But with 88 resolutions and six bills passed in just one year, opinions are beginning to get moulded that Obasa has not only emerged from his predecessor’s shadows; he has carved a niche for himself in the sphere of legislative leadership.
No doubt, the state legislature had from onset set a clearly defined mission, when it was inaugurated by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, on the same date in 2015. Obasa, who is a fourth timer in the House, did not mince words in his inaugural speech, where he set an agenda of the state legislature. His words: “We are here to serve the people. Our new members will find that we are often besieged by lobbyists. Their advocacy plays a valuable role here. But, we must never forget whom we really serve – the people of Lagos State.”
In line with the objective, the House revved its engine, re-ordering the state budget to enable Governor Ambode deliver on his promises to the people of the state in good time. This, no doubt, was like a stitch that saved nine, as the re-ordering of the budget enabled the government to purchase state-on-the-art crime fighting equipment running into billions of Naira. This in itself is historic as no state in the country had ever procured such equipment which included surveillance helicopters, patrol vehicles, armoured personnel carriers and more at the same time.
Noteworthy is the fact that Ambode administration’s first major challenge was tackling an upsurge in crime which greeted his assumption office. This was even as the state 2016 budget was delivered to the state Chief Executive in record time as promised by Speaker Obasa when the document was laid by the governor.
Close watchers of the Obasa-led Lagos Assembly believe that this move may not be unconnected with the promise that the lawmakers would not unnecessarily tackle the executive in the overall interest of the state. It was therefore not unsurprising that the Lagos Assembly made giant strides in the last one year, passing 88 resolutions and six bills within the period.
These included the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund law, 2015, aimed at tackling unemployment in the most populous state of the country. This is aside the Local Government Administration (Amendment bill), to deepen grassroots democracy, Neighborhood watch Bill to enhance Security. Some of these bills have been signed into law by the governor.
Apparently keeping to its promise to Lagosians, the House is currently working on a bill to stem the spread of cancer among Lagosians. Putting it more succinctly, Honourable Tunde Braimoh, chairman, House Committee on Information said the bill, which is one of the four sponsored by Speaker Obasa in the last 12 months aims to assist ‘poor’ Lagosians in the high cost of cancer treatment spread and generally look for the cure of the deadly disease.
When the Lagos Assembly therefore hosted media executives and civil society organisations to unveil her social media platforms, it was joy flowing like a river among the lawmakers and others present. Obasa seized the opportunity to reel out the House achievements under his leadership and formally unveiled four the online platforms. He said: “For purpose of record, I will like to state that this House within one year has passed about 60 resolutions while 6 bills have been passed and consequently signed into law by Governor Ambode. These resolutions and laws are those that border on the security and well-being of Lagosians, and have direct impact on them. We shall remain undaunted and resolute in our resolve to take Lagos to a greater height. “I wish to reiterate that I am passionately committed to my 10-point agenda, as stated in my inaugural speech. Within one year that I took over the mantle of leadership of this great House, we have had landmark achievements in prompt but thorough passage of the year 2016 budget, timely commencement of plenary sittings, organising constituency stakeholders’ meetings simultaneously for the first time in all the 40 constituencies of the state, holding the MDAs to account through intensive and effective oversight activities and in responding earnestly to the petitions by Lagosians through appropriate standing or ad hoc committee. Apart from this, we have not relented in organizing training programs for lawmakers and staff, a factor that has improved them.
“Today, I am delighted to inform you that this House now has a multidimensional and functional website, which we shall be unveiling today. For the first time in the history of this hallowed chamber since its 36 years of existence, you can now communicate with the honorable members through the official email address of the House. All the website’s social media platforms such as Facebook, twitter, youtube and instagram are also functioning properly. it is our belief that with all of them well harnessed, Lagosians can interact with us and also get first-hand information of whatever that goes on in this Assembly.”
“May I also add that very soon, Lagosians would be watching live streaming of the plenary sessions from the chamber,” he added.
Like it did on june 8, the Lagos Legislature played host to a renowned constitutional lawyer, Professor Itse Sagay (SAN) and rights activist, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), and a former Inspector General of Police, (IGP) Alhaji Musliu Smith on June 13, 2016, in continuation of its anniversary to mark the annulled June 12, 1993 Presidential election won by late chief Moshood Abiola had ‘’ Lagos State in a true federalism and state police’’ as theme.
The two Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) agreed that Nigeria needed both political and physical federalism for rapid development. Both observed that Nigeria is the only Federal Republic without a state police and that States, Local Governments, and even schools could have their own police.
Falana revealed that Lagos for instance provided the Federally-controlled Nigeria police with not less than 600 vehicles in 16 years while the Federal government accorded the state with less than 200 within the same period.
Their agitation for state police was supported by the former IGP who said Lagos in particular was ripe for state police by virtue of its peculiarities and special position in Nigeria.
In his remarks, Speaker Obasa declared that every state that has the resources should be allowed to have state police in the spirit of true federalism. He equally demanded a special status for Lagos in view its strategic position and contributions to national development.
Appraising the 8th Lagos assembly a former chairman of the ikeja branch of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Monday Ubani thumbed up the performance of the Lagos lawmakers in the last one year. He said “I have watched the proceeding of the Lagos House. Most times, their debate is only centered on how to better the living standard of the people of Lagos, how to improve their welfare and how to ensure that the issue of basic infrastructure is addressed. Most of the people elected in this 8th Assembly are masses-oriented people; you will see it in their pronouncement, actions and debate at all times. Therefore my view and opinion of this 8th Assembly is that they have done some things that show that they are very sensitive to the yearning and aspiration of the people which is very key,” he added.
Ubani’s views were shared by the first elected female chairman of the Lagos State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalist (NUJ) Mrs. Olufunke Fadugba.
“I will say the 8th Lagos Assembly seems to be more active and less controversial than its predecessors who had always been engulfed in one crisis or the other. ‘This particular Assembly seems to be focused and we can only pray that the situation remains so till the end of their tenure because it is not the beginning that matters but how well you end,” she said.