BEYOND THE NATIONAL DISCOURSE ON RESTRUCTURING: WHAT SHOULD BE THE STATUS OF LAGOS?
BEING THE TEXT OF THE PAPER DELIVERED BY ALHAJI OLUFEMI OKUNNU SAN.CON. AS THE GUEST SPEAKER AT THE 2ND INDEPENDENCE ROUNDTABLE ON NATIONAL DEVEVELOPMENT ORGANISED BY THE ILE BINTIN SOCIAL CLUB,LAGOS AT FREEDOM PARK, BROAD STREET ,LAGOS ON WEDNESSDAY 27TH SEPTEMBER 2017.
The term “restructuring” means different things to different people.
To some of us, it means transfer of certain “functions” from the Exclusive Legislative List assigned to the Federal Government to the Houses of Assembly of the states. These are functions over which only the National Assembly has power to make laws to the exclusion of State legislatures (State Houses of Assembly). The belief is that over the years especially because of military intervention, the Federal Government had taken more powers from the States.
“Restructuring” to some others denotes political division of the country into “states” or “regions” or “zones”. Some sections of Nigeria prefer the federating units (states) to remain as they are now – 36 in number. Some prefer more! Some prefer less than 36 states!
There are those who, by restructuring, mean the reduction of the number of states to six in number, popularly called “Zones”. It may be noted that never in the history of Nigeria had there been six “protectorates” or “colonies” or “regions” or “states”. The nearest to number “six” was the idea of Mr. C.L. Temple, second in command to Lord Lugard in Colony (Lagos) and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria who advocated division of Nigeria into six protectorates as against Lord Lugard’s two protectorates during the debate on “Amalgamation” in 1913/14. Lord Lugard won the debate. If Temple had won the debate, the history of Nigeria would have been very different from what it is today. There could have been no issue about one protectorate or region being greater in size and population than all the others put together. About this, more anon.
“Restructuring” to some Nigerians, means creation of more states in the Federation. The National Conference reluctantly put together by President Jonathan recommended creation of additional 18 new states in 2014, making a total of 54 states in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. There was no agreement about how to meet the high cost of governance, now that at least thirty out of thirty-six existing states cannot pay the salaries of their civil servants which are usually in arrears, or pensions of the retired citizens.
Some of our fellow Nigerians take lack of Federal amenities in their communities as the need to restructure the polity. And to other ethnic communities, failure of the Federal Government to give plumb appointments to their sons and daughters is the main reason for their call or demand to “restructure” Nigeria. They allege that their communities are being marginalized in the distribution of amenities or plumb appointments to offices of state.
The two largest political parties have also joined the great debate from two different positions.
In the last two years of his tenure, President Goodluck Jonathan suddenly found the necessity to summon a National Conference to consider the issue of “restructuring”. The People’s Democratic Party of President Jonathan participated fully at the conference and the party is now calling for the implementation of the Report of the Conference. The opposition parties, now merged as the All Progressive Congress, refused to participate in the proceedings at President Jonathan’s Conference.
The APC, as the party of President Muhammadu Buhari now says it is in favour of restructuring. It was in the party’s manifesto for the Presidential election in 2015, though it gave no details. The party is now holding town meetings all over the country to determine the views of the people. People’s Democratic Party has refused to take part in the on-going exercise on “restructuring”.
There are two other variations of “restructuring” which have occupied part of our political space. There are some influential voices who, while acknowledging the existence of the federal government with defined powers nonetheless advocate establishment of a government in each of the so-called six geopolitical zones, while retaining the existing 36 states as the federating units. This matter featured very prominently at the 2014 National Conference. This idea turns “federalism” or a federal government on its head!
One of the leading British authorities on constitutional law in the last century, Prof. Kenneth C. Wheare, defines it as follows:
“Federal Government consists in a division of the functions of government between an independent common authority for the whole country and independent authorities for the constituent parts of the country”.
And as Prof. Ben Nwabueze says puts it in “Constitutional Democracy in Africa”:
“Federalism is an arrangement whereby governmental powers within a country are shared between a national, country-wide government and a number of regional (i.e. territorially localized) governments, all equal in status as governments in such a way that each of the national and regional governments exists separately and independently from the others and operate directly on persons and property within the territorial area of its jurisdiction, with a will of its own and its own apparatus of the conduct of its affairs, and with an authority in some matters exclusive of all the others”.
We must not ignore the views of two of our largest ethnic “nationalities” in this debate.
A few years ago, “restructuring” to a large section of our Igbo-speaking Nigerians in the South East of the country centered on their demand for “Ibo” presidency and complaint on “marginalization”. That was the stand of Ohanaeze, a cultural group but now a political force. This was followed by a demand for a Republic of Biafra. In recent days, the Governors of the five states in the South East have publicly dissociated themselves from the call for an independent Republic of Biafra and proclaimed that the unity of Nigeria is indivisible.
In a recent article entitled “Biafra: Legal, economic and social questions”, the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, has redefined the agitation for restructuring thus:
“The South-East region, in particular, has no doubt, been at the worst receiving end of the structural imbalance with ripples of disequilibrium in the distribution of resources and opportunities since the end of the civil war in 1970. These, as we know, are at the root of the disquiet and agitation by various groups for sovereign state of Biafra”.
He added ominously:
“The Igbo have large chunk of their investments outside the South-East region. Our people have invested heavily in every nook and cranny of Nigeria. They are into trading. Imagine a situation where a Republic of Biafra would have to depend on Nigerian passports to travel out”.
He calls for “a federal restructure that guarantees substantial autonomy, justice, equity, security and prosperity for Ngigbo wherever they live”.
There is one other issue which must now be put to rest: the claim of the Indigbo for an extra state to reach parity with Western Region, first amplified at the 2005 Reform Constitutional Conference. This is not justified by history.
The Western Region as it was in 1960 now consists of seven states (Delta, Edo, Ekiti, Ogun, Ondo, Osun and Oyo), while the Eastern Region in 1960 now consists of nine states (Abia, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Bayelsa, Cross River, Ebonyi, Enugu, Imo and Rivers).
We now come to Yoruba Summit, attended by delegates from Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ekiti and Ondo States.
At its Conference held at Ibadan on 7th September, 2017, Yoruba Summit resolved, among others, as follows:
- Nigeria must return to a proper federation as obtained in the 1960 and 1963 constitutions.
- The federating units – whether states, zones or regions – must themselves be governed by written constitution.
- Nigeria shall be a federation comprised of six regions and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
- The Regions shall in turn be composed as states.
- Each Region shall have its own constitution containing enumerated exclusive and concurrent legislative lists regarding matters upon which the regions and the states may act or legislate.
- States as presently comprised in the geo-political zones into which they fall, which shall become regions, shall continue to exercise the executive, legislative and juridical functions currently exercised at that level of government.
The position of the Yoruba Summit is very confusing. The call to return to 1960 and 1963 constitutions is very clear. Both provide for “regions” as federating units, along with Lagos. Both contain 43 items on the Exclusive Legislative List. Both are federal in content. And they provide for regional constitutions.
The recommendation that:
“each region shall have its own constitution containing enumerated exclusive and concurrent legislative lists regarding matters upon which the regions and the states may act or legislate”.
however completely contradicts the principle of federalism as propounded by Wheare and Nwabueze.
It also contradicts both the 1960 and 1963 constitutions, it portends a confederation. It is wholly unacceptable.
Finally, a suggestion that there should be an intermediary level of legislative and executive authorities (regions) between the Federal Government and State Governments is repugnant to common sense and financial prudence. Where will the money (supply) come from, with 30 states now unable to pay salaries.
The position of the Ijaws and most Nigerians from the oil producing states in the River Niger Delta region on the issue of “restructuring” requires no elaboration. They include the Ijaws in Bayelsa State, the Ijaws and the Kalabaris in River State, the Urhobos and the Itsekiri in Delta, the Ibibios in Akwa Ibom, the Efikis in Cross River State and other oil producing areas in the region.
To them, “restructuring” means “resource control” – full control of their oil wealth and oil resources in their region, as in the United States of America. Each oil producing state shall give the Federal a certain percentage of its profit from oil.
In the long conflicting debate on “restructuring”, the old Northern Region as a block remains silent. The fact on the ground is that the old Northern Region died in 1966/67. It was finally laid to rest on 27th May, 1967. And since the death of Sadauna of Sokoto (Sir Ahmadu Bello), the voice of the North has been silenced.
The Arewa Consultative Assembly remains a “sounding board for old friends” to protect perceived Northern interests. The Northern voice on “restructuring” may be what All Peoples Party pronounces it to be as a political party at the end of their present exercise. Majority of the States in the former Northern Region may prefer the “status quo” to any “restructuring”.
POLITICAL DIVISION OF NIGERIA SINCE 1861
The earliest British administration in any part of Nigeria was established in the Colony of Lagos, following the Treaty of Cession in 1861. Lagos Colony shared the same boundary as Lagos State today. Two other colonies were established on 1st January 1900 with the Proclamation of Northern Protectorate with Fredrick Lugard as High Commissioner, and the Protectorate of Southern Nigeria. In 1906 however, Lagos Colony was merged with the Protectorate of Southern Nigeria, to become The Colony and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria, with Sir. Walter Egerton as the High Commissioner.
On 1st January 1914, the Colony of Lagos and the Protectorate of Southern Nigeria were amalgamated with the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria. Inspite of the 1914 amalgamation however, the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria was ruled by the British under a system of Indirect Rule. To all intents and purposes, the emirs continued to rule their subjects and administer justice under Native Authority; the British were behind the curtain occasionally pulling the strings.
The partern of separate administration between the North and the South continued, each with its own Lieutenant Governor until after the 2nd world war. While “Indirect Rule” held sway in the Northern Protectorate, Sir Hugh Clifford set up a Legislative Council for the Colony and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria, with 3 elected members from Lagos, one elected from Calabar (by property franchise), some senior colonial officials and a few other members nominated by the Governor.
Sir Arthur Richards launched his own Constitution in 1946, with three regions, each headed by a Chief Commissioner. Northern Protectorate became Northern Region, and the Southern Protectorate was split into two : Western Region with its capital at Ibadan and Eastern Region with Enugu as the capital. Kaduna remained the capital of Northern Region. Lagos Colony remained a separate administrative entity under the Commissioner for the Colony and his deputy.
The Legislative Council which was set up under the Richard’s constitution, for the first time brought the North, West, East and Lagos together under the same roof. Besides the senior British officials, the Legislative Council had five nominated members from each region, three elected members from Lagos and one from Calabar.
The Richards Constitution gave way in 1951 to a new constitution by Sir. John Macpherson, following the Ibadan Conference in 1950. For the first time, political leaders gathered together to have an input in constitution making for Nigeria.
It was at that conference that the first threat to secede was made. Sir Ahmadu Bello declared at the conference that if the Northern Region was not offered 50% representation in the new Legislative Council because of its population, the Northern delegates would walk out of the conference, declaring that “the north was not prepared to repeat the mistake of 1914”.
WHAT DOES “RESTRUCTURING MEAN?
I see “restructuring” in three senses:
- The number of the federating states (or units) in the Federation. How many?
- What powers or functions should be vested in the Federal Government under the Exclusive List?
And what functions should be in the Concurrent Legislative List?
Residual powers will always be retained by the States.
- Resource Control.
What constitutes the Federation Account?
And what is the sharing formula between the Federal Government and the States?
Should there be a “Federation Account”?
THE FEDERATING UNITS
Before 1954, Nigeria was under the firm rule of the Imperial Power – Great Britain and Ireland. The three colonial possessions – Lagos Colony, the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria and the Protectorate of Southern Nigeria – were ruled by Royal Proclamation or Orders – in – Council issued from London.
The Clifford Legislative Council (for the Colony and Southern Protectorate only in 1923), the Sir Arthur Richard (Lord Milverton) 1946 Legislative Council, and Sir John Macperson’s Legislative Council (1951 – 54) were “talking shops” – passing resolutions praying His (Her) Majesty to do one thing or the other for the people.
The Lyttleton Constitution (1954 – 1960) which established the federal system of government and the political developments which followed changed all that.
THE FEDERATING UNITS UNDER THE LYTTLETON CONSTITUTION WERE:
- Northern Region (former Northern Protectorate),
- Western Region.
- Eastern Region
- British Cameroons.
- Federal Territory of Lagos.
The Richards Constitution had in 1946 changed “protectorates” to “regions”, and split the Southern Protectorate into two: Western Region and Eastern Region.
As a federation (of five colonies), the Federal Government was given exclusive legislative powers over 43 items to the exclusion of the federating units. There were 34 items in the Concurrent Legislative List.
There were two other developments that took place during the years 1954 – 1960. Both the Western and the Eastern Regions (August 1957) as well as the Northern Region (March 1959) were granted internal self government by the British Government. Besides the exercise of legislative powers by the respective Houses of Assembly, the Premiers presided over their cabinets and exercised full executive powers.
The other important development was the participation of all political leaders in Nigeria in the making of the Constitution of the Federation of Nigeria, 1960. The leaders included Sir. Ahmadu Bello (Northern People’s Congress), Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe (National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons) Chief Obafemi Awolowo (Action Group), and Malam Aminu Kano (Northern Elements Progressive Union). Others were Dr. Okoi Arikpo, Joseph Tarka (Middle Belt), and several other leaders.
The Conference took place in London and Lagos in 1957, 1958 and 1959. At the 1958 London Conference, the Action Group delegates were 33 in number out of well over 100 delegates overall. Under the Constitution of the Federation of Nigeria, 1960, the federating units comprising Nigeria had been reduced to four following the referendum in the British Cameroons (a mandated territory under the United Nations) which led to the merger of the British and French Cameroons to become the Republic of the Cameroons.
The new federating units were:
- Northern Nigeria
- Western Nigeria
- Eastern Nigeria
- The Federal territory of Lagos.
See Section 3 of the Constitution of the Federation of Nigeria, 1960.
The number of items in the Exclusive Legislative List had increased only by one item.
By 1963, the combined forces of N.P.C. and N.C.N.C. which formed the coalition Federal Government spearheaded the creation of Mid – Western Region out of Western Region. In the same year, Nigeria became a Republic. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1963 was promulgated.
There was no basic change in the new Constitution compared with the 1960 Constitution. Minor changes like substituting “President” for “Governor – General” featured in the republican constitution. Both the Exclusive Legislative List and the items in the Concurrent Legislative List remained the same. There was no change in the legislative power of the Federal Government vis – a – vis those of the regions.
One of the principles of federalism is that no one state should be bigger than all the other states put together. The Northern Region was over twice the size of all the other regions put together in area or land mass. In population, it contains at least 50 % of the nation. The demand by the Northern Region delegates for 50% of the seats in the legislature in 1950 led to the following representation in the legislature:
The House of Representatives originally consisted of 184 elected members:
i. 92 elected in the Northern Region.
ii 42 elected in the Western Region.
iii 42 elected in the Eastern Region.
iv 6 elected in the Southern Cameroons.
v 3 elected in Lagos.
Since the Federal elections at the end of 1959, the House of Representatives was made up of:
174 elected in the Northern Region
62 elected in the Western Region
73 elected in the Eastern Region
8 elected in the Southern Cameroons
3 elected in Lagos.
The imbalance in the regional representation in the federal legislature, and the fear that power would reside permanently in one region to the disadvantage of some other parts of the country – these were critical issues occupying the political space in the 1960’s which refused to go away.
Perhaps more important was the agitation by minority elements in the North for self determination. There was the Middle Belt insurgency which led to the intervention by the Nigeria Army before the armed revolt was put down. There was agitation for self determination by non Hausa/Fulani population in Ilorin and Kaba Provinces, the NEPU – led “talakawas” especially in Kano Province, and the Kanuri’s in Bornu Province.
Both the NCNC and the Action Group supported the agitation for creation of States in the North.
The Nigeria Army first took over power from the Balewa administration in January 1966. There was the counter coup in July 1966. The country was on the brink of civil war. In August 1966, Lt. Col. Yakubu Gowon set up Ad-Hoc Committee on Constitutional Proposals for Nigeria to save the country from disintegration.
There were 5 delegates from each region and five advisers. Lagos had 2 delegates and 2 advisers. Chief Obafemi Awolowo led the Western delegation, Chief Anthony Enahoro (Mid-West), Sir Kashim Ibrahim (North), Prof. Eni Njoku (East), and Prof. T. O. Elias (Lagos). The Northern delegation included Mallam Aminu Kano and Joseph Tarka. After weeks of deliberations on confederal system of government, and with only Mid-West and one – half of Lagos standing up for a federal system of government, the North broke the ice. In the presence of Mallam Aminu Kano and Joseph Tarka, Sir Kashim Ibrahim (former Governor of the Northern Region) reading from a prepared speech said :
“In order to allay the fears of domination by sections
of the country, the principle of creation of States
must be agreed”.
Prof. T. O. Elias and Chief Obafemi Awolowo immediately rose in turn to welcome and support the speech.
The rest is history.
After some intensive consultation, 12 – State structure was agreed. On 27th May 1967, the Head of State announced the creation of 12 States, 6 from the Northern Region and 6 from the South, as follows :
- North East
- North West
- Benue – Plateau
- North Central
- Western State
- East Central State
- Mid – Western State (Bendel)
- Cross River.
I must admit that the 12 state structure is my ideal structural division for the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
It restores the old Western Region, shorn of Mid-West and Colony Province. All Yoruba speaking Nigerians are in the State.
Some of the new states (Kano, Western State, East Central State) are mono ethnic States. The others are multinational in population but who have been in the same political divisions for many years.
General Muritala Muhammed before his death increased the number of States to 19 by creation of Sokoto and Niger (N – W), Borno, Gongola and Bauchi (N.E), Benue and Plateau (Benue – Plateau), Oyo, Ogun and Ondo (Western States), Anambra and Imo (East Central). It became the fashion for military rulers to gain popular support after military coup d’etat. General Babangida, like Muritala Muhammed increased the number of States from 19 to 30 States. General Abacha added 6 more States to get us to where we are today : 36 States.
Meanwhile, the military rulers, from General and the civilian rulers (Olusegun Obasanjo, Yar’Adua, Jonathan and Buhari) have denied the States the resources to govern by their management of the Federation Account under the constitution.
The 1960 and 1963 constitutions, provide for distribution of Federation Account as follows :
- Region of Origin – 50%
- Federal Government – 20%
- Distributive Pool among the Regions – 30%
General Gowon’s government kept faith with that formula. The 1979 Constitution abandoned the formula.
General Abacha agreed to a grant of 13% of the Federation Account, on the principle of derivation which is now part of the 1999 Constitution. Today, the Federal Government takes 52% of the Federation Account instead of 20% under the 1963 Constitution.
That is the reason why oil producing states want to control their oil wealth. And that is why they demand “restructuring”.
And I say that besides the issue of creation of state “restructuring” of the economy must be a serious matter of debate.
The Federal Government should take only 20% of the Federation Account as in 1963, and not 52% it takes today.
That should be enough to service the government, besides its other sources of revenue.
The third area where I demand “restructuring” is in the Exclusive Legislative List.
Besides section 7 of the 1999 Constitution which provides its creation under a law enacted by the House of Assembly of each State, all references to Local Government in the Constitution should be expunged. This includes First Schedule, Part 1 to the Constitution which describes each State.
“Local Government” is a residual matter or function. It is for State Governments alone to determine.
WHAT SHOULD BE THE STATUS OF LAGOS?
GE DE GBE L’EKO WA.
Let us go back to Memory Lane.
The Aworis were the original settlers in Eko, called “Lagos” by Portugese adventurers. The “Idejo” class of chiefs – Olumegbon, Oluwa, Oniru, Onisemo, Oloto Aromire, Eleguishi, Ojomu, Onikoyi, Onisiwo, Ojora, Onitolo, Onitana are the landowning chiefs. They are the original land owners of Lagos. The Bini invasion. All the Oba of Lagos, starting from Oba Ado, were of Bini origin. So is Oba Alaiyeluwa Akiolu I.
The Binis (Edos) who accompanied Ado to Lagos, settled in Isale Eko, especially at Iduntata, Idunmagbo, Idunshagbe, Idunmota, Idunmaigbo – “Idun” means “areas”. The Akarigbere class of chiefs are of Bini origin. They are: Eletu Odigbo, Eletu Iwashe, Eletu Tka Ologun Agbeje, Ologun Adodo, Eletu Awo, Ologun Agan, Ologun Atebo, Ologun Igbe sodi, Ologun Okoro Ide. So also were the Abagbon class of chiefs – war chiefs : Ashogbon, Bajulaiye, Saba, Bajulu and Bashua. Another of original settlers in Lagos were the “Nupe” or “Tapa” from Niger state. They settled at Idunshage, Ita Agarawu, and most especially Epetedo, popularly called Ita Oshodi. The Oshodi Family are of Tapa origin.
And Brazilian Quarters! The Perera, Marinho, Da Silva, Sho Silva, Salvador, Peregrino, Ferera, Agusto, Da Rhocha, Alakija families – all returnees from Brazil.
There are the Saros – from Free Town – Savage and Cole , et al. They settled at Olowogbowo.
There were waves of Yoruba settlers also as “Ijaye”, Ijesha Tedo, Agodo Egba, Agidingbi, Shomolu will testify.
And of course, the Ijebus at Epe and Ikorodu. And the “Eguns” at Badagry. All these, and more, make up Lagos. They are “Lagosians”.
As stated earlier, Lagos State was the first British colony (1861) in modern Nigeria followed by the Protectorate of Southern Nigeria and the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria (1900). Lagos remained under separate administration until 1951. The last British Commissioner for the Colony I can recall was Mr. E.A. Carr under the Richards Constitution (1946). And his deputy was Major J.C. Allen.
Lagos was the centre of Nigerian politics until 1950 – 51. Lagos was Nigeria! Herbert Macaulay, Nnamdi Azikwe, Ibiyinka Olorunnimbe (from Democratic Party / NCNC) and Kofo Abayomi, Akinola Maja, H.O. Davies (Nigeria Youth Movement) dominated the political scene in the late 1940’s. Then Obafemi Awolowo entered the scene, with the demise of NYM.
In 1950, the Action Group succeeded with the merger of Lagos with Western Region at the Ibadan conference. The result was the merger of Lagos Colony with the Western Region under the MacPherson constitution 1951 – 54.
But Lagosians fought back.
H.M. Alli-Balogun, Prince Ibikunle Akitoye (Black Prince) and son of Oba Akitoye II, Kasali Aremu Kotun (K.K), T.O.S. Benson, and others founded Lagos State Movement, with the slogan “Ge de gbe ni Eko wa”.
In 1954, under the Lyttleton Constitution, Lagos City regained its independence as the Federal Territory until the creation of Lagos State in May 1967 when the colony province (Epe, Badagry and Ikeja) rejoined the city to constitute the new state.
Let it be on record that Alaiyeluwa Oba Adeniji Adele II who provided a platform for Action group in Lagos by creating (area council) in various wards in the city also joined the struggle for the independence of Lagos. In a letter to the British Colonel Secretary about 1956, Oba Adele pleaded for the creation of Lagos Region.
One other matter about the difference between Lagos Colony, now Lagos State, and the rest of Nigeria.
After the Treaty of Lagos in 1861, all persons born in Lagos, and until mid-night on 30th September 1960 were fully – fledged British citizens, with all the rights enjoyed by Britons all over the world
And all those born in the rest of Nigeria were British subjects.
As British citizens, Lagosians held British passports.
All other Nigerians, born outside Lagos, carried “British subjects” on their passports.
The fact of history shows that though many Lagosians have Yoruba blood, we also have Bini (Edo) blood. We have Tapa (Niger State) blood. We have strands of blood from other indigenes of Nigeria.
The Battle for the independence of Nigeria was fought on the streets of Lagos, by indigenes and non indigenes alike.
Let Lagos State be!
To you, Lagosians,
You are too passive
Get out of your slumber.
Join the debate on “restructuring”.
Join the conversation.
Come out to defend the integrity, of Lagos State as members of the Lagos State Movement did in 1950 – 1954.
Nigerians of Lagos State origin.
Fellow Lagosians, stop murmuring.
Get out of your groove.
There is no comfort zone.
LET LAGOS STATE BE.
LAGOS STATE IS NOT FOR MERGER.
GEDEGBE NI EKO WA.
Lateef Olufemi Okunnu, SAN, CON.
27th September 2017