Tinubu’s Bill Throws Senate Into Rowdy Session

Bola Ahmed Tinubu
Bola Ahmed Tinubu
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  • Senators reject Statutory Grants for Lagos

The Senate was, yesterday, thrown into a pandemonium over a bill sponsored by Senator Oluremi Tinubu, representing Lagos Central Senatorial District on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC). Consequently, the Senate, at the end of the rowdy session, rejected the bill which sought to establish an Act to make provisions for Federal Grants to Lagos State in recognition of its strategic socio-economic significance and other connected purposes.

The uproar was triggered by uncomplimentary comments made by the Senate Chief Whip, Prof. Olusola Adeyeye, when in the course of his contribution to the debate; he described the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) as a “rotten pampered child.”

His comments irked many senators and generated mild commotion in the chamber. Adeyeye’s comment particularly provoked deep anger in Senator Philip Aduda (FCT), forcing the Chief Whip to withdraw the statement.

But the withdrawal did not douse the tension, which had degenerated into a shouting match among the senators. The strife generated by the partisan positions of the lawmakers was so intense that the Deputy President of the President, Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over the session, had to leave his seat for several minutes to calm frayed nerves and bring the chaotic situation under control. As the situation tended to get out of hands, Ekweremadu decided to stop further debate on the bill and went on to put the bill to a voice vote.

He did it three times and it was rejected three times and accordingly, the bill was rejected. In the course of the debate, the bill suffered serious partisan considerations from the lawmakers, splitting the Senate along geo-political divides.

While the bill was highly supported by South- West senators, those from the North, South-East and South-South rejected the bill, pointing out that it would give undue advantage to Lagos as well as set a dangerous precedence in the system.

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Leading the debate on the bill, Tinubu urged her colleagues to support the proposal so as to help uplift Lagos status financially and otherwise, in view of the fact that it was a former federal capital of the country.

She noted that the bill sought to tackle many problems confronting 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 lawmaker also explained that the bill would allow the grants payable to be determined by the President and Commander-in- Chief on the recommendation of the Governor of Lagos. Tinubu, however, said that the recommendation would come with the proviso that recommends the modest amount not less than one per cent of the share of the revenue accruing to the federal government; the amount of which would be payable upon appropriation by the National Assembly.

She further stated that the grants would be utilised in meeting the public infrastructural need of Lagos State, such as improving on rail infrastructure to decongest the roads and for promotion of the conducive social economic environment for federal institutions, as well as increase the state’s capacity to continue to play host.

While giving reasons Lagos deserved special assistance from the federal government, she described Lagos as a state with stra-tegic socio-economic significance being “the commercial nerve centre of Nigeria with available statistics indicating that 6 of 10 international passengers arrive in Lagos while 8 of 10 depart from Lagos.”

According to her, a report from the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) in 2008, revealed that 86.2 per cent of companies’ income taxes were collected in Lagos only while another 56.7 per cent Value Added Tax (VAT) was collected in Lagos.

Tinubu said with the degree of revenue being generated from Lagos, the state deserved a special treatment. She said: “Key sectors of the economy namely: manufacturing, construction, telecommunications, financial institutions and insurance are domiciled in Lagos. “Lagos is home to the major ports that served Nigeria. It accounts for over 90 per cent of all maritime exports.

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“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.” The other two Lagos senators, Gbenga Ashafa (Lagos East) and Solomon Olamilekan (Lagos West) as well as Fatimat Raji-Rasaki (PDP – Ekiti Central) and Barnabas Gemade (Benue North-west), expressed strong support for the bill. Adeola drew the attention of his colleagues to the cosmopolitan nature of Lagos.

He said if the grant was approved, it would not only benefit the state, but the entire nation. Rasaki, wife of former Lagos administrator, said the bill was overdue, adding that the state deserved the grant as a former capital city. But Senator Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto North) initiated opposition to the bill, describing it as ill timed and unnecessary.

According to him, the bill will make Lagos richer and make other states poorer, warning that passing the bill would set a dangerous precedence because it would serve as an impetus for other states to also demand for special grants.

Wamakko’s position received strong support from Senator Hope Uzodinma (Imo West), who echoed that passing the bill would open windows for other states to come up with similar bills. Uzodinma suggested that instead of allowing the bill to pass, the option of conceding federal government’s abandoned property in the state to Lagos to augment its cost of maintenance could be considered. Similarly, Aduda (FCT) said he would only support the bill if the same status being sought by Lagos would be accorded the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), arguing that FCT also deserved special allocation for its development.

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Also opposing the bill, Senator Abdullahi Adamu (Nasarawa West) said he would have supported the bill, but noted that the National Assembly had no power to make any law that would empower any state to exclusively draw money from the federation account.

Senator James Manager (Delta South) said Section 164(1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) incapacitated him from supporting the bill, noting that the section authorised the National Assembly to first make a law before the federal government could grant financial assistance to any state.

It was the bitter altercation between Adeyeye and Aduda that provoked the tension and uproar, which eventually made the bill to be killed. Adeyeye had argued that the demand for one per cent grant for Lagos was an underestimation of the real value of the financial need of the state, noting that Lagos deserved 13 per cent derivation from VAT the same way oil-producing Niger Delta states enjoy 13 per cent derivation from the federal government. Adeyeye also dismissed the demand by Aduda for special grant for FCT, describing the nation’s capital as a “rotten pampered child.”

– New Telegraph

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