By Chinelo Obogo
Bisi Yusuf is a member of the Lagos State House of Assembly and the chairman, House Committee on Public Accounts and Local Government. He speaks on the need for states to be given more control over their natural resources, and also advocates for special grants for the state.
Would you subscribe to an amendment of the constitution in which the local governments would get more autonomy?
The effectiveness of a local government depends on who the governor of the state is, and the pro-activeness of the State Assembly. In Lagos Assembly, we are proactive, and the respect between the executive and the legislature is mutual.
When there is an outcry for financial autonomy in any state, it is an indication that their governor is interfering with their resources, which is not the case in Lagos. Recently, 114 roads were completed by the local governments, and this is an indication that local governments in the state are well funded. If they didn’t have funds, how would they have done that? Like I said, the efficiency of any local government, depends on the attitude of the governor towards their funding.
Recently, the Senate rejected the call for a special grant to be given to Lagos State and the assembly appealed for a consideration. Considering that the state is financially stable to a large extent, would you say that the request for a special grant is justifiable?
It is very justifiable because if you remove Lagos from Nigeria’s economy, there will be no Nigerian economy. Lagos is very viable and it is due to the seriousness of past governors like Bola Tinubu. While he was still the governor-elect, he constituted a very powerful economic team that created templates for more than 50 years, such that if we continue to take the items one by one, for the next 50 years, we would still have a long way to go.
Lagos is the only former capital that has been neglected throughoutthe world. There is a mass exodus of Nigerians to Lagos every day.
Lagos state is financing the police where we have no control over and those people who even rejected the bill, still prefer to come to Lagos to rest. The Niger Delta has oil, and they have the advantage of getting the 13 percent derivation. We have ports through which goods that come to Nigeria pass through, yet we get no special money from that. The trucks that carry these goods spoil our roads, and we spend our money repairing them.
What we are demanding for is just one per cent of the total budget of Nigeria. It is not too much if you compare it with the burden Lagos carries, and if we get that one percent, it would have multiplier effect on economy of Nigeria.
Are you one of those that believe that states should be given some measure of control over their natural resources?
The Federal Government is so powerful and they have so many resources at the detriment of all the federating units.
When we talk about federal roads for instance, which road cuts across federal road? Is it not in a state? What is the business of Federal Government with the road? Give that money to the state and you will see the way they will maintain their roads. Look at the express road which has come to be a death trap for so long, to run through Lagos-Ibadan and Ogun.
If the money meant for that construction is given to the state, each state will be able to do better things with those roads. Now, if Lagos State has collected its own and performed very well and Ogun State has not done anything, the citizens of Ogun will rise up against Ogun State. So, that’s what we are saying. The percentage of the resources going to Federal Government is too much; we’re killing the states. It won’t allow states to have that benefit of development. When the Federal Government wants to even negotiate salary, they don’t take into consideration the ability of the state to pay. I’m not saying that minimum wage should be what our people should earn, I don’t like that. It’s not even enough for anything but what I’m saying is that you cripple the state yet you dictate what they have to pay.
So, should the states be given control over their resources?
Yes. Let them take care of the way they can pay their workers. Those who cannot work in a less virile something should look for other places to work. Federal Government is cripling the economic activities of the states by not giving them adequate funds to perform. Then, they maintain security, army and let them base on that very one; the other ones should be given to the states to do. Devolution of fund is what I’m saying. When you devolve money to the states, the state will perform better.
Some people have said that the economic team of the Federal Government seems not to be doing well in terms of how difficult things have been, how the economy has been going down. Would you advise the president to reconstitute another economic team?
The President knows why he is doing that; I am only concerned about Lagos State. President Buhari is the one that appointed them; so, he should review their activities. If he finds out that they are not performing, why not. It is not a permanent place. But what the people are saying is that it should be an inclusive government like what we have here in Lagos State.
The Assembly recently said it was supporting the stand of Tinubu when he said that the Ondo State APC governorship primary poll did not go the way it’s supposed to go, and called for the resignation of the national chairman of the party. Why did the assembly take that decision?
That question should go to the speaker, but I am speaking my individual opinion. The issue was debated on the floor of the House and the decision was taken. The decision of the House is superior to the opinion of an individual. So, we have taken the decision to stand by Tinubu who is the national leader of our party. He is a man that you cannot just toss around, and if the man is now suggesting that there is a foul play in the manner in which the primary election was conducted, he should be listened to. Some leaders will never come out to say what is not working and I think that spirit should be the spirit that every leader will have.
Considering the role that he played for the formation of the party, is it not worrisome to you that the party at the national level does not want to heed to his advice?
What our leader is saying is that democracy suggests that the majority should have their say. Now if that’s what it is, just keep to the tenets, this principle of majority. The appeal panel said that there was foul play at the way the primary poll was conducted, and recommended a fresh primary election. Any party primary poll must be transparent because a faulty foundation will never make the house to be strong. It is very wrong for anybody to steal the mandate of another person. We can’t be criticizing wrong things in others, and then when it comes to our turn, we do the exact same thing that we are criticising others about.