Senate on Wednesday turned down Senator Oluremi Tinubu’s request for “Special Assistance in form of grants” to Lagos State.
Tinubu’s request which was contained in a bill for an Act to establish Lagos State Special Economic Assistance Programme, was thrown out by lawmakers after it was put to vote by Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu who presided in the absence of Senate President, Bukola Saraki.
What Tinubu wanted was an arrangement where Lagos would be entitled to an amount not less than 1% of monies accruable to the Federal Government.
Tinubu anchors the bill under Section 164 (1) of the 1999 Constitution; arguing that her state be granted the “special assistance in recognition of its status as former capital territory and Nigeria’s commercial nerve centre.
She said Lagos has for long been abandoned to bear the burden of catering for the welfare of millions of citizens from different parts of the country and that the task of coping is putting pressure on infrastructure in the state.
Tinubu said Lagos deserves to be given such special treatment; considering that it accounts for over 90% of Nigeria’s maritime exports and currently generates much of Nigeria’s income outside of the oil sector.
“According to an FIRS report in 2008, 86.2% of companies Income Taxes were collected in Lagos alone while 56.7% Value Added Tax were collected in Lagos”, she said.
She added that key sectors of the economy like manufacturing, construction, telecommunications, and financial institutions reside in Lagos and that because it has become the hub of sporting and entertainment activities in the country, it wouldn’t be too much for the rest of the country to grant its request of 1% from the coffers of Federal Government.
Tinubu’s bill was bound to be controversial. It bothers on a vexed issue of fiscal federalism and comes at a time when Nigeria’s economy is in recession.
That notwithstanding, it was able to pull support from lawmakers mainly from her Lagos State and other Southwest states.
Senators Gbenga Ashafa and Solomon Olamilekan from Lagos fought hard in favour of Tinubu’s bill, arguing that what the state is asking for would be to the benefit of every one living in the state.
Olamilekan appealed to his colleagues not to look at the politics of the matter. The bill also enjoyed support from other APC senators.
Senator Barnabas Germade believes the bill is not out of place, pointing out that it is normal for representatives to seek for grants for their constituencies.
He however said the bill under scores the need to reconsider Nigeria’s revenue allocation formula.
Senator Abdullahai Adamu, representing Nasarawa West has sympathy for Tinubu’s bill but was quick to say that the national Assembly lacks the powers to allow any state deep hands into Nigeria’s coffers.
He believes what Lagos wants can be accommodated through other arrangements.
Senator James Manager from Delta State drew Senate attention to related constitutional provision on the matter; adding quickly that what Tinubu wants would require amendment.
Senators mainly of PDP extraction kicked hard against Tinubu’s bill.
Philip Aduda who represents FCT argues that if the bill is good enough for Lagos as a former FCT; he believes the same measure should apply to his constituency.
It was the argument put forward by Senator Sola Adeyeye from OSUN Central in support of Tinubu’s bill that seems to provoke all the anger.
Adeyeye had delivered brilliant argument relying on current derivative formula which gifts oil producing states like Bayelsa 13% of their oil wealth, arguing strongly that “what is good for the goose is good for the gander”, until he referred to the FCT, Abuja as “a rotten pampered child”, a statement he withdrew quickly.
He however wouldn’t withdraw other comments that FCT, Abuja couldn’t generate enough from taxes like Lagos and has continued to depend on the Federal Government.
Adeyeye’s submission immediately sparks quarrel in the chambers with Ekeweremadu having a tough time calling lawmakers to order.
The senators mostly from PDP who had become furious and a few others from APC who were not too sure of the real intention of the bill from Tinubu, immediately shot it down.