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    Monday, July 8, 2013


    The Deputy Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Hon. Taiwo Musibau Kolawole is always ready to talk about issues, especially when they have to do with constitutional matters. One of the matters that have come up lately is the need to give total autonomy to local governments so that they could function properly.
    The Deputy Speaker, who has been in the Assembly since 1999, emphasized that to prevent abuse, local government areas should not be given total autonomy, and that we cannot go back to the era, when the council chairmen spent their funds anyhow and denied workers, including primary school teachers, their salaries.
    Kolawole, who is representing Ajeromi/Ifelodun Constituency 1, added that there is no plan to elongate the tenure of the current council chairmen and councilors, but that the House is working on a law to increase the number of years council chairmen and councilors would serve.
    He also spoke on the on-going merger of political parties including the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) to form All Progressive Congress (APC) and other matters in this interview.

    What do you have to say about the plan of LASIEC to adjust polling booths and the plan of the state government to elongate the tenure of local government chairmen?
    Adjustment of polling booths is a normal thing, it is something that is continuous, it is a function of the number of people that register there. The maximum number of people in a polling booth is 500 according to the constitution and when you base it on development in terms of population, you will agree with me that there are some areas that were not so populated before, but are now highly populated. So, there is a demand for an increment on legible voters in an area, it is a normal exercise, what they are doing is normal.
    On the elongation of the tenure of local government chairmen tenure, there is nothing like that. It was Barrister Femi Falana (SAN) that raised the issue sometime ago, and I said he was pre-empting us and is giving us problem. Lagos State House of Assembly is one institution that cares for the rule of law. The issue of tenure elongation, the electorate owns sovereignty, and they voted the council chairmen and councilors to power. The House cannot elongate a particular tenure without the consent of the members of the public, so there is nothing like that, but there is a law before us that talks about the adjustment of the tenure of local governments, not this present government. Local government, According to Section 7 of the constitution, is within the purview of the House. We are still working on the law and it is at the second stage, the committee has not reported and even when they report, their report is not final, they are just a committee of the House. They will do their report and the whole House would now sit on it, but as we are now, yes, we have a Bill before the House to increase the number of the years local government executive would spend, but it would not affect the present people in power. People have come up with different argument on it. Some people are saying why can't we harmonise all our elections so that we can have elections in one year, you know we spend a lot of money on elections, why do we need to conduct election in different years. So, they are saying we should give them four years, which is one of the autonomy they are asking for so that they can have a feel of the number of years that we spend in the state so that they can have enough time to work and expenses on elections would be reduced. If we have elections for both the state and local government offices in the same year, the running cost of the elections would be reduced. Another argument is why should the tenure of local government chairmen be elongated? But what I know is that we are not elongating the tenure of this present government in the local councils.  So, after their tenure, they can then go out to campaign for other elections.
    The constitution gave the House power to control the local governments and see to their financing. When several states were talking of three years, we said let us give them three years too. So, we are now saying let us push everything to 2015 instead of 2014.

    Talking about local government autonomy, do you think local governments should be autonomous on the issue of revenue sharing and all that?
    Most people don't know where we are coming from on the issue of autonomy, before now, local governments used to owe teachers' money, they would not pay salaries in time, they owed workers of local governments salaries, when people talk, I just laugh, they forgot where we are coming from. If you don't appreciate where we are coming from, you can never appreciate where we are, we did not jump from heaven to get to this level because we realized that the local government functionaries need supervision. So, the people that put the local governments under the state house of assembly know what they are doing. What the people should be clamouring for is that the money of the local government should get to them. Some state governments mismanage the funds of the local governments, but not all the states, there are some states that mismanage the local government funds. I think the houses of assembly should be empowered to correct the anomalies and not just sending us back. There were strikes in the states then, when primary school teachers were not being paid and they went on strikes anyhow. But now, it is not so as teachers salaries are paid in time. The local government chairmen were just doing what they wanted then. Some local government workers under the auspices of the National Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) raised the issue during the town hall meetings organized by the Federal House of Reps and I told them that you people are where you are as senior staffs in the local governments today because we created 37 additional local governments in Lagos State, if there is local government autonomy, where would these councils get their money from since the Federal Government has not approved them. We must be factual, weigh all the pros and cons and come up with the ones that suit us. I know that giving them autonomy would create more problems than solutions.

    Many people are saying that the lack of autonomy hinders development in some local government areas
    I don't think so, the problem with us is that people should learn to ask the chairmen questions, if you are being given N5M in a month and you are not doing anything with it, if you are given N500Million you won't do anything. That is my own analogy; you must be able to work with small money to show that you would do more if you are given more. If a local government chairman does not do anything with what we give him, then he doesn't deserve to be a local government chairman. Secondly, the state government should not withhold the money of the councils, it is ungodly. Lagos was filled with dirt when we came in 1999; one of the reasons was that the cleaning of the environment was left in the hands of the local governments. But when the state government revamped LAWMA, the state became very clean, but that money must come from somewhere. If you look at Joint Account Allocation Committee (JAAC), they cannot form quorum without the chief executive of some local governments. They cannot share the money without some of these council chairmen, but none of them can come up to say they don't know how the money is being shared. That is our own state, there are some states that mismanage local government funds, the National Assembly must live up to expectations in this area. I was at Abuja for a programme recently, and the former speaker of the Federal House of Reps accused the National Assembly of not living up to expectations. But, that does not mean that few people should take us back to where we were.

    The issue of the political merger is coming as the 2015 elections are approaching, do you think the APC will overtake from the PDP going by what is currently happening in the country?
    It is not that it was the civil societies alone that fought for the democracy we are all enjoying now, we all struggled to get to where we are. I told the people that the struggle was a child's play compared to where we are, the entire civilians were fighting the military then, it was not just the civil societies that fought, I also threw leaflets around Lagos then. But now, we are having a war that is civilian in nature, the PDP is a political party, they have their catchments areas, they have their supporters and have been winning elections one way or the other since 1999. We know they are not leading us right, and like my leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu said, we have more on our hands than we had in the past. Therefore all hands must be on deck, we must fight and guide our elections.  We do a lot in Lagos to retain power, so we must be ready to do more.

    You have been around here since 1999, where do we see you in 2015

    We have not even finished this one, we still have two years before elections, so I cannot talk about that now.
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