March 28, 2023 By News Editor
Unlocking The Gains of Constitution Amendment
Federal Congressman Idris Wase recently announced the decision of Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari to assent 16 Acts of the National Assembly, as amendments to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
By this development, State governments can now exercise concurrent jurisdiction over railways and electricity. While this is seen as a practical step towards ensuring true federalism, economic watchers have not been categorical about its feasibility. A major concern revolves around the absence of a definite economic objective justifying the isolation of railways and electricity.
Africa Signal reports that Federal government have exclusive control the economy, including matters relating to trade and commerce, waterways and maritime affairs, aviation and airways, corporate affairs, taxation, banking and insurance, energy and solid minerals among other complementary and derivative issues pertinent to the exercise of concurrent powers on electricity and railway.
The Nigerian Constitution and Apex Court have also declared that where there is a dispute between the Federal and State government over the exercise of concurrent powers, the Federal may be accorded priority. Electricity-producing States have been forced to feed national grid without adequate regards for local investment objectives and cost recovery.
Lagos State will not be able to presently benefit from the amendments without thinking outside the box. For starters, while cooperation is assured, bureaucratic federal character principle will limit the State’s capacity to efficiently unlock current investment potentials profitably. It will also serve as loss leader for other States investing in electricity and railway projects under the new dispensation.
The solution lies in the ability of Sanwoolu’s Administration to accomplish its vision of making Lagos Africa’s model mega city and global economic/financial hub. Lagos’ participation in the world economy through trade, investments and loans is expected to transform State, stimulate greater surplus and increase socio-economic development. Activities of the State should expand, leading to broader middle class, more organised labor, investment in education, health and other social services.
This cannot be achieved without an aggressive affirmative exploration of exclusive legislative list of powers. Lagos needs to lower the risks associated with electricity, railways, roads, seaports and airport investments through stakeholders’ engagement marketing and advocacy measures in other to provide better cost-benefit value for the people, reduce the incidence of debt burden, and provide viable investment security.
It is instructive that Lagos currently has no say in Point-of-Sale operations. Governor Sanwoolu could therefore not prevent kiosk-operators from daylight-robbing people as much as 40% of their withdrawals as generally experienced during this cash crunch. Providing sovereign commitments on railways, electricity and other model mega city innovations without the “claws and teeth” for performance enforcement will create bigger holes and white elephant projects.
Lagos is a business city, a pot of financial resources and amazing human capital that needs to be properly directed for sustainability. According to Africa Wealth Report 2022 recently released by Henley & Partners, Lagos is the 4th wealthiest city on the African continent with a total private wealth of $97 billion. The abundance of willing bodies for protests and negative energy means Lagos potentials have not been properly harnessed. A mega city cannot sleep. Financial hubs operate round-the-clock. Poverty alleviation requires critical thinking, reaching out, proper communication and inclusion.
The best way to heal wounds inflicted by 2023 general elections is by doing things that could provide opportunities for people to fulfill their potentials and live happily. This Constitution amendment has created a window, a test-run, the first small steps that could serve as the big leap for mankind. Other States are waiting on Lagos to take the lead and practically show the way for true federalism reforms in action and not mere rhetoric and wishful thinking. Failure will regrettably create another endless cycle of woes.
(Concluding part of “Healing 2023 elections fractures in Lagos (Part 1)” published on 27th March 2023)