Lagos vs Abuja: Why they need legal status, By Martins Oloja
There is an urgent need for the president’s men, officers and officials of the Federal Government to remind our President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces that he still has a responsibility to lead Nigeria till the early hours of May 29, 2023. These big men who are paid to assist the president should tell him first that the people of Nigeria are suffering and not smiling this time because they still cannot access their money in the banks. Last Wednesday, a major bank in Nigeria called on customers to come to any of the branches nearest to them to withdraw only three-thousand Naira – to deal with existential threat at this time. This is the height of the consequences of the Naira redesign and failure to comply with the Supreme Court’s ruling two weeks ago that the old Naira notes should be used as legal tender till December 31, 2023. This is also another call to the National Assembly leaders that they too have failed the nation as “this matter on ground,” is enough for an extra-ordinary session of those who are elected to represent the people, yes the people who are facing the worst financial crisis ever. Most workers can’t get to work. Those who get to work can’t find money to return home. And while at work, there is no cash to buy victuals. And so we need to call on those who gather and submit intelligence to our President and the Governors that while they are celebrating victory of their party at the polls and preparing to share values and offices, there is a weightier matter of the law and governance that can trigger more crisis and outrage. People are asking what happened to our monies in the banks? People are asking if the technical glitches that precipitated a crisis of confidence in INEC on February 25 also affected the bank’s portals and mobile pay Apps that business managers do not also trust. Where is our President? Where is the President of the Senate who is the Chairman of the Joint Session of the National Assembly at this time? Where is the Speaker of the House of Representatives and Deputy Chairman of the Joint Session of the National Assembly? Where are the organic G-5 Governors who approached the Supreme Court on the new Naira notes crisis before the election? Where are their Attorneys-general who should file a contempt charge on the President and the CBN for failing to respect the Supreme Court’s ruling that affects security and welfare of the people, which is the primary purpose of government? Where are all the Ministers in the Temple of justice? I mean, where are the leaders of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA)? Where are the leaders of the Nigeria Union of journalists (NUJ), the legal professional body of journalists? Where are the elders of the land to speak truth to power in Abuja and the 36 state capitals that Nigerians are suffering because they can’t find cash because Supreme Court’s ruling can’t rule the big men in Abuja?
Between Lagos And Abuja
NOW, let’s face the other weightier matter of security of state: The President and his men should note that in addition to the national cash crunch, the March 18 elections in many states can lead to harm to the country he would like to leave in peace on May 29, 2023. Specifically, the presidency should note that there is a growing tension in Lagos on the next gubernatorial election of Saturday, March 18, 2023. A great deal of arm-twisting nurtured by propaganda is going on in Lagos and indeed the South West and South East.
Let’s, therefore, arouse the conscience of the nation to one other testimony about the outcome of the 2023 election: The 2023 presidential election result in Abuja and Lagos has drawn attention to the unfinished business, unfulfilled promises of legalising the status of Abuja and Lagos. Forty-seven years ago, specifically on February 3, 1976, the then Head of State, General Murtala Muhammed had, in a broadcast to the nation proclaimed Abuja as the new capital Nigeria.
In his broadcast to the nation on February 3, 1976, Murtala had promised that Lagos would not only be designated a “Special Area,” it would be Nigeria’s commercial capital and the deal would be incorporated into the 1979 Constitution then in the works. His words:
“…Lagos will, in the foreseeable future, remain the nation’s commercial capital and one of its nerve centres. But in terms of servicing the present infrastructure alone, the committed amount of money and effort required will be such that Lagos State will not be ready to cope. It will even be unfair to expect the state to bear this heavy burden on its own. It is, therefore, necessary for the Federal Government to continue to sustain the substantial investment in the area. The port facilities and other economic activities in the Lagos area have to be expanded. There is need in the circumstance for the Federal Government to maintain a special defence and security arrangement in Lagos, which will henceforth be designated a SPECIAL AREA. These arrangements will be carefully worked out and written into the constitution. Kaduna and Port Harcourt are to be accorded similar status and designated special areas under the constitution…” This is one remarkable promise to Lagos that no government since February 14, 1976 has fulfilled. The General made the promise on February 3, 1976 and he was assassinated on February 13, 1976. Even Senator Oluremi Tinubu, wife of the President-elect once sponsored a Bill to address the special status of Lagos but the bill couldn’t sail through. Now is the time to address the Lagos special-status bill to address Murtala’s promise Obasanjo and others failed to fulfill. In the same vein, the status of Abuja is still being debated 47 years after: Sections 299-304 of the 1999 constitution as amended hasn’t clarified it even as a democratic institution or a state. In February 1993, the then military President, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida set up an 11-man Presidential Panel headed by Justice Mamman Nasir, then President of Court of Appeal, to address the Status of Abuja. The Panel yours sincerely then described as a “Kangaroo Panel on Abuja” because of its lopsidedness, never achieved its objective before the June-12-election’s wind of annulment blew General IBB away on August 26, 1993. The 2023 presidential election result momentum seems to have set the tone for legalisation of status for Lagos and Abuja, our very significant capitals. Abuja at the moment is being run as if it were one of the states of the North.