Opening Remarks by Comrade Debo Adeniran, Executive Chairman, Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, CACOL at the Exploratory Conference on the Lagos Open Parliament (Part three), LOP-3, held on 30 August, 2016 at the RIGHTS HOUSE, 48, Adeniyi Jones Street, Off Oba Akran Avenue, Ikeja, Lagos
On behalf of the entire members of the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, CACOL, and the Board of Governors, I welcome you all. We deeply appreciate the honour bestowed on us, demonstrated by the presence of everyone here today for this Exploratory Conference; a component part of the process that culminate into our periodic Publication called the ‘Lagos Open Parliament, LOP’. We say, a big thank you, to all for coming.
Majority of us here today, are conversant with the LOP and can simply aver that, ‘there goes CACOL again doing what they know how to do best’, but some are probably just getting to know about the LOP as a Project of our coalition for the first time. It thus becomes imperative to give a background on what the LOP is all about, I therefore crave your indulgence to do so very briefly.
The Inaugural LOP which was tagged ‘Lagos Open Parliament: True State of Lagos by Lagosians held in 2013. It led to a number of claims made by the supporters of the Lagos state government then. Many of them claimed we were sponsored to rubbish the ‘achievements’ of the Babatunde Raji Fashola-led Lagos State Government which they claimed were ‘visible to the eyes’.
This prompted us to go to town to inspect the so-called improvements in infrastructural development in the State. Our study showed that some aspects of the rot in infrastructure in some places mentioned in our earlier study had been improved on, whereas most of the other issues were yet to be addressed.
Our findings revealed dismal governmental failure especially in the area of the execution of the capital side of the budget and we discovered that Lagos had largely been governed by false pretences.
We thus deployed more tools in our research and field work following the lessons drawn from the inaugural LOP and have continually empirically modified our methods in scope and size in terms of research and strategy which have made the LOP what it is today.
And indeed, our findings confirmed the reality that Lagos State was being governed under false pretences. We discovered and established the ‘cosmeticism’ in government and governance in Lagos state as at then. Our empirical deductions from our findings were what we published as Lagos Open Parliament 2, LOP- 2.
The LOP, as a Project of our Coalition was conceived to be done annually, it is basically a Project targeted at; monitoring government performance and policies, promoting transparency and accountability and enhancing healthy interface between the civil society and government in the overall interest of the development of Lagos State as an entity.
Our research strategy utilizes different tools to carry out our self-assigned patriotic task to monitor government activities; including questionnaires, interviews, news analysis, visual investigations involving usage of videos and photographs etc.
Our Coalition published our findings in 2013 in the first edition which we tagged ‘Lagos Open Parliament, LOP 1’ in 2014 and have ever since continued to monitor Lagos state government’s activities on annual basis.
Generally, the LOP is a process with several events embedded in it, these include administering of questionnaires; compilation and analysis of data and news items (TV, radio, newspapers, online news and social media). Three interactive conferences are also held within the process of the LOP i.e. Exploratory, Validation and Public Presentation Conferences. The Public Presentation marks the end of the annual process.
The analysis and reviews in each LOP cover only for one year as specifically chosen by us, but at most times our work begin May 29th of each year preliminary activities such as this Exploratory Conference. For example, the next Publication i.e. LOP3 will capture May 29, 2015 to May 29, 2016 as the period under review.
THE STATE OF LAGOS STATE
Without preempting what our end-point findings and deductions from the ongoing LOP process will be, it is important to comment on the state of Lagos state from the point of verifiable and objective analysis.
Arguably, the present regime appears to have begun on a good note given the avalanche of praises it has received so far from Lagosians based on what can apparently be seen by them physically.
That the government commenced the construction/reconstruction on 114 roads within its first 100 days in office is public knowledge; the Light-Up Lagos, the pedestrian and fly-over bridges under constructions; the improvement in government openness etc. are undeniable and commendable.
The recent launch of the first Helipad in the country is a hallmark achievement plus an improved environment in terms of security and some social services.
We, however strongly condemn some obviously anti-poor policies of the government as the negative effects of the policies definitely diminish the gains of the so far celebrated achievements of the government. So while commending the Ambode regime for some noticeable developmental projects being implemented across the state and encouraging the government not to relent, the regime must avoid snatching with the left hand what it has offered the poor Lagosians with the right hand.
These policies include the illogical move to enforce a ban on street trading and hawking; the over-taxing of the poor, the under-employed and unemployed considering that the conditions of existence of these categories of citizens have hitherto been painful. A life characterized with penury and deprivations; a situation which remain unchanged and as a matter of fact deteriorating rapidly.
The ban on street trading represents the increasing of the sufferings of the poor and toiling people who ordinarily are trying under the present extremely harsh economic conditions to fend for themselves. Majority of Lagosians and Nigerians have had to resort to self-help almost on every facet of life consequent upon the gross failure of government to fulfill its constitutional role of provisioning for the welfare and social security of the citizens. We question the logic behind the ban when those affected are largely already impoverished consequent upon the failure to facilitate gainful employment opportunities on one hand and failure in service delivery by the government on the other.
We affirm that the people are basis of governance, and government is a social contract. The reason government is instituted in the first place is to harness the resources of society for the social welfare of the people as enshrined in Chapter 2 of the Nigerian constitution. If government has failed in doing this, it is unfair and wicked for government to compound the pains of the impoverished who are engaged in self-help for their survival and existential issues by imposing unwarranted taxes policies that disrupt their source of existing.
Again, we question the rationale and the legality of the decision recently made by the Lagos state government to replace the hitherto existing unconstitutional Executive Secretaries with equally unconstitutional Sole Administrators considering that elections for Local government leadership had been long overdue.
It is disappointing and anti-democratic for Lagos State to illegally run Local Government Councils through the imposition of Sole Administrators as against the letters of the constitution.
We demand therefore that government must tow the path of true and constitutional democracy by organizing elections in the Local government councils to correct the aberration and illegality left behind by preceding one. Appointing Sole Administrators is akin to replacing illegality with illegality and it abuses the Constitutional status of Local Government Councils as an independent tier of government.
We call on Governor Ambode, not to pander to the dictates of political expediency or opportunistic political leaders to pollute his positive ratings occasioned by popular projects he is currently implementing across the state with anti-democratic dictatorial tendencies like the one under review.
Any government that lacks a vibrant and solid social base exists only in the air, because government and governance is all about social inclusion. Any government that develops policies without the consciousness for social inclusion will always fail. The only way the government can demonstrate the campaign mantra of ‘change’ upon which it rode to power to the people of Lagos state in particular and Nigeria is to generally and characteristically alter the hitherto existing situation and positively too.
I conclude by thanking you all again for honouring our invitation. Please we encourage us all to participate in the deliberations which promise to be very incisive. We shall also be administering questionnaires at this conference; we therefore seek your contribution to this process by filling a questionnaire on infrastructure and other government activities in your part of Lagos State.
Long Live, Lagos State
Long Live, Nigeria
Executive Chairman, CACOL