June 7th makes the second year of the proclamation of the 9th Assembly of the Lagos state House of Assembly by the Executive Governor of the state, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu. However, in this interview with OKUNADE ADEKUNLE, the Chairman, House Committee on Information, Strategy and Security and lawmaker representing Badagry Constituency 2, Hon. Sentoji Samuel David, speaks on the achievements of the House since 2019, contributions of the House to the state’s governance, security and other issues.
Today marks the second year anniversary of the 9th Assembly, what has been the journey so far?
We thank God that democracy is developing in this country. We are happy that the legislative arm of government is on cause, things are moving in the right direction in the sense of democracy we are all happy for that because we are marking the second year of the ninth assembly and we are in the middle of our term.
Since the beginning of the 9th Assembly in 2019, how many Bills can you say the Lagos state House of Assembly has passed and what has been the impact of those Bills on the general public?
I cannot exactly tell you the numbers of Bills we have passed but we have so many Bills that have been passed. Many of them affects the people positively. For instance, the Appropriation Act ( Budget) is a Bill and we have passed two Budgets in this tenure and many other Bills have been passed as well, many resolutions have been adopted and there are many Bills in the pipeline that we are still discussing. By and large, we have done alot to better the lots of Lagosians.
What comes to my mind is the one that has to do with security because the major challenge we have in Nigeria at large and Lagos in particular is security and that is where the Neighbourhood Safety Corps Law comes in. It was a product of this noble assembly and whenever I remember it, I am always happy. Because of the security challenges we have in this country, the Rt Hon Mudashiru Obasa had to use his wisdom to devise a means to make a law that will impact our people without necessarily negating the provisions of the constitution because policing is centralized in this country. The challenge we are having with policing in this country is that, it is from Abuja decisions are made for police in states and so we must find a way to assist the state government and that is why the Neighbourhood Safety Corps was created. They have done alot for us in this state.
What has been the relationship between the Executive and the House in the last two years of this 9th Assembly?
We have only one Lagos state government, we have the executive, legislature and the judiciary . We are working together for the good governance of this state. The executive arm is not an enemy of the legislative arm which serves as watchdog by inspecting what they are doing in accordance of the laws we make in this House. And secondly, our relationship is very cordial to the extent that they abide by the laws that are passed in this House. The interest of the House which is also the interest of the executive arm is the betterment of the people. We have no problem as long as they abide by the rules that govern us, and that is what we have in Lagos state. There is no problem between the two arms in Lagos. Some people don’t even know that we do corrections to some executive Bills sent to us. We debate them extensively and the Clause we believe it is not in the interest of the people we remove them. We ensure that the law we are passing is in the interest of the people.
If that is the case, why does it take time for the Governor to sign some of the Bills passed into laws?
There is legislative process and procedure. If we pass a Bill here, the constitution provides that we send for the approval and signing of it by the Governor to become a law. If the governor looks at the amendments we have made to it and has some reservations, he can revert to the House. This is within the law. But as far as we are concerned, the governor has the right to look into the amendments and point out the ones we have amended are not good enough then we look at it. The law allows us to also passed it into law after some days of rejection by the executive. We can override the area of the Governor’s function after some days of sending it for his signing.
In the last two years, what has been the challenges facing the 9th Assembly?
Of course there are challenges. I just mentioned one whereby the Governor is the Chief Security Officer of the state on paper and the reality is that he does not have total control over the police. That is not good enough. The Commissioner of Police takes order from Abuja, this is one of the challenges we are having in this country, that is why people are clamouring for the Restructuring of the country. The constitution we are operating with today is an aberration to federalism and it is not in the best interest of all of us. We need to sit down and discuss about how we want to stay together because the constitution is giving us challenges. The Governor who is the Chief Security Officer does not have power over police talkless of employ police. He cannot appoint the Commissioner of Police in his state and you say he is the chief security of the state. It is a total contradiction. There are too many things on the Exclusive List that are not suppose to be there if truly we are practising federalism. Security is a local thing which must be handled by the state government. This is a big challenge. Until we sit down and discuss, I am not sure we will have the kind of peace we desire.
An average Nigerian does not really have clear understanding of what the Legislators do in public governance, can you educate them on the roles play by the Legislature?
What people don’t know is that there is no democracy without the existence of the Legislature. During military regime, the only arm of government that don’t function is the Legislature and so if military takes over ( God forbid), the legislature is always the first to be emasculated and continue with the judiciary. As bad as our constitution is, the first arm of government mentioned in it is the Legislature. It shows that it is a very important institution in a democracy. Our people should try and understand the functions of the legislature. A legislator in the legislature has three functions; representative function, lawmaking function and oversight function. Because of the level of development we have now, our people always compare us with the executive to the extent that they want us to engage in infrastructural projects. We will want the media to assist us by educating our people on our functions. Let them know that we are elected to make laws for the good of the state and to oversee the executive’s activities in line with the laws. We need to go and check whether they are in conformity with the budget we passed. Those are the basic functions we perform and they are spelt out in the constitution.
There are stiff criticisms by the public regarding the publicity of the Assembly’s public hearing. they often argue that they are not been informed early. What can you say to this?
We don’t do things outside the ambit of the law and procedure. We are making law for the good of our people not for ourselves. And so, we publicise the public hearing on the pages of the newspapers both national and local and as well on radio. We tell people to come to contribute to the Bill. It is enough notice to our people to know that we are not doing anything in the hidden. How else can we be open? Although some people don’t read newspapers and still come to blame us. Sometime, we advertise on the television but still they blame us. We have never made any law without following the process of public hearing for public input.
What is your take on the part-time legislative system suggested by the Governor of Ondo State, Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu, at the Constitution Review public hearing recently? Do you see it as the best for the county in terms of reduction of cost of governance?
We are here to represent the interest of our people, so I will leave it to the view of the generality of Nigerians. If the people desire that from the experience they have gathered so far, it is time for us to have a part-time legislative system, we are not averse to it. We cannot impose our view on the people. My view is based on what my people want, so if the majority of the view is that we should run a part-time legislature, then we will. My view is not important now, it is the view of the people who are in majority that is more important.
In developed countries, citizens send in Bills for legislative attention and deliberation, does it happen in this Assembly?
The House is an open legislative assembly. People come here on daily basis, in groups and individuals. They come to hear their views, submit petitions, make recommendations and we are readily available to listen to them. There is no free day with one kind of agitation or protest. We listen to them all. If an individual has any Bill we are ready to entertain it and look at it critically. We look at the pros and cons of it for the development of the state. The gate of the House of Assembly is open to the public because we are here to serve them.
What should Lagosians expect from the House in the remaining two years of the 9th Assembly?
We will continue to make laws for the betterment of Lagos state. Look at the economy of the state, most times, people only see the executives as if they are the only one doing the work in the state, meanwhile we are busy in the Assembly making laws for the good of the state. It is the laws we make that the executive arm is seen implementing. So, moving forward, Lagos will continue to get better. We are here to serve our people and we are doing our best to make sure the state is better.