The lawmaker representing Kosofe Constituency 2 in the Lagos State House of Assembly, Hon. Tunde Braimoh, is highly cerebral. And he is not a rookie in politics. He was a Council Chairman way back in 1999 during the rebirth of democracy in the land. Today, he is the Chairman, House Committee on Information, Strategy and Security. In an interview with WESTERN POST’s OKUNADE ADEKUNLE, Braimoh speaks on the two years of the Assembly, the process of lawmaking, relationship between the Assembly and the Executive, Governor Ambode’s performance and other important issues of concern…
As the Spokesman of the House of Assembly, what can you say about the 8th Assembly?
The 8th Assembly of Lagos State has come across as very vibrant, focused, result-oriented, focused group of men and women who are dedicated and committed to the service of their people and as well justified the mission statement of the Assembly, which is to be “above common standard”. The Lagos Assembly has dedicated itself fully to the advancement of better living.
This is the second year of the 8th Assembly, what has been the experience in terms of bills and motions?
The 8th Assembly is not a cosmetic assembly, it is a pragmatic assembly. It is a set of people that believe that life is not just worth living but worth living very well and what is to be done is not just to be done but properly done in such a way that will positively affect the people. Most of the bills and resolutions that have been debated as a way of motions are bills that can have direct impact and impart on the people. Bills that have been made into laws are bills that can have direct impact on the welfare of the people in terms of economic advancement, security of life and property and as well as general betterment of the people. For instance, the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund was passed by this Assembly into law and through it, many people have benefited through vocational and entrepreneurial acquisition of skills and advancement of wherewithal for practising the trade or art they have learnt. This Assembly also passed the Lagos State Security and Neighbourhood Safety Corps Law, which has also helped the security apparatus of the state and enhanced the information and intelligent gathering capacity of the law apparatus of the state such that the people and the security agencies can be easily assisted. Over six thousand neighbourhood watchers have been recruited and equipped with vehicles and communication gadgets to give police with necessary information and intelligent report that would assist security agencies.
Also, we have anti-kidnapping law. If with all the furore that the arrest of Evans has generated and if he has been arrested sometime last year, perhaps he would have gone away with a slap on his wrist. He would have been given seven years imprisonment with all the atrocities but right now, Evans is as sure as death that because there is evidence and if it can be proved and substantiated that somebody died in the course of his illegal activities, he will go the way he has sent others or at very least he will go forever more and not being seen among the people as he would be remanded in the maximum prison for the rest of his life, that is if he is not killed in return. It is a law made by this House of Assembly. Normally, the law could not have been active if it is relying on the criminal code, which has been in the existence because we observed that kidnapping is taking a new dimension in Lagos, which was not like that before but when it became rampant we had to review the law. The law has been revised that a kidnapper is liable to be imprisoned for life but where somebody dies in the course of the illegal activities of the kidnapper, it is expected that the kidnapper also be put to death. We have passed a lot of laws in this Assembly but we don’t just pass law for the sake of passing law, we pass laws that affect the society positively, for the betterment of the people and security of the people and their properties.
You talked about passing the Lagos State Neighbourhood Law but still there are a lot of communities facing insecurity like Ikorodu area, which is facing a big problem from a group called “Badoo”, how does the Assembly work to strengthen the existing security law?
It is a thing for the Assembly to pass the law, but it is not the responsibility of the Assembly to execute the law, we cannot overstep our boundaries as we cannot implement the law, we can only pass the law. The governor (Ambode) has executed the law properly; the governor chose the agencies properly and equipped them well in terms of finance, material and infrastructural facilities. The agency is very endowed with almost 200 vehicles and 500 motor bikes and walkie-talkie and with over 5000 people to work with. So when you still have this issue as you have raised, the Assembly has observed it and the Assembly has directed me being the House Committee Chairman on Information, Strategy and Security to interface, through the performance of my oversight function, and we discussed with the Neighbourhood watch and they agreed to give us report of what they have done so far. We are looking into ways to designing their organogram and reapplying their mode of operations. We will not just fold our hands, they are to execute the law and if they don’t execute it very well or to the satisfaction of the people, we have the duty to perform our oversight function and on that we believe by the grace of God we will cooperate together to unravel the areas they need to apply themselves to so that they can be more effective. But with what they have submitted to us, it shows they have done a lot of work, which we agree with that but at the same time they need to do more so that they can be more effective.
Oversight function is part of legislative responsibilities, but more often than not, lawmakers don’t perform it as it is expected, what mechanism has the House put in place to ensure its committees carry out this important function to the fullest?
We have always supported all committees to do their work very well. The committees are well funded and well equipped with the right policies and right caliber of staff and personnel that are up to the task to work in the committee. Each committee is equipped and structured in such a way that it will be able to deliver on its mandate. Each committee has qualified people as secretaries and leaders and also the membership of the committees carefully chosen by the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Obasa, who sees to it that they put the right people in the right place. So the committees in the Lagos State House of Assembly are doing very well and the fear of the committees of the Assembly is the beginning of wisdom for some agencies in the state. They know that the personnel in the committees are people who know their onions. The oversight function is going on well and the House of Assembly is quite effective.
How does the Assembly handle bills that are multi-functional like the bill on the establishment of Lagos College of Health, which is all-encompassing in nature?
The House of Assembly is one indivisible organ of government, Committees are for administrative convenience. The fact that there is a committee does not give the members exclusive consideration of the issue. On our part, when the committee brings its report we still debate it. The First Reading is to mention it to the members hearing and the Second Reading is to debate it, both the merits and demerits by members and if it appears the bill has more merits than demerits it will now be sent to the Committee, where the committee will now do public hearing on the matters and return back to the Assembly for Third Reading and the final debate of the bill before being passed into law. So at that stage of going for committee, the membership would have debated it and the committee will report back after the public hearing to the House for debate. It is not exclusive to the committee, it is just for the committee to research and do more work on the bill so it is not that they have the responsibility to make final say on it. If it is a bill with overlapping functions or a bill of congenial approach, a bill that overlaps more than one area, of course we have joint committees to work on them, which can be two, three or more committees to work on them to give it a broader consideration because we want indept thinking and consideration on them in order for its general acceptance. So, we allow people who are affected or interested and are sound in one way or the other to contribute to such particular bill.
Let me give you an example, if you say School of Health, you know it is a school and of health, naturally, Education and Health Committees will handle it. Something comes out like that, so if you want to do a thorough job you need to have all stakeholders or people who are concerned to come forward and give the bill the consideration it deserves.
So, if you want to organise its public hearing you will have to call all stakeholders in education and health. Is that not going to be cumbersome and cost intensive?
That is the work of the government. Government has to be courageous to face whatever that is assumed to be difficult. If you want to do a thorough job, you cannot sideline certain people and say you want to have a compact business. Your business must be encompassing and broad-based as congenial and broad in horizon as possible so people must come with different ideas. The law is made for the people not people for the law so the law must be something that can resonate with them something they can tolerate not something that you force on them like dictatorial regimes or draconian regimes. So it is a law for them, the more they understand it, the more it is easier for them to comply and be regulated so it is better for us as much as possible to invite and involve all those who are necessary to the public hearing.
Something historic happened recently during the time of this 8th Assembly, six of the eight PDP lawmakers defected to your party (APC), how did your party do it?
What our party did, especially the leadership of the Assembly, led by Rt.Hon. Mudashiru Obasa, was just leadership by example. You see, it is an infectious thing because you see that people want to emulate, associate and tag along with you when you are a shining example of goodness and virtues. When you lead in an arbitrary way, in a way that is unfair and unjust and oppressive, people will notice it and nobody will want to go with you but if you lead in such a way that is transparent, open and accommodating, people will want to join your team. We must give kudos to Governor Akinwunmi Ambode for his exemplary good work that he is doing in Lagos State. It is going to be difficult for any discerning politician to ignore the performance of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode. If you want to be a politician you have to appeal to the conscience of the people. The people endorse us here in one way or the other. If they want us when we put ourselves up for election, if they don’t want you, they say NO, you cannot force yourself on the people. If mistakenly because of the sentiment that went with the last election based on tribal and ethnic sentiments, some people found their way in. If not for the sentiment that somebody is Ibo, Hausa, South-south of whatever, we all know that PDP has no strength in Lagos. Lagos State has been well governed by AD, AC, ACN and now APC from the days of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu then to Mr Babatunde Raji Fashola and now to Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, with all the developmental giant strides that have been made. So, those examples are there. I am sure if Governor Akinwunmi Ambode runs for election today I know obviously by the grace of God he is going to win. Majority of the people want him and they love him. If you are in the politics you have to be with the majority because majority will have their way while minority will have their say. We are not saying everybody will vote for Ambode or we will have100% but Ambode is likely to have 70% today minimum by the grace of God. God will not turn the people against him, the people he has laboured for, whom he has served so meticulously, so dedicatedly to turn against him. If you understand him you will have no choice than to endorse him when he moves forward at anytime, the way they did for Asiwaju because they see the zeal in him, the trust, transparency in him and the determination to make a difference in their life at all time. So when people see those things in a leader people will want to associate with such the leader. A leader you can talk to, a leader you can complain to, a leader with listening ears. Those are the qualities that our leaders both at the state government level (Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode), the Speaker (Rt Hon Mudashiru Obasa) and the party (Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu) have demonstrated and which people in PDP see are lacking in their own party. They have governed at the federal level for so many years and we can all see the way they ran it down, we have seen the way they are running their party in Lagos State and they are opportuned to be close to us and they see the way we are running our own party, so many of them want to be in the boat so that they don’t capsize in their sinking boat.
With the way you were pouring accolades on Governor Ambode, is that not affirming the view of some quarters that the Lagos House is a mere rubber-stamp Assembly?
If the governor is doing well why won’t we praise him? He prepared the budget and we passed the budget into law. We know what the budget entails and we as well monitor the revenue of the state and we juxtapose the revenue of the state with the development vis-à-vis the population of the state, so if the governor is doing well, should we say he is not doing well? We are running the government together; we are in the same party. In elementary government, the concept of separation of powers presupposes fusion of powers, there is no arm of government that can stay on his own; the powers are interdependent and interrelated, yet they are independent, it is a delicate world, very intricate and delicate you must be able to separate the grains from the shaft. The Executive Governor of a state is the one who proclaims the House of Assembly into existence, the House of Assembly is the one who can remove the governor from office, the Governor of the state is the one who puts the judges into their offices, the judges are the one who can rule over the order and policies of the state government. They work together as their work is interwoven, delicate and intricate such that nobody is so powerful to say he wants to lord it over others and yet nobody will be so detached from the other, so people who are saying the House of Assembly is fond of praising the governor when he is doing well are ignorant of the tenets of democracy. What if we are in the parliamentary system whereby the governor will be our leader, does that mean that the legislators in England are not doing their work and their oversight functions against the prime minister who is their leader; they are doing their work. In Lagos, we are even separated to a large extent because it is a presidential system but when the governor is doing well we have to let him know that he is doing well because we are the examiners. We have access to all the information, we did the appropriation and so we must do the oversight. We monitor the performance and the popularity. Believe me, he is doing well. It is too obvious to every Lagosians so why won’t we praise him.
There is a current bill in the House of Representatives on the autonomy of Local government. It is known that 2/3 of state Houses of Assembly must approve the amendment before it can go through if also the National Assembly approves, if it gets to the Lagos House of Assembly, will it be approved?
Don’t ask me hypothetical questions. This is an hypothesis. You are asking me what will happen, let it come first. It is hypothetical for me to read the minds of my fellow lawmakers. I can say the way I will vote. I have a local government background I had served as Council Chairman in 1999 so I will vote somehow, I will vote the way my party wants me to vote and clearly our party is in favour of restructuring. Whatever we can do to give more recognition and determination to other tiers of government is what we will do. We are likely to vote in favour of not allowing the federal government to take the local government away, it is absurd. If Section 162 is taken away, it is an exercise in futility. Some people are just trying to play to the gallery. If they succeed in dropping Section 162, Section 7 (1) (2) of the constitution will nullify that law. Section 7 (1) of the constitution says”The system of democratically-elected local government is guaranteed. The finance, structure, composition and tenure of the local government are determined by the state House of Assembly. Even if you say you don’t want to join their finance to state government, they will still have to submit to the Assembly and state government by virtue of Section 7 (1) (2) of the constitution. If they say they don’t want to run joint account with the state government by removing Section 162 they will need to remove Section 7 (1) (2) too, they cannot eat their cake and still have it. I do tell some of my people who were contesting for House of Representatives when they tell their people that when they get there they would make sure they have more local governments not to say such because they do not have such powers. It is absurd. For so long as Local government remains the yardstick for the distribution of National Income there is no way somebody from Kano will allow you to take Section 7(1) (2) out because once it is taken out, funds will be distributed equally not on the basis of the numbers of local governments that they have. It can only work if we want a constitutional conference, which we will sit down and agree on the structure we want. If we want true federalism, the federal government have no business with local government. Each state should be able to create its own local government so that it can organise its own growth and development. Most local government projects which were handled by the federal government have failed. Most primary health care centres and primary schools have failed. I think the amendment will not succeed because it is political.
In some quarters, it is believed that the clamour for restructuring of the country has been politicised as the National leadership of your party said restructuring is not part of the priorities of APC. Is it the case that APC is going against the wish of the people?
The party is just being sensitive. Sensitive in the sense that they need to look at the practicability of something that can overheat the polity. The polity is already being overheated. Don’t forget the senseless agitation for the realization of Biafra Republic, which as an action is bad and by reaction is equally bad. There are some people who said the Igbos should abandon their area, I know some people who are not in support of such a thing. What they want is for us to restructure and everyone develop at its own pace and not to say you want to go out of Nigeria. What most Igbos want is to develop at their own pace and be able to determine their own growth and productivity within their own region. Restructuring is what they want in real essence. Go back to the First Republic, when you can just give federal government 25% derivation and the region take 75% to themselves to manage their affairs. That is how the likes of Awolowo, Ahmodu Bello, Zik were able to achieve what they achieved in their respective regions. That is the restructuring we are talking about. A situation whereby the states will be more powerful, oversee their seaport, airport and mining and other resources and remit certain amount to federal government unlike what we have now where the federal government takes it all and give peanuts to the states. The party wants it, but not now because it will be a fire brigade thing which may come with mistakes.
In the next two years, what should Lagosians be expecting from this 8th Assembly? And also tell us what you have done and what your constituents should be expecting in years to come.
Lagosians should expect the best from the Assembly. We will continue to have the interest of the people in our mind. We will continue to play our roles and constitutional functions of legislating and serving as their mouthpiece and bringing to the fore their yearnings and aspirations. We will continue to play our roles and oversight functions of checking what the executives is doing to make sure that things are done in the way it is appropriated and allocated in the budget. We will continue to make laws that would improve the life of the people.
Concerning me, if a legislator tells you he will build roads and schools, it is not within his power. I have attracted so many state projects to my constituency and by the grace of God I will continue to do that. If you go to Ketu-Mile 12, you will see that we are trying to manage the traffic situation there and look at the restructuring, which is happening in Ketu- Alapere which was done by Governor Ambode. So many private things like sponsorships on education, sports, and health care services, restructuring markets and schools and communities. Those were part of those things I have done and I will continue to do personally.