Kunle ADELABU and Wale JAGUN
-To explore political option in view of representation of the matter at the Federal High Court
There was a massive support for the former Chairman, the Ikorodu branch of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) and 2015 aspirant for the Ikorodu Federal House of Representatives Seat, Barr. Saheed Kolawole Shillings, when he appeared on The Impact Newspaper WhatssAp Platform on Saturday, March 17, 2018, to discuss the state of his legal pursuit in redressing the marginalisation of Ikorodu Division.
THE IMPACT, in its publications and online platforms, had given coverage to Barr. Shillings’ daring legal efforts against the state government.
In its January edition of its monthly publication and on its blog on January 25, 2017, THE IMPACT published the first story on the daring step taken by Barrister Shillings titled, “Marginalisation of Ikorodu: Former NBA Chairman Threatens To Sue State Government”.
Also, there was a follow up report titled, “Former NBA Chairman Takes LASG To Court Over Marginalization Of Ikorodu” posted on THE IMPACT blog on September 12, 2017 and also published in THE IMPACT publication.
Barr. Shillings had dragged the Lagos State government before the Lagos High Court sitting in Ikorodu Judicial Division to seek redress against the alleged marginalisation of Ikorodu division in the scheme of things in the state.
In the Suit No: IKD/1316MJR/2017, the legal practitioner, politician and community activist, urges the court to give an order that the 57 Local Council Development Areas (or 20 Local Governments and 37 Local council Development Areas) shall replace the 20 Local Governments as basis of representation in the Lagos State House of Assembly.
Barr. Shillings also seeks for an order of mandatory injunction compelling the Respondents (the governor of Lagos State, Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly and the Attorney-General of Lagos State) to delineate and prepare the appropriate instruments for the realization of the order in preparation for the 2019 general elections and such further order(s) as the Court may deem fit to make in the circumstances of the suit.
The applicant in the suit also filed eight grounds for seeking the relief sought and asked the court sitting in Ikorodu to determine two questions:
Barrister Shillings addressed about 300 participants on THE IMPACT Newspaper Whatsap Platform including Members of the National Assembly, political leaders from the ruling party (APC) and opposition parties, opinion leaders, Council Chairmen, Councilors, Community activists, students and youths leaders, civil/public servants, professionals, traditional institutions and many others on his reasons for instituting the court case as well as the challenges, locus standi, review of the matter and lack of support from the political establishment in the division.
“Sometime ago, I wrote a letter to Hon. Sabit Adeyemi Ikuforiji, who was then the Honourable Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, on the issue. It was treated with levity and nothing came out of it”, Shilings stated.
“The burning desire for equity led me to write both His Excellency Governor Ambode and the Speaker LAHA in October, 2016. In fact, it was 2 letters. One on the unfair distribution and the need to redress it and the other on the need to take steps on the ‘inchoate’ 57 Local Governments now that we have our party (APC) at the national level. Both did not receive a response”, he stated disappointedly.
“In December, I wrote a reminder with a notice of intention to seek legal redress. Permit me to state that I copied this and the previous ones to some persons and institutions. There was no response still. So, I filed my processes in court”, the legal activist declared.
“The crux of the matter is that Section. 91 of the 1999 constitution provides that ‘Subject to the provisions of this constitution, a House of Assembly of a State shall consist of 3 or 4 times the number of seats which that state has in the House of Representatives divided in a way to reflect, as far as possible, nearly equal population provided that a House of Assembly in a State shall consist of not less than 24 and not more than 40 members’.
“The implementors of the constitution in 1999 simply adopted the 20 LGs as basis of sharing the 40 seats such that Ikorodu had 2 just like others. I have no quarrel with that because there was no better way of meeting that requirement”, he explained.
“It was not good enough for Ikorodu Division which was one of the 5 original administrative divisions of the state since inception in 1967. Ikorodu had 3 representatives in the Assembly in 1979 – 1983 (1st and 2nd Assemblies). We had the first Speaker in 1979 who was not re-elected in 1983. Nonetheless, we had the Deputy Speaker in 1983”.
“In the 3rd Assembly in 1993, we had 2 representatives because the number had reduced to 30 members.
“It should be a surprise therefore that we now had 2 in 1999. But that had been explained above. We must admit that we shot ourselves in the foot when we refused to allow our LG to be divided.
“But we cannot dwell too much on the mistake of the past.
“Surprisingly, with the lesser representation, our importance as a people dwindled as we were not considered for any position in the House until lately when Hon. Agunbiade became Majority Leader. In 1993, we had the position of Minority Leader.
“But in 2002, our cries and those of other constituents of Lagos State got attention and the government of Asiwaju Tinubu decided to create more LGs and we have the present 6.
“Now, with 6 out of 57, what has changed? Especially with regards to the House of Assembly? Shillings queried.
“Given the formula applied in 1999 which is to satisfy the requirements of the constitution by simply distributing according to the LGs, it is imperative to reflect that in the formula especially considering that the 20 Local Governments (LGs) and 37 Local Council Development Authorities (LCDAs) are equal in status. Do you ask how?
“Since the impasse with Federal Government (FG), elections and appointments (of Sole Administrators) have been on equal footings. The LGs are not superior and they have no supervisory roles over the LCDAs. We had elections in July, 2017, did people in Imota vote for Mr. Wasiu Adesina?
“So, there are 57 LGs alias 20 LGs and 37 LCDAs. The dichotomy only exists for the purpose of collecting our money from the federation account. Shikena!”, he stated emphatically.
“About FG recognition, the issue of number of members in the House of Assemnly is not exactly a problem for the FG. What is important is what is acceptable to us as a people.
“Before coming to the 57 LGs, the State Government conducted referendum. Part of the requirement for creation of LGs is that they must be contiguous and satisfy demographic balance hence, we are where 20 LGs took us to be sufficient satisfaction of the requirement of the 1999 constitution.
“If that is so, then, my request is that just as we applied 20 LGs, now that the formula of equity of distribution has changed by the agreement of the people of Lagos, let us apply 57”, Barr. Shillings prayed.
“In so doing, we could have 2 representatives for 3 LCDAs (including alias LGs) and Ikorodu Division would have 4.
“The LCDAs into which elections are held and to which public funds are voted are beyond ‘administrative convenience”, he corrected.
“All requirements were fulfilled. In fact, the matter was taken to the Supreme Court which declared the exercise as ‘inchoate’ as opposed to illegal. It is the inchoate status that we should urge the State to pursue to validate the authenticity”.
On the state of the matter in court, Barr. Shillings stated:
“Now, in court, all processes have been filed. The State argued that I have no locus standi. Meaning: I have no place of standing to come to court because it should not be my duty. Further that it is the duty of INEC to delineate constituencies.
“The matter was slated for argument on Tuesday the 13th instant. But on a last review, it was agreed to do the needful rather than take a 50:50 risk. I withdrew the suit on Tuesday, March 13th.
“It is with the intention of taking steps to write INEC and the National Assembly to do the needful and then file at the Federal High Court because of INEC then as a party”.
Shillings assured that the legal fight has not been in anyway stalled.
“The legal process in not stalled. It is only a temporary delay”.
Speaking on his sufficient interest to institute the matter on behalf of the division, the former stated:
“I have no problem with locus standi. As reflected in my deposition, I am a Prince of Ijede and I am entitled to represent my people.
“When issue of locus standi was raised, the opponent is invariably saying you are a busy-body who is just out to waste the valuable litigation time of the Honourable Court.
“ I stated that my urge to represent my people is thwarted by the fact that because of the dearth of representation opportunities, the only slot available for Ikorodu Constituency 2 has to be shared among the 3 major areas, to wit: Igbogbo, Imota and Ijede to avoid dominance by Igbogbo that has a larger population. By this, Imota will use the slot until 2023 before I could step out. Don’t question my interest oh!”, he clarified.
He expressed disappointment regarding support from Ikorodu political establishment.
“There are some problems in that regards. This matter has exposed me more to the weakness of our people. Those who have virtually nothing to gain or lose from government are even afraid to speak out. I notified people, but, except Ikorodu Forum that called me for discussion, they did not ask me what it is about. At least privately. You cannot expect such people to drive a political solution.
“It should not be seen as an accident that we are a relegated people in Lagos State and we hide behind our small fingers to accuse the elders who still represent the little that remains of our dignity of not leading well when we are not following at all.
“Check it out, we are not in APC. We are back, back, back followers in the party. Ask what position we are there. Ask the PDP people too where we are. I do not want to continue this line of argument”.
Convinced that the outcome of the litigation would have a positive effect on yearnings of his people in Ikorodu, Barr. Shillings stated that :
“Suffice to say litigation is part of political solution. Recently, faithful members of APC went to court to seek a reversal of the decision to retain national and other officers. Are they scoundrels?”, he asked.
Speaking on behalf of THE IMPACT Newspaper Whatsap Platform, Mr Monday Ohi Obadan, the moderator of the discourse, appealed to the political establishment in the division to give support to the effort of Barr. Shillings in his pursuit of addressing the division’s political marginalization.
“Mr. Shillings need to be encouraged and supported especially by the political establishment who are direct beneficiaries.The young people should also be ready to offer the physical presence during court hearings as a morale booster”, he solicited on behalf of THE IMPACT.
“The traditional institutions should also mobilize and bless this great effort. Together we would influence both the cosmic, terrestrial and physical realms to ensure we upgrade our polity in Lagos State”.
While also appealing to the elected representatives in the division, Mr Obadan stated :
“May I appeal to Hon. Babajimi Benson, Hon. Sanai Agunbiade and Hon. Solaja and others to reach out to our indefatigable guest and see how his efforts could be revived”.
Arinola Okeowo in his own reaction stated: “I must really commend your courage sir. I am not that surprised though, you are always taking that daring step, we are definitely following your footsteps sir”.
Mr Iluyombo, an Insurance guru, while also reacting, commended the initiator of the platform and challenged representatives to exercise power judiciously on behalf of the people while appreciating Barr. Shillings for the daring move to liberate Ikorodu division.
“ I’m so glad that this matter is brought down here on the platform at least to keep us abreast of the step taken so far by the guest speaker on behalf of his people in the division”, Mr lluyombo stated.
“One cannot claim to fight for the rights and aspirations of his people without carrying them along. Otherwise, such a person would be blamed for disseminating an assignment not consented to by his people. On this note, I give kudos to this convocation.
“In the age of democracy, the legislature represents a key institution of political representation. This is because members are known to represent the interests of different constituencies and groups within a political settings” Mr Iluyombo added
“Base on this premise, I will like to declare my support for the bravery step taken by Barr. Shillings in challenging the state government of what is due to Ikorodu Division in terms of adequate representation of our voices and interest in the State House of Assembly.
“Our representation at that legislative arm of government should be seen as to provide opportunities for the citizens of the state to participate in governance and this goes without saying that no particular set of people or tribes, or local settings are better than the others.” he admonished.
Mrs Funke Awoyemi, a politician and community activist, in her own submission stated :
“You are a majority in one. You are not alone in this struggle for total liberation for this division. Your drive is highly infectious (at least to those that want to see their dreams materialised).
“Permit me to say we love you and wish you well. Thanks so much for your time and heart. It has been a real time out with you. It has been wonderful having you all in this development and eye opening chat”, she added.
While also commending the legal and daring step taken by Barr. Shillings, many other participants who contributed to the discourse also called on him to join the race for the Senatorial seat of the Lagos East Senatorial District, a position they concluded he merited having being a teacher, lawyer, activist, community developer, politician, students’ leader and House of Representatives aspirant with track records of proactiveness, sincerity and honour.