Friday, November 20, 2009

Rethinking the Lagos Residents' Identity Card

There is no doubt that Governor Fashola has been performing remarkably well since his assumption of office. In fact, his administration has provided some glimmer of hope for those who believed that nothing good can come out of our democratic governance.

Whilst the process from which he emerged as Governor remains questionable (a la Action Congress party primaries), he has no doubt grabbed the bull by the horn. He has taken advantage of the privilege he’s been granted, through effective leadership and vision.

Notwithstanding all the good work, I can still point to some key policy decisions taken by Fashola administration that are debatable. An example was the recent repatriation of destitute and beggars to Kaduna by officials of Lagos state government.

Some have argued that the street beggars need to be repatriated because they constitute a public nuisance and also, it is an offence under the state environmental laws to beg. Yes I agree, but what about the street urchins (area boys, the ‘omo isale eko’) terrorising innocent people to extort money? Will the Lagos state government deport them to their local governments? For me, the constitution is very clear. A Nigerian citizen is free to live wherever he or she chooses. And if anyone breaks the law, they should be charged to court under the applicable federal or state law.

Another example was the decision of the state government to introduce its own “driver’s re-certification cards”, which I will refer to de facto drivers’ licence. This again for me undermines the existence of the FRSC, an organisation that is legally charged with the responsibility of driver licensing.

The latest proposal which I find not only laughable but nonsensical - hence this article - is the plan to introduce an ‘identity card’ for Lagos residents.

According to Gov. Fashola,

"We have now reached a stage where it is no longer avoidable to ask: ‘How many people can Lagos State meaningfully employ and sustain?......The state is being faced with a daily influx of people from all over the country who want to take advantage of the opportunities of an economy that works…….But, the reality is that persistent uncontrolled population growth worsens the problem of poverty and negates the government's efforts to improve the quality of life for majority of the people."

Irrespective of Governor’s intent, I will state categorically that any plan to introduce an identity card by a state government is unconstitutional and thus illegal. One can only begin to wonder if Lagos is drifting towards becoming a ‘fascist’ state. Previously it was non-indigene street beggars that were repatriated, and now it is ID card.

There is no gainsaying that Lagos is under immense pressure as a result of continuous rural-urban migration. But the problem of urban migration is not just synonymous with Lagos. Major cities like New York, London and New Delhi also have to deal with same challenge. Whilst the influx of people also continues to put pressure on the local infrastructure of these major cities, I’m yet to read anywhere that the solution proffered by their administrators was introduction of ID cards. Instead of initiating policies that undermines the nation’s constitution, the Governor should rather agitate that Lagos be granted a ‘special’ status, in order to increase its federal revenue allocation.

So what exactly is Gov. Fashola trying to achieve? Who does he intend to issue with an ID card? Let’s assume the ID card will be only for Lagos residents. What about people who travel interstate to work in Lagos? Is Gov. Fashola thinking of rationing Lagos state infrastructure and services amongst Lagos residents only?

I sometimes don’t get it when people see Lagos as an ‘entity’ unto itself. Just because the state has been experiencing massive infrastructure development, when compared to other states – thanks to Gov. Fashola – does not give it any right to preclude non-indigenes from accessing state-funded services.

Already, we have a nation is divided along ethnic lines. This attitude of “if you are not a Lagos taxpayer, don’t come to Lagos” cannot be right for our democracy. Such attitude only entrench ethnic divisions, in country that has been blighted by years of ethnic violence.

We have situations where non-indigenes are not allowed access to some state-funded services. I know some state universities that an open policy of making it extremely hard for non-indigenes. There are some schools that charge students additional fees if there are non-indigene. And to think that a state government will go a step further, contemplating the introduction an ID card, is just preposterous.

Truth be told, no matter how inconsistent the nation’s constitution may be, Lagos is not a ‘sovereign’ state. Therefore, the Governor has no right to implement policies that will preclude non-indigenes. No state administrator has any right to control the number of people who choose to live in a state. Let the Governor be reminded that state government does not confer citizenship status. You can only be a Nigerian citizen.

There is no doubt that, for effective planning and service delivery, the state government needs to know the population of its local residents. I recall the controversies that ensued between the federal government and Lagos state following the last national population census. Which meant, depending on who you ask, the ‘official’ population of Lagos varies by as much as five million!

But instead of thinking about how to regulate influx of people into Lagos through a ‘not fit for purpose’ ID card scheme, there are other ways through which the state government can manage its rapid population growth. As with major cities of the world, population growth is managed through implementation of sound strategic planning policies.

Strategic land use planning provides an opportunity for the government to channel population growth towards specific areas. It also helps to regulate any proposed changes to land use by prohibiting certain development in specific areas.


Anonymous said...

Sir, you are missing the main point of gov fashola's initiative. Each state has the right to identify it's residents for planning and infrastructure purposes, and for certain services, priority will be given to residents over non residents. That is the way things are done in developed nations. I live in the US and if you want to attend a school in one state, you must either be a certified resident or be prepared to pay more. Same for state services. Rather than shoot down ideas just because they don't sound right or fair, we shoul watch and assess the results.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous: YOU are the one missing the point I think. How exactly do you determine who is a resident of Lagos and who is not?

I would have thought anyone living in Lagos is a resident of the state but maybe the Gov knows better.

The goal of Gov Fashola's plan appears to be finding and removing people who are non resident of the state and then removing them.

Ever read the poem 'First They Came For The Jews' by Pastor Martin Niemoller?

Where will it end?

Bear in mind that it was only a few weeks ago that an International awarded compensation to the residents of Maroko for their unjust and illegal removal years ago.

It's always the defenceless who bear the brunt of this sort of wont see anyone who lives in Ikoyi being removed as non resident.

I can already see some people dreaming of how they will turn Ajegunle into a Waterside Millionaire's Paradise once the 'non residents' there have been cleared out.

And the US is a truly Federal state.... Nigeria is anything but one.

Vigilance must be maintained in our democracy to prevent elected governors from overreaching.

Anonymous said...

Governor Fashola is a closet sepratist. I have heard him say many times ..when people complain about the harshness of his policies that it is not compulsory to live in Lagos. His secret dream is to expel as many "Non-Lagosians" as possible from Lagos!!! He is the forerunner of the seccesionist moves to form an Oduduwa republic...they intend to use Lagos as a an experiment of how the "republic" will run!! Lagos is the only state that has a coat of Arms....they are experimenting state Police and arny withe thier LASTMA, KAI Brigade and Neigbourhood watch!!! They captured the Nationa Psyche with their hold of the Nigerian Press and the Nigerian press ever so gullible lap up every poison the Lagos State Govt dishes out~~~!! They say he is performing wonders?? I live in this state and I dont know where these wonders is just a ruse to cover their REAL plans of braking the Nigerian nation and froming their own " Republic" Just tell me one project that Fashola has done that positively affects the life of people or elevates them from their squalid levels?? Rotimi Amamechi is doing projects that have more meaning in the lives of common people but cos he is not a darling of the Presswe hear nothing of it!! UnFORUNATELY WE HAVE A VERY WEAK PRESIDENT which suits their separatist tendencies very well!! Someone needs to check Fashola before he starts a bone head policy that would tear this cpountry apart!!Sani yerima started his sharia in Zamfara and many people were affected but the effect of that ill advised adventure was less felt outside Zamfara because Zamfara is not as cosmopolitan as Lagos. Imagine the different strata of people who reside in Lagos. If Fashola does one silly move that threatens non Lagos indignes and other state Governors decide to retaliate that could spell doom for the nation!! I have this feeling that the next few years are going to be very uncomfortable for non indigenes who live in Lagos!! God help us!!!

Anonymous said...

Please note sir: In the United States, a true federalist democracy, not one where ethnic groups who do not produce any national resources or any commercial resources keep their foot on the neck of the smaller, resource producing areas, States have their own ID cards, their own police forces and their own militias that are integrated into the national guard.

Fashola's idea will allow him to have an idea of Lagos Population, something that the Politicized Nigerian Census - which always seems to show Northern Nigeria with a larger population (strange how that works for allocations from the federation account) - has NEVER given an accurate number for the Lagos Metropolitan Area.