Professor Itse Sagay, chairman of the presidential advisory committee against corruption, has narrated how Chief Olusegun Obasanjo abused the principle of federalism while he was president of Nigeria.
Professor Itse Sagay said Olusegun Obasanjo committed many infractions as president of Nigeria
Obasanjo was president between 1999 and 2007 and his tenure was reportedly crises-ridden. He quarreled with many political friends and loyalists.
At a lecture on Monday June, 13 to mark the first-year anniversary of the Lagos state House of Assembly on Monday, Sagay, a prominent senior lawyer and former academic, said the eight year-tenure of Olusegun Obasanjo “brought the worst season of relentless and sustained assault on federalism Nigeria ever experienced.”
He listed such abuses to include interference in the management of financial affairs of state governments, misuse of the EFCC and ICPC, interference in state’s local government affairs, removal of state governors using federal agencies like in Bayelsa and Ekiti, using a combination of police and political henchmen in removing governors like it happened in Oyo and Anambra, illegal declaration of state of emergency in some states as well as suspension of allocation to Lagos, Bayelsa and Ekiti states.
Sagay recalled that in 2003, the government of Lagos state scrupulously followed section 8 of the constitution to create 37 local government areas in addition to the 20 that existed.
The national assembly failed to give it consequential approval; therefore these new councils were operated as development council areas.
The professor noted that in anger at this development, President Obasanjo ordered the Ministry of Finance to hold further payment to Lagos state its allocations from the federation account.
“The federal government has no powers to carry out this lawless act,” Sagay said noting further that Lagos state took the matter to the Supreme Court and the court condemned it and ordered the federal government to pay the entitlement.
According to Professor Sagay, Mohammed Uwais, then chief justice of the country, said the oath of office which the president took was to defend the constitution and that this oath did not extend to the president committing illegality.
Sagay, who also declared that there is almost nothing in the country’s treasury because the last administration spent the funds bribing people so as to retain power in 2015, further slammed governors for rendering local governments in their states incapacitated.
According to him, local governments in many states are not functional because they have been held bound by the state governments.
The common practice, he said, is that staff who absent themselves from offices pursuing their private businesses show up at the end of the month to share the allocation from the federation account and disappear till the month ends again.
He however urged that states be given the power to determine how to create local governments and their mode of operations.
Sagay also, in May 2016, said that Nigeria would have either disintegrated or be confronted with harsh economic crisis if Goodluck Jonathan had been re-elected as president in 2015.