•Says president must assent to bills
•As Rivers, Lagos boycott exercise
Fred Itua, Abuja
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, yesterday, told President Muhammadu Buhari to sign the just-concluded constitution amendments into law.
Dogara, specifically told Buhari that it would be unfair to return the documents to the National Assembly after more than two years of working round the clock to produce what reflects the wishes of the people.
“I do not think that it will be right at this level, after passing through these processes for these bills to be returned without passing them into law. The president is a popular person. What we have done reflects the wishes of the people. The president must do the wishes of the people who put him in that office,” Dogara said.
He spoke when Speakers of the 34 Houses of Assembly submitted a copy of the constitution amendment to the president of the Senate and chairman of the National Assembly, Bukola Saraki.
Out of 29 bills transmitted to state Houses of Assembly, 15 were approved, while 14 were rejected.
Thirty three bills were originally debated in both chambers of the National Assembly. Four were rejected, while 29 were passed.
Saraki in his remarks, expressed disappointment over the refusal of Lagos and River states Assemblies to participate in the constitution review exercise.
Saraki also promised that the issue of devolution of powers will be revisited by the National Assembly. Already, he said a joint committee of both chambers has been constituted to work on areas of differences on the issue.
“When we made this promise at the beginning of the eighth Senate, we were not sure. We have achieved a lot. There are other areas like the devolution of powers. We have set up a joint committee from the Senate and the House of Representatives to work on areas of differences. In the next few days, we will get back to work.
“The none participation of Lagos and Rivers states is very disappointing. I hope that the next phase they will participate. This idea of bullying is not good for us and for our democracy.”
Dogara, speaking further on the issue, said: “I have always said that governments all over the world lay claims to being democratic. There is no government out there that can truly be democratic if it does not have a fiercely independent legislature. That has been the major challenge in Nigeria. With the courage I have seen demonstrated in state Assemblies, it is an indication of the promise that awaits us.
“Democracy does not work until the people utilise the tools. If democracy works or fails, it is the people. For giving nod to the independence of state Assemblies, this is remarkable. Our firm believe is that the bulk of our people live at the state levels. If democracy does not work well there, Nigerians will be short-changed.
“I was hoping that with the calibre of people seated here, we would have delivered on autonomy for local governments. This is an exercise that is ongoing. May be in the next exercise, our state Assemblies which will be independent will extend the same freedom to local governments.”
Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yussuff Lasun, in his earlier remarks, said: “Fifteen clauses were transmitted out of 29 forwarded to the 36 State Houses of Assembly. Constitution amendment is a continuous process. After we amended the constitution, there was another argument about restructuring. We all want Nigeria to grow and develop.
“During the amendment exercise, we called it devolution of powers. Nigerians are not alone in the call for the restructuring of the country. Lawmakers are also clamouring for the same thing.”
Abdulmumuni Kamba, Speaker, Kebbi State House of Assembly and chairman of Conference of Speakers called on the National Assembly to reconsider the issue of restructuring.
“We want to plead that the bill on the devolution of powers be considered and should form part of the next constitution amendment exercise,” he pleaded,
The National Assembly had, last July, voted to amend some key elements of the Constitution following complaints in several quarters that the document formulated by the last military regime headed by the late Gen. Sani Abacha has become increasingly unworkable.
The parliament, among others, voted on financial autonomy to local government areas, independent candidacy, restriction of executive offices to one term, affirmative action for women.
Interestingly, the clause on the devolution of powers to the federating units, was binned by the lawmakers, to the consternation of proponents of restructuring.