From Bamigbola Gbolagunte, Akure; Noah Ebije, Kaduna; Paul Osuyi, Asaba; Lukman Olabiyi; Tunde Omolehin, Sokoto; Sola Ojo, Kaduna; Stanley Uzoaru, George Onyejiuwa Owerri and Chukwudi Nweje
The Senate Committee on the review of the 1999 Constitution (As Amended) began public hearing yesterday, in the various geo-political zones across the country, with renewed clamour for creation of additional state in the South East, state police and power devolution among other demands listed by the State governors and other stakeholders.
Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai and his Delta and Plateau counterparts, Ifeanyi Okowa and Simon Lalong, respectively, top the list of governors calling for power devolution and true federalism
El Rufai argued that devolution of powers is necessary because the current structure overburdens the federal government with too many responsibilities which it cannot efficiently handle.
The governor further recalled that the APC Committee on True Federalism, which he headed, had identified legislative interventions that the National Assembly can more easily undertake to achieve a truly balanced, equitable and fair federal structure.
He said: “The reality of our security situation today requires that Nigeria must strengthen its military and security agencies. This includes decentralising the police to enable the states to exercise effective control in securing their residents and communities.
“We need to have federal, state and community police, with each granted sufficient powers to make them effective in securing the areas assigned to them and cooperating closely with each other.
“The power to hire and fire police officers should revert fully and totally to the Inspector General of Police, under the supervision of the National Police Council, as envisaged by the Constitution.’’
In Asaba, Delta state capital, which hosted the public hearing Delta, Bayels and Edo states, Over Ifeanyi Okowa said there should be “acceptable and legitimate division of powers among different tiers of government; a written constitution delineating such division; the coordinate supremacy of the levels of government with regard to their respective functions; and a considerable measure of autonomy – fiscal, legislative and judicial – of the Federal Government and the federating units.”
The governor, who was represented by the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Sheriff Oborevwori, advocated that revenues collected by the Federal Government through the parastatals of NNPC, NLNG, CBN, NIMASA, FAAN and other similar agencies should be remitted into the federation account.
•We want amendments that’ll enhance Nigeria’s unity, prosperity – Ugwuanyi
Enugu State Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi declared his administration’s support for constitution amendments that will enhance the nation’s unity and prosperity “in an environment where justice, fairness and equity shall prevail”.
The governor enjoined all relevant institutions, civil society organisations, stakeholders and entire Enugu state citizenry to avail themselves the opportunity of the zonal public hearing to participate in the national conversation.
“I, particularly, acknowledge the leader of the team and Senator representing Enugu West Senatorial District in the 9th Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Distinguished Senator Prof. Ike Ekweremadu, CFR. I also recognise in a special way, Distinguished Senator, Chuka Utazi, who represents me and the people of Enugu North Senatorial District in the Red Chamber of the National Assembly.”
Speaking on behalf of his colleagues from Enugu, Anambra and Ebonyi states, the Speaker of the Enugu State House of Assembly, Edward Ubosi, assured the people of South East geo-political zone that the state legislature will first seek their opinions before adopting the outcome of the constitutional review by the National Assembly.
The Speaker, who maintained that constitution alteration is a continuous exercise, commended the 9th National Assembly for taking up the task again and thanked governor Ugwuanyi for providing the enabling atmosphere for the event.
In his vote of thanks, Senator Ekweremadu, also applauded governor Ugwuanyi, who he described as “Insurance Guru”, for his immense contributions towards the hosting of the zonal public hearing in Enugu.
•Sanwo-Olu pushes for special status for Lagos
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who declared the Lagos centre of the public hearing open, yesterday, demanded a special economic status for the state, saying the progress and prosperity of Nigeria is inextricably linked to the progress and prosperity of Lagos State.
Sanwo-Olu also demanded for a State Police and entrenchment of true fiscal federalism in Nigeria.
“For us in Lagos State, the issues of State Police and fiscal federalism are at the top of the priority in this ongoing review process. Equally fundamental, particularly, for us in Lagos State, is the issue of a Special Economic Status for Lagos, considering our place in the national economy and the special burdens we bear by virtue of our large population and limited land mass.
“I believe the need for this Special Status has been sufficiently articulated and justified. It suffices for me, at this point, to restate that this request is by no means a selfish one, but one that is actually in the interest of every Nigerian and of Nigeria as a nation,” he said.
•Constitution reference point of democracy – Tambuwal
Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, represented by his Deputy, Alhaji Muhammadu Manir Dan Iya, described the Constitution as the reference point of democracy.
He said: “And in the 22 years of Nigeria’s experience in government by representation, our gains have more than justified our challenges.
“All constitutions are, therefore, work in progress, because they are subject to the changing needs and aspirations the people, at different times.
“And constitutional reviews are the processes for ensuring this guiding document plays that function.”
Also speaking, Kebbi State Governor, Senator Abubakar Atiku Bagudu noted that, the exercise is coming at the time of Nigeria’s life when more dialogue is in dire need.
“It is an opportune time to, therefore, collectively brainstorm on how to discuss these issues, for the country to move forward in unison, by having a more robust constitution.”
•1999 Constitution outdated- Senator Uba Sani
The Senator representing Kaduna Central Zone, Uba Sani noted that the 1999 was outdated with some contentious issues that needed to be addressed, hence, the need to review it.
Speaking in Kaduna Sani noted that the Constitution was last reviewed 22 years ago which had brought crisis into governance.
•UN Women coalition advocates more in governance, inclusive language
The Coalition of Women Leaders in Kaduna State, in collaboration with UN Women advocated for an increase of women’s rights, especially in political leadership, to enhance the participation of women in governance.
The coalition also called on the representatives of the committee currently meeting in Kaduna to be conscious of inclusive language as they amend the 1999 constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria.
•State police, additional states dominate S’East constitution review
The public hearing on the review of the 1999 Constitution which kicked off in Owerri, Imo State, yesterday, was dominated by popular agitations for State policing and creation of another State in South East.
Chief of Staff to Abia State government, ACB Agbazuari, while submitting his memorandum, noted that State police will strengthen the peaceful coexistence in the southeast and check security challenges.
He urged members of the senate committee review to look into their submission in view of granting their request.
Similarly, Chief Theo Okire, who represented Aba Mass Movement, submitted that an additional states should be created in the South East.
He said if additional states are created in the South East, it would bring an even political atmosphere and less marginalisation of the zone.
Other memoranda submitted were calls on gender equity, revenue allocation system, youth empowerment in politics, maintaining standards in professions in the country and accordance of constitutional roles to traditional institutions.
Gover Hope Uzodimma who also seized the opportunity to warn his detractors said: “Let me, however, use this auspicious opportunity to tell these alarmists and pretenders to love of Ndigbo, that they are not more Igbo than I am and they do not love Igbo more than I do.
“The difference is that while they want immediate and sentimental public applause, I want enduring prescriptions that can comprehensively address the Igbo challenge in Nigeria.
“Without sounding simplistic, what we seek is justice and equity. When we talk of restructuring or devolution of power, we are talking actually of having an environment created for us to unleash our potential and talent without let or hindrance.
“We are also talking of being treated equally like every other part of Nigeria.”
•1999 constitution amendment effort in futility, Babalola tells NASS
Legal luminary Aare Afe Babalola (SAN) has charged the 9th National Assembly to, rather than waste time and resources at amending the 1999 constitution, convoke a National Constitutional Conference to fashion out a new true federal constitution.
He said the way out is to return the country to a parliamentary system of government and the 1963 structure.
“The truth is that there is no way the National Assembly can amend the 1999 constitution to cure the inherent defects in the 1999 constitution. First, you cannot cure fraud. Second, it is impossible, by way of amendment, to take away the military system of government under the 1999 constitution or the power and control of public funds by the President. Or can we, by way of amendment, change the Judicial powers of the President under the 1999 constitution? The fact remains that you cannot amend a Coconut tree which has no branches to become and Iroko tree which has branches. It is a well-known fact that everything about the 1999 constitution is wound around the Presidential system of government. Why then is the National Assembly afraid of calling a National Constitutional Conference to fashion out a new true federal constitution and come up with a Parliamentary system of government as we had in 1963,” he further said.
•N/Assembly’ll provide a constitution that’ll Nigeria challenges – Omo-Agege
Deputy Senate President and Chairman, Senate Committee on Constitution Review, Sen. Ovie Omo-Agege has expressed the determination of the National Assembly to provide Nigerians with a fair and inclusive constitution that will address the challenges of the nation.
“The focus of this committee is how to manage the review exercise in a fair, inclusive, credible and transparent manner. At the commencement of this 9th Senate, we had set for ourselves a legislative agenda as a basis on which we are to be assessed. Sitting prominently in that agenda is the need to address , by way of constitutional amendments, topical issues like judicial and Electoral Reforms, Local Government Autonomy, and devolution of powers.”