…We will listen more, Speaker assures
From: Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Speaker of House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, on Wednesday night, briefed the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) on the House’s version of the constitutional amendment.
The Nigerian Senate and House of Representatives had disagreed on certain aspects of the constitution amendment, thereby delaying the NGF from taking decision on the matter.
The Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu had, earlier briefed the Forum on the Senate’s version of the constitutional amendment.
The House’s of Representatives had told the NGF to disregard the presentation made by the senate to the forum as harmonized position of the two houses, saying that there had not been any harmonisation by the two houses.
The Chairman of the NGF, Alhaji Abdulaziz Yari, told State House correspondents at the end of the meeting that the two chambers of the National Assembly would soon harmonise their different versions of the constitution amendment.
Yari who is the Zamfara State Governor said the issues of restructuring and devolution of power would be accommodated in the amendment.
He said, “As a follow up to the briefing by Mr. Deputy Senate President, Mr. Speaker briefed us on the version of the House of Representatives on the constitutional amendment and very soon, they will harmonise the two positions.
“As critical stakeholders, they visited us and gave us their input on the other critical areas that are not touched like the area of restructuring, devolution of power among others.All those are going to be looked into and considered for the betterment of our country.”
Dogara also told newsmen that he was invited to talk to the governors on most of the bills being considered in the amendment.
On the governor’s request for expansion of the scope of constitutional amendment, he said only the House could take a decision on the matter.
He said, “Though l am the Speaker, l can tell you that l can only speak where majority of our members have agreed upon. So it is a bit early for me to conclude. But this is a democracy and in a democracy, the majority matters.
“We are aware of the ongoing agitations in the country. Some are calling for restructuring and some others call it true federalism. This is an issue on the manifestos of the APC. It is our feeling as a very responsive and responsible representatives of the people to ensure that this debate is done.
“And I agree like l said before that the position of the President that most of the matters and issues should be canvassed at the levels of the National Assembly.
“This is because some of the structural imbalances that we are talking about that need what they call restructuring cannot be corrected just by stroke of the pen. Some of them are actually embedded in the provisions of the constitution.
“Even by pedestrians description of the function of government, the Executive cannot make laws, they cannot amend the constitution. They can only initiate the process in an Executive bill, but it ultimately revolves within the powers of the legislature.
“So, even the committee that is set up by the APC leadership on true federalism, by the time they conclude their work, most of the issues they come out with will require a kind of tinkering of the constitution.
“So, our feeling is that we should not just close the windows to the yearnings of majority of our people. We should listen again to all the stakeholders, listen more to Nigerians and at the end of the day, we will come up with an exercise that meets the expectations and yearnings of our people.
“We will not just amend the constitution for the sake of amending. We will want the exercise to be very impactful. The only way we can get that done is to listen and listen and listen more”, he assured.
He also said the forum received briefing from the Stock Exchange on how too address the issue of cash crunch in their respective states.
He said, “They spoke to us on the need to raise bond. Globally is the borrowing from outside that you use to for infrastructure not the borrowing from within. So the stock exchange has given us opportunity for some and states that are ready to go into the stock exchange to raise bond to finance some projects. Because what is tied to the bonds is our income and our income is shrinking. Through the bonds we can finance projects that will impact on the water supply and sanitation etc. We are putting a committee in place made up of the members of the stock exchange as well as from the NGF secretariat to work together on that.”
The governors in attendance at the Wednesday meeting were Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara, Godwin Obaseki of Edo State, Mohammed Abubakar of Bauchi, Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna and Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State.
Others were deputy governors of Anambra, Bayelsa, Ebonyi, Imo, Niger, Osun, Rivers, Nasarawa among others.