From Kenneth Udeh, Owerri
Chief Whip of the Senate, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, yesterday, presided over the South East zonal public hearing on the national review of the 1999 constitution held in Owerri, Imo State.
The former Abia State governor who is Chairman, South East Senate Committee supervised the exercise held for participants from Imo and Abia states, where most speakers demanded devolution of power, fiscal federalism, state and local government police.
Kalu in his opening remark on behalf of the Deputy Senate President and Chairman, Senate Committee on Review of the 1999 constitution, Ovie Omo Agege said amendment of the nation’s constitution would solve majority of the nation’s current challenges, while assuring of the commitment of the Senate and the House of Representatives to provide an amended constitution that would speak to the challenges and interests of citizens.
Declaring the event open, Governor of Imo State, Hope Uzodinma ascribed the various agitations in the country to the defects in the current 1999 constitution, saying the legal document was inherited from the military government and lacked democratic inputs.
“This hearing provides the opportunity for those of us in Imo and Abia states to make our input on the amendment we seek in the current 1999 constitution. It offers another opportunity for us to continue to work hard for an acceptable constitution that will meet the aspirations of Nigerians in general. This also provides for us in the South East the opportunity to address those issues that have been bothering us in the recent past.”
On his part, the governor of Abia State, Okezie Ikpeazu, represented by his Chief of Staff, ACB Agbazuere called for the devolution of powers, state and local government policing and fiscal federalism.
Governor Ikpeazu also advocated a review of the current revenue allocation formula and argued that the current system under the Nigerian Constitution is not beneficial to states.
He said: “The current revenue allocation formula allocates more funds to the Federal Government at the detriment of the states and local governments. Secondly, the system discourages striving for an increased Internally Generated Revenue (IGR). This is because most states wait for allocation from federation accounts without much effort at getting an increased level of IGR.”
On gender equality, a civil society group, Women in Politics led by its President, Ebere Ifendu called for equal gender representation at the National Assembly.
The abolition of the State Independent Electoral Commission (SIEC) was also clamoured for by the Nigerian Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), represented by South East’s union chairman, Nwaigwe Ikedin.
Other amendments suggested by the group include establishment of local government police, alteration of the revenue allocation formula, abolition of joint account, funding of primary education from the federation account among others.