By Emmanuel AZIKEN
One of the acknowledged fallacies of the 1999 constitution can be found in the beginning of the legal framework that binds the country.
â€œWe the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,â€ the constitution handed out by the last military regime affirms even though it is well known the Nigerian people did not have any conclave to produce the constitution.
It is thus not surprising that the National Assembly has made consultation with the people a cardinal point in its ongoing efforts to review the constitution.
The Senate in that effort last year mandated members of the 44 man Senate committee on Constitution Review (SCRC) headed by the deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu to carry out extensive consultations with their constituencies towards deciphering the thoughts of the populace on the issues to be reflected in the constitution review.
A number of Senators have in that direction held consultations with their constituents on the issues to be tabled by them in the constitution review. Among them are Senators Joy Emodi (PDP, Anambra North), Smart Adeyemi (PDP, Kogi West), Chris Anyanwu (PDP, Imo East) and Senator Effiong Bob (PDP, Akwa Ibom Northwest).
Senator Bobâ€™s effort in involving his constituents came through the formation of an Akwa Ibom Northeast Senatorial District Constitution Review Committee with the aim of articulating the views of the senatorial district on the issues to be expressed by the district.
The committee which was inaugurated by Senator Bob during a regular constituency briefing on Friday November 7, 2008 at Ibom Hall, Uyo was chaired by Barrister Iniobong Eshiett a former member of the Akwa Ibom House of Assembly from the senatorial district.
Other members of the committee included include Hon. (Barr.) Kennedy Ekong (Secretary), Hon. (Dr.) Ita Udosen, Hon. (Barr. Aniede) Ndem, Barr. Ikotidem, Hon. (Dr) Ita Udosen, Hon. Victor Akpan and Mr. Umem Etuk.
In the course of its work the committee received memoranda from opinion leaders, local government administrators, members of the state house of assembly, civil society organizations, students, market women, religious and political organizations within the senatorial districts.
Thirty-seven memoranda were received by the committee besides interactions the committee had with at least eleven different groups.
The committee in its 17-page report made recommendations in nine key areas, namely local Government system, Revenue Allocation and Political party System, Revenue Allocation and derivation Principle, Resource control, separation of Powers Political Party System, creation of States, Constitutional Recognition of Geo-politicalÂ Zones, Traditional Institutions and Protection of rights of Pensioners.
Underneath is the summary of the committeeâ€™s report on the nine major issues.
Local Government System
The committeeâ€™s recommendation came under three sub-heads: desirability, creation and autonomy of the local governments.
Desirability of Local Government
It recommended the retention of the three tier structure of governance. Section 7 (1) of the constitution which guarantees a system of democratically elected councils was seen as fulfilling the needs and aspirations of the local communities. The committee recommended that this section be retained.
Creation of Local Government
The committee noted the constitutional ambiguity between the States and the Federal Government as to who has the responsibility to create more local Government.
The committee traced the source of this conflict to section 8 (3) of the constitution which give the state House of Assembly the power to create Local Government Areas and section 8 (6) which directs the state House of Assembly to make adequate returns to each House of the National Assembly after the creation of more Local Government Areas pursuant to sub-section 3 of section 8 of the constitution.
To resolve the conflict, the committee recommended that section 8 (3) be amended to ensure that requests for creation of new Local government Areas should emanate from the people of the community, and that the powers of the states, through their houses of Assembly should be limited to collecting, collating, considering and making recommendations.
Autonomy and funding of Local Government Councils
In order to make the local government councils effective grassroots administrative units within the federating States, the committee recommended that some degree of financial autonomy be given to local government councils by amending section 162 (5) to guarantee that all funds standing to the credit of local Government councils in the Federation account are allocated directly to the respective Local Government councils.
It also recommended that section 162 (6) be amended to empower each Local Government Council to maintain Statutory Allocation to be called Local government council statutory Allocation Account into which shall be paid allocations of the respective Local Government Councils from the Federation Account and from the Government of the States.
The committee, while supporting the creation of new states, however observed that the wording in section 3 (1) connote finality on the possibility of creating new states. It therefore recommends that section 3 (1) be amended to accommodate the possibility of creating new states in future.
Constitutional recognition of Geo_political Zones
The committee recommends the amendment of the constitution to incorporate the existing six Geo_Political zones as permanent political STRUCTURE OF THE Nigerian Federation as it makes for inter_stateÂ cooperation, collaboration and easy distribution/rotation of political offices within the country. This, it said could be done by creating additional sub_section (3) of the section 2 in the amended constitution
The position of the communities is that the importance of the advisory roles of the traditional institution to the local, stateÂ and Federal governments especially in times of emergency and mass mobilization can never be ignored. In consideration of this, the committee recommended that section 153, 197 and the relevant schedule of the constitution be amended to give constitutional recognition to the traditional institutions on advisory capacity.