By Luka Binniyat
ABUJAâ€”DEPUTY Speaker of the House of Representatives, Bayero Nafada, who is also Chairman of the ad-hoc Committee of the House of Representatives on Review of the 1999 Constitution, yesterday, said that the National Assembly would create 10 new states, with five from the North and five from the South, by next year.
Nafada also said Nigerians should expect an amended 1999 constitution with landmark modification, in May, 2010.
The Deputy Speaker, who was fielding questions from National Assembly reporters, however, said the electoral reform would not authorize Nigerians in the diaspora to vote in the forth-coming elections.
The House of Representatives had, Tuesday, amended 44 clauses of the 1999 constitution after the Senate had done same last March.
According to the Deputy Speaker, the two chambers of the National Assembly would form a joint-conference committee for the harmonization of amendments passed by each House.
He said: â€œEach chamber would pick about five each from its constitutional review committee to form the conference committee. That task cannot take more than two days.
Transmission of amended constitution
â€œAfter the harmonization, we would transmit the amended constitution to the 36 Statesâ€™ Houses of Assembly of the Federation. Before now, we have been meeting with the leadership of the Speakersâ€™ Conference of Nigeria and the seven governors representing the Governors Forum in the review of the constitution led by Governor Gabriel Suswam of Benue State.
â€œAll of them have assured us that it would take only one day for the states to vote either to reject of endorse it. The States Houses of Assemblies are not to alter or add anything new to what the National Assembly had sent them.
â€œThey are just expected to vote on it, and when we have two-third of the 36 states voting in favour of the amendments, we would then bring the amendments to the third reading at the Senate and the House of Reps.
â€œIf the amendment passes third, it automatically becomes a law, and the amended constitution stands. This is the only law that does not require the assent of the President. It starts and stops here at the National Assembly.â€
On the creation of new states, Nafada said the National Assembly had agreed that due to the strong agitation for more states, and considering the genuine fact of most of the demands, new states would be created before the end of the current assembly next year.
He said: â€œThe creation of new states is not as rigorous as the amendment of the constitution. The Governors Forum and many powerful interest groups have been inundating us with these demands.
â€œThere are suggestions that five new states should be created from the North and five from the South, and we are taking that suggestion very seriously. But others are asking that four be created for the North and four for the South, we are also studying it.â€
He did not, however, gave any hint on which states the proposed ones would be carved out of, but noted, â€œthere is no running from the fact that new states would be created next year.â€
The deputy speaker told newsmen that the Review of the Electoral Act would kick-off next week, stressing: â€œWe, as a committee, have since finished our work and have submitted to the House. But, by next week, we would commence debate and voting after the consideration of the report, just as we have done on the constitution.â€
Asked if the new Electoral Act would empower the millions of Nigerians in the diaspora to vote in future elections, he said â€œNo,â€ adding: â€œWe have weighed the benefit and cost of the exercise and we all agreed that the cost was far above the benefit.
â€œTherefore, we are not going to change that clause in the electoral act to allow Nigerians abroad to vote. And I understand that the Chairman of the National Electoral Commission, INEC, is trying to carry out pilot voting for Nigerians in four countries. If he tries that, he would be doing so against the law, and he must be ready to bear the consequence.â€