By OKEY NDIRIBE AND EMMAN OVUAKPORIE
Although, the People’s Public Sessions on the Review of the amended 1999 Constitution held by the House of Representatives in the 360 federal constituencies across the country three Saturdays ago has come and gone, the event nonetheless reinforced the political reality that sovereignty actually belongs to the people.
Indeed, reports from different parts of the country indicated that the event was the people’s show. And in several parts of the country, the masses grabbed the opportunity that was given to them by the federal lawmakers not only to make their input into the making of the nation’s proposed grundnorm, but to also express their feelings on issues that have been troubling them.
At Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, although Hon Saheed Akinade Fijabi who coordinated the session attempted to explain the rationale behind the public session and why it was decided by the Green Chamber that it should be held in every Federal Constituency, Mr Seun Abimbola, the Chairman of the Ibadan Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association made the stand of the NBA known about the public review. He pointed out that the NBA had told the leadership of the House that after the public session, there should be a referendum. Abimbola further said some questions do not require a “yes” or “no” answer.
In Kwara state, the peoples response was slightly different. The creation of new council areas was reportedly a major demand at the public hearing across the six federal constituencies of the state. While most of those who spoke on the issue during the hearing noted that the demand was not a call for the severance of cultural ties within the existing council areas, they however chorused that the creation of new councils in the area will help to generate employment and reduce the noticeable upsurge in youth involvement in crimes and poverty.
At the Asa/Ilorin- west session, the Galadiman Garin of Ilorin Alhaji Umar Adelodun, who canvassed for the creation of additional 10 local government areas from the Ilorin emirate, argued that it would provide jobs, alleviate poverty as well as end youth restiveness.
His submission received a thunderous ‘yeah’ from the audience, who however opposed the creation of additional states. The call for the creation state police was vehemently opposed on the ground that it would be abused by the powers that be.
The agitation for abolition of the States/Local Government joint account operation, and autonomy for local governments were generally agreed upon in all the constituencies.
From Kwara central, Khadis of the Sharia Court of Appeal canvassed an amendment of sections of the constitution “to address Nigeria as a religious nation, saying that “paragraph one of the Nigerian constitution states that the people agreed to live in unity and harmony as one indivisible and indissoluble nation under God”.
Justice Salihu Mohammed, a Khadi of the Sharia Court of Appeal, Ilorin who spoke on behalf of other Khadis, also canvassed an amendment of sections of the constitution which currently limits the power of the Sharia court in relation to matters they can entertain from litigants.
Reaching a consensus vote against state creation in Baruten/Kaiama constituency in Kwara North senatorial district, required a lot of efforts and persuasions from stakeholders before participants eventually shifted their earlier ground that they wanted state creation.
The debate for state creation which later took the center stage at the session, witnessed the people agreeing to the fact that while it was necessary to open up the area for development, the desirability of a new state for now is not among the aspirations of the people.
The clamor for creation of additional local governments, abolition of states /local government joint account operation, and autonomy for local governments were generally agreed upon in all the constituencies, except Kwara north.
The session chairman of the Ilorin East/South Constituencies, Alhaji Aliyu Alarape Salman, (SAN) commended the National Assembly for its efforts, noting that the military regime which prepared the 1999 constitution hoodwinked Nigerians to imply that it was a people’s constitution by the preamble, “We the people of Nigeria”.
Shariah was high on the demand in Kano State where there were protests over the alleged non-inclusion of the Muslim legal system on the list of items to be reviewed in the 1999 Constitution.
A member of the House of Representatives in the state also narrowly escaped death after a mob attacked him in one of venues of the public hearing over alleged poor representation.
Hon. Yushari Bashir Galadanci, representing Gwale federal constituency was attacked by a mob over his alleged “poor representation and lack of patronage” since he was elected to the Green Chamber.
The development forced other political office holders to stay away from the venue of the public hearing as majority of the issues presented were rejected except local government autonomy, state assembly autonomy and abolition of State Independent Electoral Commission.
However, in another part of Kano State, Hon. Farouk Lawan who represents Shanono/Bagwai Federal Constituency, received a hero’s welcome during the exercise.
In Sokoto, the exercise was concluded without any incident.
The speaker of the House Hon Waziri Tambuwal , who represents Tambuwal/Kebbe federal constituency, spoke in Tambuwal during the public hearing held in the town. He said the public hearing would produce a constitution that has wider scope of consultations and inclusiveness.
In Imo and Enugu states participants in the exercise demanded for the creation of an additional state for the South-East zone.
In Enugu North/Enugu South Federal Constituency the exercise was coordinated by Hon. Ofor Chukwuegbo while Senators Jim Nwobodo and Ken Nnamani addressed the participants.