August 2, 2017

Why NASS rejected devolution of powers to states – Senate Leader

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ABUJA—The Senate Leader, Ahmad Lawan, has provided insight into possible reasons the constitution review proposal on devolving more powers to states failed in the National Assembly last week.

Both chambers of the National Assembly, the Senate and the House of Representatives, had respectively on Wednesday and Thursday voted against the bill to alter the 1999 Constitution to devolve more powers to the states.

It was a setback for the clamour for restructuring, thus causing the lawmakers knocks from pro-restructuring campaigners, including former Vice-president Atiku Abubakar.

But speaking with online portal, Premium Times, on Monday, Mr. Lawan, APC-Yobe, said the lawmakers’ voting pattern was a reflection of the wishes of their respective constituents and that those who supported the proposal might have failed to do enough to canvass votes.

“If you come from a place and you represent people, when it comes to issue as important as changing or altering section of the constitution, you will vote in line with the way and manner that is in conformity with wishes of the people where you come from,” said Lawan.

“Many senators voted against devolution; if you wonder why, then the answer probably most of those that voted against it did so is in the interest of people they represent. Even if these people don’t talk or make noise or have access to the media, they have opinions and views on every issue.

“Therefore, I think those that wanted it pass did not do much job to convince those that voted against it. Come to think of it, in a democracy, when I represent a people, I should behave in such manner that suits their purpose. If someone wants to take me out of that sentiment, the onus is on him to convince me that his/her position or view is necessary,” the senator added.

The proposal on devolution of powers was seen as step towards the manifestation of calls to restructure Nigeria’s federal system – but it failed.

Currently, more than any other subject, the call for restructuring has gained stronger appeal across various shades of interests, including politicians, self-determination groups and ordinary citizens.

Pro-restructuring campaigners say the federal government has more powers than necessary, domineering control of resources as well as share of national revenue.

The current system, they argue, apart from affecting the efficiency of the federal government, given that it has too much powers, is also skewed against the states in terms of resources within their control and revenue accessible.

Previously, Senate President Bukola Saraki had said “hate speeches and mistrust” caused the failure of the proposal on devolution of powers to the states.

Asked to comment on alleged opposition of Northern leaders to restructuring and if that was responsible for the failure of the proposal, the Senate Leader asked rhetorically: “Has the North issued a statement?”

He said senators voted as individuals. It’s not like a section of the country controlled them; there is no group of senators with decision on what to do, he said.