By Henry Umoru
•Southern, M-Belt leaders at National Assembly; say Nigeria tottering on edge
•Add Nigerian system dysfunctioning, call for National Emergency
•Restate call for true federalism, implementation of 2014 CONFAB Report
ABUJA—Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, yesterday, assured leaders and elders from four of the six geo-political zones of the country, under the aegis of Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum, that the upper chamber will revisit the rejected devolution of power items in its constitution amendment exercise.
He also noted that the National Assembly was ready to play its role to ensure that the country continues on the path of democracy and growth, adding that to strengthen the country’s democracy, the number one institution Nigerians must defend is the parliament.
The Senate President added that the 8th National Assembly has been working hard to create an enabling environment that will attract investors and that the federal legislature will continue along that line.
On the call to revisit clauses that were rejected during the ongoing constitution review process, Saraki said the National Assembly was ready to reconsider the clauses and will do so after the passage of the 2018 budget.
Earlier, Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum, who stormed the National Assembly, said Nigeria as a country was at the moment on the edge of the precipice, if serious steps were not taken.
The leaders condemned in very strong terms, the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Executive for its “flagrant disregard for the legislative arm of government.”
The leaders, led by South South leader, Chief Edwin Clark, also expressed worry over the state of affairs in the country, especially the wanton killings and destruction of property across the country, noting that Nigeria is in a state of despondency.
They added that there is the need for a national emergency if the myriad of crises and problems facing the country are to be resolved.
The Forum comprising South-South, South-East, South-West and the Middle-Belt also pleaded with the National Assembly to work towards providing for Nigeria, a constitution that will not make Nigerians feel that they are outside the country, but one that will be all-encompassing in nature.
According to them: “The time has come for the country to put in place true federalism, where the essence of living together and why we must co-habit must be discussed,” just as they called for the implementation of the report of the 2014 Constitutional Conference if Nigeria must get it right.
The positions of the leaders of the zones were presented by President-General of Ohanaeze, Chief John Nnia Nwodo, just as they stressed that the multi-faceted problems confronting the country must be collectively addressed as the onus of saving the country was on the National Assembly as the true symbol of democracy and microcosm of the people.
The leaders noted that a restructured Nigeria anchored on devolution of powers and functional fiscal federalism was the only way out of the crises bedeviling the nation.
Invasion of Senate by thugs
The leaders also condemned in very strong terms, the assault on the Senate on April 18, 2018 when some thugs forced their way to the Chamber of the Senate and made away with the Mace, the symbol of legislative authority, saying that it was shocking that five thugs made their way into the Chambers of the Senate while in Session and made away with the Mace, without the security being able to apprehend any of them, only to tell the nation that they found the Mace somewhere near at the Abuja City Gate.
According to them, it’s bad that such a disgraceful thing would happen in the National Assembly as it has portrayed Nigeria to the whole world in bad light.
They also frowned at the refusal of the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, to honour the summons of the Senate which they said, were clear examples of the Executive’s disregard for the institution of the National Assembly.
The leaders also told the Senate leadership that the continuous spate of killing of innocent citizens of Nigeria, especially in the Middle Belt, is totally unacceptable and more disturbing was the ever-increasing evidence that the military and police forces were compromised in the manner they had conducted themselves by aiding and abetting the herdsmen.
Nwodo said: “We have come to you at a very difficult time in the history of our country. We are visiting the National Assembly because of its unique position in our constitution. The democratic system we run in our country rests on the three organs of government.
“For these three arms, the other two function in accordance with laws made by this arm. This arm characterises democracy because in a military government, you will have both the judiciary and the executive.
“But it is only in a democratic government that you have the parliament. The parliament is a microcosm of the people because every section of the country has by adult suffrage delegated its voice to this parliament.
“So we believe that by visiting you today, we are coming to speak to the conscience of the country. We ask that these discussions today be as frank as possible because in situations like this, unless the National Assembly rises like a man with a conscience, commitment and patriotism, to unveil the facade of partisan politics, partisan advantages and face the real issues, we stand on the edge of a precipice.
“We have watched the helplessness of the National Assembly where members of the executive even refuse your invitations to come and make explanations contrary to provisions of the constitution.
“We have found the helplessness of the Senate when you can be invaded despite the security adornment in this place controlled by the executive and the seat of the Senate President is almost invaded but for the personal security of the aides of its leadership.
“This is because our system makes the tail wag the dog rather than the dog wag the tail. This cannot be in a fountain of legislative authority for executive implementation, and yet they toy with the system.
On devolution of powers
“We have come to tell you that it is in our view that it is because we have this over-concentration of powers in the Federal Government contrary to the agreement that our forefathers entered into for the nation called Nigeria. That governance has failed in our country. Economic development has failed.
“We believe that many of the problems that we have in our country emanate from the constitution of our country. We know that the National Assembly has had debate on devolution of powers and we know, Mr. President, that you did promise the nation that you will have a revisit to this issue.
“We have come to ask you to bring up the revisit. We consider it urgent and inevitable because we believe that all problems we have today in Nigeria emanate from the fact that our constitution is not right for a country constituted by people of diverse culture, diverse religion, diverse political persuasions as our country.
“Our problems emanate from the constitution being presently run in the country as against the ones operated between 1954 and 1966 which gave room for decentralized federation with attendant development-driven or healthy rivalries among the federating units.
“We have been kept down by the kinds of constitution we run which to a large extent, provides for over-centralised federation by way of concentrating powers and resources for running the country at the centre alone to the detriment of the federating units, that is, the 36 states.
“In a nutshell, our system makes the tail wag the dog rather than the dog wagging the tail. Escalation of disunity and wanton killings in the land not in any way matched with required equal reaction by security forces, have only one destination, which can only be salvaged by restructuring the country so as not to end up singing the ‘nunc dimitis’ for the Nation.”
Nwodo’s submissions were corroborated by Chief Ayo Adebanjo, who spoke on behalf of South-West; Air Commodore Dan Suleiman (retd) on behalf of the Middle-Belt and Chief Clark on behalf of South-South geo political zone.
Adebanjo in particular said a word from one is a statement from all, adding that the National Assembly should use the report of the 2014 National Conference in effecting the required change.
Also in the delegation were Chief Olu Falae, Air Vice Marshal Idongesit Nkanga (etd), Air Commodore Dan Suleiman, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Obong Victor Attah, Prof. Banjo Akintoye, Senator Stella Omu, Yinka Odumakin, Senator Bassey Henshaw, Dr. Alfred Mulade, Prof. Chigozie Ogbu, Lady Maryam Yunusa, Prof. Ihechukwu Madubuike and His Highness Anabs Sara-Igbe, among others.