Restructuring Nigeria through substitution of 1999 with 1963 Constitution…FG carrying much load, let states decide their LG model – El-Rufai

…We must review constitution now — Omo-Agege

…Igbo needs Justice, equity not secession — Uzodimma

…We need Aba, Adada states in Southeast — Aba Movement leadership;

…We support constitution amendments that will enhance Nigeria’s unity, prosperity — Ugwuanyi;

…Sanwo-Olu, Obasa demand fiscal federalism, special status for Lagos; •Nigeria needs new Constitution not amendment — Okowa

By Clifford Ndujihe, Anayo Okoli, Olasunkanmi Akoni, Festus Ahon, Ozioruva Aliu , Rotimi Ojomoyela, Chinonso Alozie, Chinedu Adonu, Ibrahim HassanWuyo & Charles Agwam

THE efforts of the National Assembly to amend the 1999 Constitution got a boost, yesterday, as governors and a host of eminent Nigerians offered suggestions on how to carry out the onerous task.

They took advantage of the two-day zonal public hearing of the Senate Committee on Constitution Review, which started, yesterday, across the six geo-political zones.

Governors Nasir el-Rufai (Kaduna), Hope Uzodimma (Imo), Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos), Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta), Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu), Bala Mohammed (Bauchi), Chief Afe Babalola (SAN), and a host of pressure groups were among those who prof erred suggestions.

Expectedly, opinions where hugely divided even many agreed on the need to restructure the country to fiscal federalism and devolve powers to the federating units. However, there were those who contended that the amendment exercise is a fruitless venture, arguing that the country needs a new constitution instead.

FG carrying much load, let states decide their LG model – El-Rufus

Governor el-Rufai said each state of the federation should decide the model of local government that best suited it
According to him, listing the 774 Local Governments in the constitution and trying to establish for them direct relations with the Federal Government violate the spirit of federalism.
The governor, who spoke at the public hearing of the senate committee on the review of the1999 constitution in Kaduna, said each state should decide how many local governments it can efficiently run and fund for better governance and delivery of public goods.
He argued that devolution of powers is necessary because the current structure overburdens the federal government with too many responsibilities which it cannot efficiently handle.

The governor further said that the APC Committee on True Federalism which he headed, had identified legislative interventions that the National Assembly can more easily undertake to achieve a truly balanced, equitable and fair federal structure.

The governor, who spoke in his personal capacity, proposed 10 items that should be shared responsibilities between the state and federal governments.

These include strengthening military and security agencies; decentralizing the police to enable the states exercise effective control in securing their residents and communities; need for federal, state and community police, with each granted sufficient powers to make them effective in securing the areas assigned to them and cooperating closely with each other.

El Rufai also said that the constitution should be altered to remove the Police Service Commission because it is an unnecessary hindrance to effective policing in Nigeria and ‘’the power to hire and fire police officers should revert fully and totally to the Inspector General of Police, under the supervision of the National Police Council, as envisaged by the Constitution.”

The governor recommended that all ‘’mineral resources, including oil and gas and solid minerals, in the states, which will in turn pay royalties and taxes to the Federation Account.”

‘’States already control land within their territories, courtesy of the Land Use Act, which is incorporated into the Constitution by reference,” he argued.
In his remarks on the occasion,Senator Uba Sani representing Kaduna Central, said the zonal public hearing was to expand and deepen the people’s participation in the constitutional reform process. He said when the people are fully involved, they will own the process, legitimise it, and defend its outcome.

Earlier in his address,Deputy President of the Senate and Chairman, Senate Committee on Constitution Review,Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, said those who have followed previous Constitutional Review exercises, may be wondering why these Zonal Hearings are coming ahead of the National Public Hearing.

“The reason is not farfetched; the Senate has decided to adopt a bottom-top approach by first listening to Nigerians at the geo-political level. This approach underscores the critical importance the Constitution Review Committee places on the subnational levels of governance in Nigeria. Surely, and without a doubt, the success of the Committee’s review process will be dependent on your beneficent support and partnership.’’

We must review the 1999 Nigerian constitution now — Dep Senate President
Senator Ovie Omo-Agege said the review of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution as amended will help adjust the lapses and holes in it, saying that there is need to give every segment of the society a sense of belonging in the scheme of affairs in the country.

Omo-Agege, who was represented by Senator Abubakar Kyari, in Bauchi at the opening ceremony of the North-East Zonal sitting of the committee said that the constitutional review in the country must be in tandem with democratic tenets as practiced in developed countries, noting that it takes time to review due to the fact that it has to undergo a lot of processes that must be in line with democratic settings.

In his address, Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed who welcomed the review of the constitution said it will go a long way in capturing the yearnings and aspirations of Nigerians.

Declaring the public hearing open, the governor said he supports the review of the 1999 constitution in the areas of federal structure, governance, power devolution, establishment of state police, states and local governments creation, and constitutional roles for traditional rulers among others.

Igbo need justice, equity not secession
— Uzodimma

Imo State Governor, Hope Uzodimma, speaking in Owerri, at the opening ceremony of the National Assembly Constitutional Review Committee Public Hearing for the South-East zone chaired by Senator, Orji Uzor Kalu, said that the Igbo people needed a constitution review that would give them justice and equity and not secession.

The governor said: “For us as true leaders, genuinely committed to the Igbo question, the question agitating our minds is. What exactly do Igbo seek from Nigeria? Without sounding simplistic, what we seek is justice and equity. When we talk of restructuring or devolution of power, we are talking actually of having an environment created for us to unleash our potential and talent without let or hindrance.

We are also talking of being treated equally like every other part of Nigeria. More importantly, we are talking of being part of the decision-making process in Nigeria. It means we are not talking of domination or secession.”

We need Aba, Adada states in Southeast — Aba Movement leadership.

In another development, the leadership of Aba State Movement, led by Elder Emmanuel Adaelu, said among other things that the constitution review committee should consider the report of the committee on state creation of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo under Chief John Nnia Nwodo.

“The Committee should consider the merit for the creation of Aba and Adada states respectively. Aba State Movement stood by the Ohanaeze Committee recommendation since all groups agitating for a State in the South East fully participated in the Committee’s work by making presentations to it,’’ it said.

Chief Theo Nkire, first Attorney-General of Abia State, made Aba State Movement’s presentation to the Senate Committee on constitutional review chaired by Senator Orji Uzor Kalu.

Why current exercise must succeed
— Ekweremadu

The Enugu centre, which hosted Anambra, Enugu and Ebonyi states, was chaired Senator Ike Ekweremadu.

Among the groups that made submissions is the Judaism Fellowship Initiate, demanding that Saturdays be legally recognized in the Constitution as their worship day like other worship days.
Also, the Ebonyi State Commissioner for Information, Uchenna Orji, explained that delegates from Ebonyi to the zonal public hearing would articulate concerns of the state and make their presentations during the sitting.

Speaking to journalists on the sideline of the meeting, Senator Ike Ekweremadu stressed the need for decentralization of the police system to solve rising insecurity in the country
He lamented that the last constitution review touched all aspects of what is happening today but was not given attention or implemented.

Speaking on the topical issue of open grazing, he noted that it was land related and the duty of state governor to allow or not to allow open grazing.
His words: “You are fair to say that the one we had is like a fruitless exercise. On our part as parliamentarians, we did our part; we were able to break the jinx of constitutional amendment starting from 2010. And from then till now we had about four scenarios.

We have a lot of those who have been passed and consented to by the houses of Assembly and Assented to by the President and there are others we passed and concurred by the houses of Assembly and refused assent by the President.

‘’We discussed the issue of local government reform, including the issue of decentralization of power. The problem is not our own. We made effort but there were unforeseen circumstances. I just hope that those behind the failure will allow this one to succeed.’’

Other senators in attendance include Chukwuka Utazi, Ifeanyi Uba, Sam Egwu, Obinna Ogba, and Uche Ekwunife.

We support constitution amendments that will enhance Nigeria’s unity, prosperity
– Ugwuanyi

Also speaking, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State has declared his administration’s support for amendments in the constitution of Nigeria that will enhance the nation’s unity and prosperity “in an environment where justice, fairness and equity shall prevail.”

The governor who harped on the importance of unity and prosperity in an atmosphere of justice, fairness and equity, therefore enjoined all relevant Institutions, Civil Society Organizations, Stakeholders and entire Enugu State citizenry to avail themselves the opportunity of the zonal public hearing to participate in the national conversation.

Sanwo-Olu, speaker, demand fiscal federalism, state police, special status for Lagos

In Lagos, participants, consisting labour unions, human rights activists, civil society groups, among others have called for total amendment of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria and restructuring to reflect true federalism for unity, progress and prosperity of the country.

Also, Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu and Speaker, of the state House of Assembly, Mudashiru Obasa, reiterated the need for a special economic status for Lagos, creation of state police and true fiscal federalism
The governor, as host, Obasa, and other participants made the call, at the opening of the two-day Senate Committee on the review of the 1999 Constitution, South West, Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Zonal Public Hearing, Lagos Center, held in Ikeja, under the chairmanship of Senator Oluremi Tinubu, representing Lagos Central.

Top on the agenda presented was the need for total devolution of powers whereby the local government system has the greater share and so is empowered to carry out effective administration of the polity since it is closest to the people.

Other submissions from participants cut across the creation of new states, local governments autonomy, gender equality, and the drafting of an entirely new Constitution as they described the current one as “Military Constitution” imposed on Nigerians.

Participants also called for creation of state police, re-inclusion of Magistrates in the constitution, review of the retirement age of Magistrates from 60 to 65 years.

The roll call of other senators in attendance include: Olamilekan Adeola (Lagos West), Tokunbo Abiru (Lagos East); Senators Ibikunle Amosun, Tolu Odebiyi (Ogun State); Senators Teslim Folarin and Abdulfatai Buhari (Oyo State), among others.

President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, comrade Ayuba Wabba, Lagos State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Moyosore Onigbanjo, SAN, and representatives of civil organizations, associations, towns, communities, across the states, professional bodies, among others presented and submitted their individual memorandum to the the committee.
The governor, in his address, commended the leadership and members of the National Assembly for responding to the concerns of Nigerians on the need to carry out a review of the 1999 Constitution to reflect current realities.

Sanwo-Olu said, “For us in Lagos State, the issues of State Police and fiscal federalism are at the top of the priority list for us, in this ongoing review process. Equally fundamental, particularly for us in Lagos State, is the issue of a Special Economic Status for Lagos, considering our place in the national economy and the special burdens we bear by virtue of our large population and limited land mass.

“I believe the need for this Special Status has been sufficiently articulated and justified. It suffices for me at this point to restate that this request is by no means a selfish one, but one that is actually in the interest of every Nigerian and of Nigeria as a nation.’’

Nigeria needs new Constitution, not amendment- Okowa

In Asaba, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, said what Nigeria needed is a new Constitution not amendment.
Okowa, who spoke when he received on courtesy visit, the Senate Sub-Committee on review of the 1999 Constitution led by Senator James Manager in Asaba, said a new Constitution for the country had become imperative in view of observed lacuna in the 1999 Constitution.

While calling for the insertion of a clause to allow for the re-writing of the Constitution while it would continue to be in operation until a new one was ready, he said: “there is no doubt that there is still a lot to work to be done on our Constitution to have a near perfect document, and I know that the National Assembly has continued over time, to cause some of the amendments to be.’’

At the sitting, which drew participants from Delta, Bayelsa and Edo states, contentious issues of devolution of power, review of revenue formula, state police, local government autonomy and state creation dominated the zonal public hearing.

Okowa who was represented by the Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly, Chief Sheriff Oborevwori, said the nation should continue as a federation but with proper federal structure.

Participants at the public hearing including politicians, civil society groups, women group, youth body, community stakeholders, unions among others, across the three state presented their memoranda on various subjects to the secretariat of the committee.
Constitution review: Owie advocates devolution of powers
Former Chief Whip of the Senate, Roland Owie, called for the practice of true federalism with proper devolution of powers.

In his recommendation to the Committee through the governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki, Owie said it is not in dispute that federalism is the best for Nigeria but the way to go about it remains the challenge.

He said: “The Constitution has two Legislative Lists, namely, Exclusive and Concurrent. These lists have 98 items of power. The Federal Government exercises exclusive power over 68 items on the Exclusive List.

“On the other hand, the states, in concurrence with the Federal Government, exercise power over 30 items on the Concurrent List, while the States exercise power on the concurrent list, only if the Federal Government has not already “covered the field” on any of the 30 items.

“In effect, State Governments really have no power to regulate their affairs. I wish to recommend that to resolve this, a holistic review of the 98 items in the Exclusive Legislative List and assign what is best to the Federal and what is best to the States, based on the principle of subsidiarity.”

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