By Davies Iheamnachor – Port Harcourt
Governor of Rivers State, Chief Nyesom Wike, has called on the Nation’s Assembly and the Federal Government to use this opportunity of review to give Nigerians a constitution that will guarantee their collective progress.
Wike also demanded that the process to make a law that state create and regulate local government authorities.
The governor who spoke at the Zonal Public Hearing of the Senate Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria for South-South in Port Harcourt.
Wike, who was represented by His Deputy, Dr. Ipalibo Banigo, noted that although it was the third time that the National Assembly had embarked on the exercise without successfully producing a constitution that would satisfy the generality of Nigerians, wishing the committee, speed in its efforts to give Nigerians a better constitution.
The governor urged the committee to carry out the responsibility reposed on them with all sincerity to salvage the country from impending dangers
He said: “For this can only be possible if and only if the exercise is approached and carried out with sincerity of purpose and commitment to correct the fundamental challenges that have caused deep cracks to the foundations of our country and threatening to tear our dear nation into pieces.
“It is only the blind that may not see that Nigeria is headed to a dangerous precipice unless something urgent is done to correct the identified flaws in both our constitution and the nature of the federal system that has been foisted on his country for so long.
“The contending issues are not new they have been raised, identified, and debated at several forums over and over by associations, social groups, and ethnic groups in this country.”
Wike noted that the nation was not really processing a new constitution, a people’s constitution which to some people is a path of getting a united and progressive nation, but it was a move to make major reviews to strengthen the unity and progress of the country.
“The truth is that whether new or old, what Nigeria and Nigerians need is a constitution that approximates the collective aspirations from all Nigerians to live in a country that is free, fair and just to all component parts.
“Nigerians need a constitution that gives them the true sense of belonging, secure and advances their wellbeing and enable their children to actualize their potentials for any office without discrimination,” he stated.
He stated that no one was under the illusion that the present constitution does not meet the minimum conditions that can keep and sustain multi-cultural and mutually suspicious nationalities together, adding that there was no way ordinary Nigerians would prosper under this constitution.
He, however, tasked the committee to come out with a constitution that guarantees peace and development of the components parts.
“No one is deceived that the present constitution alienates minority societies, justifies the provocative exploration of the People’s resources, and gives greater resources to a glutinous federal government to the detriment of the state’s local government areas.
“There is no way ordinary Nigerians will strive and prosper under this constitution. We, therefore, need a constitution that addresses the lingering issues including, but not limited to the following, ‘Devolution of powers from the centre to the states’.
“Fiscal federalism, Creation of state police
Strengthening of the electoral system. Increasing the derivation fund to not less than 25% Allowing states to create and sustain local government councils and reducing the cost of governance at both the federal and state levels.”
“But there is no guarantee that it would survive the pressures from all directions and history will definitely not forgive those who refused to speak out or do the right things to redirect our nation from the self-destructive direction to path of unity, peace, and progress.
“We must therefore use this opportunity to come out with a constitution that will be accepted to the generality of Nigerians and guarantee our collective progress.
However, Akwa Ibom State has demanded that free and compulsory education for women and vulnerable persons up till secondary school be made constitutional
The Director of Litigation, Bassey Ekanem, who made the presentation on behalf of Uko Udom, the Attorney General of it Akwa Ibom the state also opted that 25 items in the exclusive list be moved to the concurrent list.
He said: “With the issue of women participation and vulnerable groups in governance, Akwa Ibom State’s position is that both groups should constitute 35% in all appointments in all tires of government.
“It is also our position that education should be free and compulsory for all women and vulnerable persons to secondary school. It is our position that all tires of government should be made independent.
“FG is overburdened in all aspects, as such, some matters in the exclusive list about 25 of them, we suggested should be moved to the concurrent list.”
Meanwhile, The Chairman of the Sen C’ttee on Constitutional Review and the Deputy President of Nigeria Senate, Sen, Ovie Omo-Agege, noted that the commitment to giving Nigeria a better constitution that would advance development and peace in Al regions.
Omo-Agege, who was represented by Sen. Thompson Sekibo, said the success of the process was dependent on the support from Nigerians, calling for support from the public.
He said the need to address electoral reforms, local government autonomy, and devolution of power, was paramount in the exercise.
The Chairman assured that all the memorandum and presentations made would not only be considered by the basis for the review but would be part of the new constitution.