…Nigeria in dire straits, no efforts must be spared to stop the free fall— Gov Akeredolu

…Adds: Drop bicameral structure of NASS

…Says Nigerians’ limit of endurance stretchedl1999 constitution below standard — Gbajabiamila

…Sanwo-Olu restates Special Status for Lagos

By Dayo Johnson, Regional Editor, South-West, Olasunkanmi Akoni & Tordue Salem

Chairman of the South-West Governors’ Forum and  governor of Ondo State, Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN, yesterday, said Nigeria is in dire straits and called for the adoption of a unicameral legislature, against the current bicameral structure.

This came on a day Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, said the 1999 Constitution has fallen short of the expectations of Nigerians, and thus needed a drastic overhaul.

On his part, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State reiterated the call for Special Economic Status for Lagos as the economic nerve centre of the country.

Unicameral legislature better for Nigeria — Akeredolu

Akeredolu, who spoke at the South-West zonal public hearing organised by the House of Representatives Committee on Constitution Review in Akure, Ondo State, said membership of the National Assembly should be on part-time basis.

Represented by his deputy, Mr. Lucky Aiyedatiwa, the governor said: “The country may consider dropping the current bicameral structure of the National Assembly and adopt a unicameral legislature.

“The membership of the Assembly should be part-time. No member should earn allowances not known to the Revenue Mobilisation, Fiscal and Allocation Committee and, more importantly, the people they claim to serve.

“Legislators should earn under a uniform salary structure. Allowance peculiarities must not be about obscenity.

“The Senate should be scrapped, while the House of Representatives too should not be unwieldy. A maximum of four representatives should come from each zone.

“It is becoming increasingly embarrassing to those who reason deeply enough to observe that while the people wallow in despair, those who claim to represent them revel in ravenous opulence.

“The number of public servants is very small compared with the humongous percentage of the commonwealth expended to maintain them.

“There are too many ministries, departments and agencies of government that are moribund at all levels. It does not make economic sense to retain them.

“There are several areas of overlap in the activities of government at both state and federal levels.

‘Nigeria in dire straits’

On the state of the country, Akeredolu said: “The country is in dire straits now. No efforts must be spared to stop the free fall.

“The current experiences stretch the limits of endurance. Everyone tries to remain calm amid the raging storm.

“More than ever, this period calls for cooperation from all stakeholders in the survival of the country.

“The position of the Ondo State Government has been made public. We advocate a Federal Government largely reduced in size and scope of engagement.

“We want to see a Constitution that will enhance the performance of public office-holders at all levels. It is possible to have a government that will serve the people in deed and truth.

“The law of the land must aid this realistic expectation. We must reduce the cost of governance and shift attention to service delivery in this trying period.”

Speaking earlier, the leader of the House of Representatives and chairman of South-West committee on constitution review, Mr. Ohio Akpatason, assured that after the public hearing, the National Assembly will produce a constitution that will meet the desires of all Nigerians.

1999 constitution below standards — Gbajabiamila

Speaking at another forum, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, noted that a nation’s constitution is not only the foundation of its existence but is also supposed to set the terms of nationhood and define the manner that reflects its common truths and highest aspirations.

READ ALSO: Constitution Review: Akeredolu advocates scrapping of Senate

“Our constitution falls short of this standard,” he said.

The speaker said the reason is the fact that the 1999 constitution is the product of a hurried national compromise entered into two decades ago to ensure that the military returned to the barracks and the country returned to a democratic government.

Gbajabiamila, who spoke in Lagos while declaring open the public hearing on the review of the constitution, said the National Assembly can only achieve the task after getting the inputs and support of the citizens.

Participants at the two-day public hearing included the Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, who represented Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu; members of the House of Representatives Special Committee on the Review of the Constitution; members of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ); Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC; representatives of political parties, Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, youth organisations and market women.

In response to the doubts expressed in some quarters about the exercise, the speaker said: “The foundational constitution of the United States of America deemed people of colour to be ‘less than’ and denied women the right to vote. It did not include any limits on the President’s term of office and allowed for citizens to be denied the right to vote for failure to pay the ‘poll tax’.

‘No perfect constitution’

“27 reviews and amendments, over one hundred years cured these and other defects. No nation in the world has a perfect constitution, but we need a near-perfect constitution in Nigeria and we can achieve that through substantive amendments that significantly alter the character of our nation.

“Therefore, the task before us now is to use this process of review and amendment to devise for ourselves a constitution that resolves the issues of identity and political structure, of human rights and the administration of government, resource control, national security and so much else, that have fractured our nation and hindered our progress and prosperity.

“Our job is to produce a constitution that turns the page on our past, yet heeds its many painful lessons. It is not an easy task, but it is a necessary and urgent one. We will not be able to deliver on this historic assignment if we restrict ourselves to tinkering around the edges of the constitution or by imposing upon ourselves artificial red lines that restrict honest conversation.

“All of us in the House of Representatives will work conscientiously and in good faith so that it may be said of us in this process that we made an audacious attempt at creating for our nation a constitution that recognises our diversity and draws strength from it, and addresses once and for all, the fault lines that distract from nation-building.”

Tyranny of low expectations

“It is all too clear that many of our citizens have come to expect too little of our politics and government. We are suffering from the tyranny of low expectations and the cynicism that causes us to believe that the political process cannot produce anything worthy or worthwhile.

“I understand the causes of this cynicism, but I refuse to share in it. I still believe that politics and government in Nigeria can be a force for good and that by our common endeavour, we can achieve the vision of a just, peaceful, and prosperous society.

“However, beyond these public hearings, you still have an opportunity to make submissions that will be considered and that will help this process achieve the best outcomes. Please, by all means, participate. Let your voice be heard, and let your vision also inform the direction of this process.

“I urge all who have come to participate here today to do so with decorum and respect for one another. Let our deliberations be well-intentioned, well-informed and reflect our patriotism. In this way, we will have a most productive engagement over the next two days.”

Sanwo-Olu restates special status for Lagos

In his remarks at the opening of the South-West Zonal public hearing of the House of Representatives Special Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria, held in Ikeja, Lagos, Governor Sanwo-Olu insisted that a special status for Lagos State, with a huge population, must be a concern not only for residents alone but also for all Nigerians.

Sanwo-Olu, who was represented by his Deputy, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, said: “The continuous request for a special status for the state is by no means a selfish one, but actually in the interest of every Nigerian.

“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.

“The progress and prosperity of Nigeria are inextricably linked to the progress and prosperity of Lagos State.”

Vanguard News Nigeria

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