Devolution of more powers to states of the federation is topping the list of demands ahead of the constitution amendment by the National Assembly.
Prominent civil society organisations (CSOs) and other socio-political organisations sponsoring the call for power devolution stated that no tier of government is supposed to wield overbearing powers at the detriment of the others.
Their demands were contained in separate memos or proposals sent to the Senate adhoc committee on the review of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
The adhoc committee is chaired by the deputy Senate President, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, who had earlier assured that the panel will hit the ground running after receiving public inputs.
Executive director of Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth and Advancement (YIAGA-Africa), Samson Itodo, while giving insights into the group’s position paper in an exclusive interview with LEADERSHIP yesterday said devolution of power was a central issue to their concerns.
He said, “We can’t claim to be a federal nation and then you have over 68 items on the Exclusive List. That needs to be reviewed. We need to devolve power, not just to the states, but to the local governments and that’s why local government autonomy is an important issue for us and we are taking that up.
“So, we need to reduce and unbundle the centre and give the states the constitutional powers and mandates to take leadership on their own development”.
Also, the director of Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Idayat Hassan, advocated that state policing should be a priority in the constitution amendment exercise in order to finally lay to rest the surreptitious manner in which some state governments have introduced local policing under different guises.
Hassan, who heads the Abuja-based Think-Tank with focus on deepening democracy and development in West Africa, also told LEADERSHIP that fiscal relations among the tiers of government is crucial, stressing that “the state joint local government account is one amendment that must finally take place instead of using the NFIU guidelines.
“In fact, the local government administration must take a centre piece in the new amendments. The compulsory local government elections, who conducts the elections or strengthening SIECs is important?” She queried.
Similarly, the 18-point proposal in a memo by the Middle Belt Congress (MBC) to the Senate committee called for devolution of more power to states in 31 specific areas.
According to MBC’s memo sighted by LEADERSHIP, some of the 68 items in the Exclusive Legislative List of the 1999 Constitution, which are currently a preserve of the Federal Government, should be transferred to the Concurrent List because the central government is presently overburdened, leaving the states with less powers to function optimally.
“The Federal Government is overburdened and has not been able to cope with its responsibilities. Meanwhile states have been denied powers to function properly. For a federation, too little power has been left for the states,” it said.
The group suggested 31 items for transfer to the concurrent list from the exclusive list of the constitution. They include aviation, bankruptcy and insolvency, banking, bills of exchange; borrowing of money within or outside Nigeria and census.
Others are commercial and industrial monopolies, combines and trusts; construction, alteration and maintenance of roads; control of capital issues; copyright; creation of states; drugs and poisons; fingerprints, identification and criminal records.
In their list is also fishing and fisheries; incorporations, regulations of winding up of bodies corporate; insurance; labour; meteorology; mines and minerals; national parks; pensions and gratuities; police & other government security; prisons; professional occupations; and public holidays.
They also suggested that quarantine, railways, stamp duties, the formation, annulment & dissolution of marriages, trade and commerce, traffic on federal trunk roads, and water resources should be included in the concurrent list.
In a related development, Coalition of Federalists for Good Governance in Nigeria (CFGG) which submitted its memorandum yesterday marked ‘Number 47’ is also demanding the removal of mining and policing from the exclusive list to the concurrent list in order to pave way for creation of state police.
According to the CFGG memorandum, jointly signed by its national co-ordinator, Taiye Odewale and secretary, Aisha Jibrin and obtained by LEADERSHIP, the group also seeks the reclassification of all the 35,000-kilometre Trunk ‘A’ roads with exception to those linking Nigeria to other countries, into Trunk ‘B’ roads to be managed by the affected state governments.
The group also recommends a downward review of the existing revenue sharing formula from 52.68 percent being enjoyed by the Federal Government to 40 percent in order to bolster the financial muscle of the 36 states to carry out the new assigned constitutional responsibilities proposed for them.
Recall that the 36 states of the federation currently receive 26.72 per cent of the allocation, while the 774 local government councils share the remaining 20.60 per cent.
Meanwhile, the Senate committee received not less than 50 memoranda as at official closing time yesterday at its designated secretariat – Suite 0.28 – at the Senate Wing of the National Assembly complex.
LEADERSHIP reports that Tuesday, August 8, 2020 was fixed as the deadline for the submission of memoranda to the Senate Committee on the review of the 1999 Constitution by interested persons and organisations.
When our reporter visited Suite 0.28 yesterday at the official closing time, it discovered that 50 memoranda were submitted to the committee’s secretariat by groups and individuals.
Some of those who submitted memoranda to the panel include a national leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Prince Tony Momoh; a former presidential candidate of Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party (ANRP) in the 2019 election, Tope Fasua; CDD; Coalition of Federalists for Good Governance in Nigeria (CFGG) and Middle Belt Congress (MBC), among others.
183 Women Associations Demand Extension Of Submission Deadline
Meanwhile, about 183 women organisations have appealed to the National Assembly to extend the deadline for the submission of memoranda on the review of the 1999 constitution for between 30 – 60 days.
According to them, the extension would enable them, the civil society and other stakeholders to reach out to their networks and make proper consultations to be able to contribute to the constitutional review actively and purposefully.
Among the 183 organisation which endorsed the statement are Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre founded by Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi; Women in Politics Forum; National Association of Women Journalists and Women Wing of the Christian Association of Nigeria.
Others are Gender and Constitutional Reform Network; Women Aid Collective and Women’s Rights Advocates Policy Advisory.
The Women organisations made their position known in a letter to the deputy Senate president and chairman, Committee on the review of the 1999 constitution, Ovie Omo-Agege, entitled: ‘Appeal for an extension on the deadline of the call for memoranda.’
The document obtained by journalists in Abuja yesterday was signed by the founding director of WARDC, Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi; of Chair of GCRF/ED of WACOL, Prof. Joy Ezeilo and ED of WRAPA, Hajiya Saudatu.
The letter reads: “We the undersigned organizations humbly appeal for an extension of the deadline of the “call for Memoranda. We request that it be extended to between thirty to sixty (30 – 60) days from the date of the publication of the memo.
“This is to enable us the women groups, civil society, and other stakeholders to reach out to our networks and make proper consultations to be able to contribute to the constitutional review actively and purposefully.
“We appreciate the efforts of the honourable members of the senate for the exemplary leadership you have shown as law makers. We would also like to appreciate you on the thoughtful review of the 1999 constitution and especially for the priority you placed on Gender Equality for Women and Girls amongst the other 13 under-listed matters.
“The constitution being the ground norm of all laws in the country is expected to reflect the various interests and legal expectation of every geopolitical zone of the country. Constitutional Reviews can play an important role in upholding the rule of law, democracy, and the protection of Human Rights.
“Based on the above premise, we believe that an extension of the deadline will give adequate opportunity to all sectors of the society to make input to the review. Thanking you in anticipation of your favourable response”.