Demand for the restructuring of the country, devolution of powers and adoption of state police are dominating the discourse in the ongoing constitution review public hearing across the six geopolitical zones in the country.
Niger State governor and chairman of North Central States Governors’ Forum, Abubakar Sani Bello, yesterday declared the group’s support for restructuring.
He stated this yesterday at the North Central zonal hearing of the Senate Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution held at the Justice Legbo Kutigi Conference Centre, Minna.
“We have discussed issues of restructuring at our level as governors of North Central and we support restructuring so far it will not lead to disunity,” he said.
The governor said that the unity of the country should not be tampered with while restructuring the nation, adding that restructuring should not be seen as a means of secession.
Governor Sani Bello said there was the need to consider the nature and type of constitution the citizens want, in addition to other issues germane to the survival of the nation.
He said issues like autonomy for local government, and for Legislative and Judiciary needed to be carefully considered in the Concurrent and Exclusive lists, while devolution of powers and other issues cardinal to the survival of the country must be well looked into.
The governor urged the senators to consider the noble assignment as a way to demonstrate their patriotism to the nation by showing commitment.
Tambuwal canvasses restructuring of Nigeria
Sokoto State Governor Aminu Tambuwal has called for restructuring in the ongoing review of the constitution by the National Assembly as a way out of the challenges bedeviling the country.
Tambuwal, who was represented by his deputy, Alhaji Manniru Dan’iya, stated this at the Constitution Review Centre with participants from the zone, comprising Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara states yesterday in Sokoto.
”There are salient matters that require attention. These include the ever persistent issue of restructuring, which is without doubt pivotal to the continued survival of Nigeria as an entity.
”I am confident that the discussion at this forum will be exhaustive in bringing out other aspects of the Constitution that are due for reconsideration.
”I also have no doubt as to the commitment and competence of the participants gathered here to ensure that justice is done to the process.
”The constitution is indeed the reference point of democracy and in the 22 years of Nigeria’s experience in government by representation, our gains have more than outweighed our challenges,” he said.
Tambuwal said that in spite of the difficulties the nation was faced with, the democratic form of governance was better for “our people than the best dictatorship’’.
According to him, the challenges are merely the features of a system that has to cater for the interests of all citizens from diverse geopolitical and socioeconomic backgrounds.
”All constitutions are therefore work in progress because they are subject to the changing needs and aspirations of the people at different times. And constitutional reviews are the process for ensuring this guiding document plays that function,” he said.
He expressed the hope that the process in the North West geopolitical zone would impact positively on the Constitution through a productive discussion on aspects of the document which mostly affect the lives of the people.
”As captured by the theme of the review, this process gives us the opportunity to raise issues on aspects of the Constitution that we feel require alteration in tune with the emerging needs of the citizens.”At this eventful moment in the life of our nation, it is critical that the current constitution review will be a breakaway from the past.
“Unlike the previous attempts, the express positions of the people should be conveyed through to the last letter of process,’’Tambuwal said.
Senator Adamu Alero (APC, Kebbi) is chairman of the Committee in Sokoto State along with other senators from the zone as members.
FG Carrying Too Much Weight, Says el-Rufai
Similarly, Kaduna State Governor Nasir el-Rufai has joined in calling for a restructuring of the country’s governance system, saying the current structure is overburdening the federal government with too many responsibilities which it cannot efficiently handle.
The governor explained that the All Progressive Congress (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.
Speaking at a two-day Senate committee public hearing on the review of the 1999 constitution held in Kaduna, el-Rufai said, “We also drafted bills to alter the constitution and amend or repeal existing legislations to achieve the overall objective of true federalism.’’
The governor, who spoke in his personal capacity, proposed 10 items that should be shared responsibilities between the state and federal governments.
He argued that the fear of abuse of State Police by sub-national governments was misplaced because a constitutional or statutory framework can be enacted to ensure federal intervention in cases of such abuses.
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.
The governor also advised that states should be empowered to establish, staff and run their own judiciary up to appellate level.
According to the governor, states should also be enabled to establish State Courts of Appeal similar to what Nigeria used to have at the regional level under the 1963 Republican Constitution.
The governor stressed that each state should decide the model of democratic local government that best suits it, noting that Nigeria is a federation of the 36 states and the federal government.
‘’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,’’ he advocated.
El-Rufai added: ‘’The reality of our security situation today requires that Nigeria must strengthen its military and security agencies. This includes decentralizing the police to enable the states to exercise effective control in securing their residents and communities.’’
‘’We need to have 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,’’ he said.
Current Review Should Not be Like Others – Lalong
On his part, Plateau State Governor Simon Lalong has stressed that the public hearing of the review of the 1999 Constitution should not be an exercise that will go the way of previous ones which failed to address some key issues affecting the governance of the nation and, in some way, even threatening the peace, security and unity of the country.
Lalong, in his speech during the opening ceremony of the zonal public hearing in Jos, the Plateau State capital, yesterday said while several attempts had been made in the past to alter the Constitution in line with the yearnings of the people, not much seems to have been achieved despite the resources spent and time devoted.
He said, “It is not proper to blame all the challenges of the country on the Constitution. It is, however, important that concerns raised about the current constitution which is the grundnorm that binds us together are addressed appropriately.”
He noted that the clamour had persisted and rather than abate, and getting louder, saying this is perhaps the time to try something different and, to this end, this public hearing is very important as it presents another opportunity for various interest groups to present their perspectives as to how they desire to see Nigeria administered.
“They are, therefore, afforded this platform to ventilate and make submissions as to what they want injected or removed from the 1999 Constitution to make it more responsive to the yearnings of all.”
Earlier in his welcome address the deputy Senate president/ chairman, Senate Committee on the review of the 1999 Constitution, Ovie Omo-Agege, noted that at the commencement of this 9th Senate, they set for themselves a legislative agenda as a basis on which they are to be assessed.
Omo Agege’s speech was read by Senator Abdullahi Adamu (APC, Nasarawa West) who said that prominently on the agenda is the need to address, by a way of Constitution amendments, topical issues like judicial and electoral reforms, local government autonomy and the devolution of powers.
He added that if those items go through constitutional processes of alteration successfully, then constitutional democracy will be set on the right pedestal.
Devolution Of Powers, Others Dominate Session In Delta
The same issues of local government autonomy, devolution of power, review of revenue formula, state police and others dominated the zonal public hearing on the 1999 Constitution alterations in the South South zone.
The two-day public hearing which held in Asaba, drew participants from Delta, Bayelsa and Edo states.
Participants at the public hearing, including politicians, civil society groups, women and youth groups, community stakeholders, and unions, among others, across the three states presented their memoranda on various subjects to the secretariat of the committee
Declaring the occasion open, Delta State Governor Ifeanyi Okowa noted that the nation should continue as a federation but with proper federal structure.
The governor, who was represented by the Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly, Sheriff Oborevwori, advocated that revenues collected by the federal government through parastatals like NNPC, NLNG, CBN, NIMASA, FAAN and other similar agencies should be remitted into the federation account.
In his welcome remarks, Deputy Senate President Ovie Omo-Agege said the zonal public hearing was adopted as a “bottom-top approach by first listening to Nigerians at the geo-political level.”
Omo-Agege whose speech was read by the chairman of the zonal public hearing, Senator James Manager, explained that the approach underscored the critical importance sub-national governments in the constitution review process.
Amendment Must Address Ndigbo Demands, Says Uzodimma
Imo State Governor Hope Uzodimma has warned that the ongoing constitution amendment must address the concerns of Ndigbo ranging from devolution of powers to rotational presidency.
According to him, the hearing into the constitutional amendment provides Ndigbo an opportunity to state their demands, saying, “We owe no apology to anyone; it is through an avenue like this that we can voice our demands”.
Uzodimma made this comment at the ongoing hearing into the review of the 1999 constitution in Owerri, capital of Imo State, when he declared it open.
According to the governor, the series of agitations stem from perceptions that the current constitution was handed down to Nigerians by the military.
He said the demands of Ndigbo were devolution of powers to states and for rotational presidency to be part of the decision-making process in Nigeria.
“The question to what we seek are devolution of powers, and being part of the decision-making process in Nigeria. We need Nigeria just like Nigeria needs us”, he said.
He maintained that the review process offered Ndigbo an opportunity to make inputs, saying, “This exercise today offers another opportunity for us to continue to work out an acceptable constitution that will address the concern of Nigerians in general and Ndigbo,in particular.
“Then, the question is, what do Igbo seek in the present Nigeria? What we seek is justice and equity for our people to thrive and, for that, we owe no apology to anybody. But we cannot achieve it through violence or threat of secession. It is through an avenue like this that we put forward our request.”
Earlier, Sen. Ovie Omo-Agege, who was represented by Sen Orji Uzor Kalu, said the constitution review process represented a critical phase in the development and advancement of the nation.
He said, “Indeed, this ongoing review process provides a platform for the good people of Nigeria to express their opinions on the fundamental law that governs our lives through proposals that will lead to the highest good for the greatest number of our people.”
Constitution Amendment Imperative – Governor Inuwa Yahaya
On his part, Gombe State governor, Muhammadu Inuwa Yahaya said the evolvement of the dynamics of the Nigerian State makes it imperative for a periodic constitutional review in order to accommodate new realities and the concerns of the Nigerian people across board.”
Governor Inuwa Yahaya stated this when he granted audience to members of the Senate committee on the review of the 1999 constitution, North East Zone (Gombe centre) led by its chairman, Senator Muhammad Danjuma Goje.
The governor described the constitutional review exercise as an important national assignment and an opportunity for the people of Gombe State and, by extension, North East sub-region to express their concerns and feelings towards the Nigerian State.
“The constitution is not cast in iron or steel; it is something that we, the people, fabricated and, for sure as human beings, we have so many positive and negative changes and nobody is perfect. So from the day the constitution was made to this moment, there must have been changes, there must have been development and there must have been reasons for us to effect changes so that we can live better and progress as a people”.
Governor Inuwa Yahaya expressed confidence that, as representatives of the people, the lawmakers will protect and project the interest of the zone at the national level so that their submissions will be subsumed in the final analysis of the constitutional amendment.
Earlier speaking, chairman of the North-East zonal public hearing (Gombe Centre), Senator Danjuma Goje, said the public hearing was simultaneously taking place in 12 centres across the country. Each of the geo-political zones divided into two with Gombe, Adamawa and Taraba states sitting in Gombe centre while Borno Yobe and Bauchi states are having theirs in Bauchi centre.
Nigerian Should Return To 1963 Republican Constitution -Osoba
For the former governor of Ogun State, Shief Segun Osoba, Nigeria should revert to the 1963 republican constitution which resembled the Australian constitution. .
He said, “I wish we can go back to 1963 constitution because, at that time when each of the regions developed on its own pace. So it would have been very beautiful if we went back to the 1963 constitution which was negotiated over and over with so many conferences.
“The 1963 constitution was when we adopted Republican constitution rather being under the queen of England and I will wish that we go back in that system where each of the region developed its own resources.”
He further pointed out that restructuring is a long process.
“It is not something you do overnight and it is not a document you produce by fiat; it is an extensive consultation in all the six zones,” he said, adding that when one wants to do something in a multiethnic country like Nigeria, it take long process to arrive at a consensus.
“An example is the United Kingdom (UK). As a young man I thought UK was just one group; I did not know that they were more tribalist than we are. It was later I realised that the English people dominating the UK are just a little tribe within United Kingdom. The Scots are totally different; Wales are totally different; Irish are totally different, and each of them fighting for their own emancipation.
“Imagine how long the UK government – from London – will have to start dividing power to each of these separate tribes in United Kingdom. So it is not something you do overnight. Even those countries that disengaged peacefully, it took them a long time to disengage.
“So if you do not want these things to become war, you need a serious analysis and engagement to arrive at the consensus that will make us have it done in a way that it will not create war in the country.
“For example, now virtually the whole country has accepted the state police because, as I’m speaking now, if we are not careful we going beyond Boko Haram. The Islamic State for West Africa (ISWAF) which wants to Islamise the whole of West Africa is already infiltrating Nigeria, we have to be very careful.”