Constitution Review: Devolution of Power, States Creation Dominate Public Hearings

Constitution Review: Devolution of Power, States Creation Dominate Public Hearings

Amidst unending controversies, the process that would mid-wive alterations to the 1999 constitution was flagged off on Wednesday with zonal public hearings in eleven out of the twelve states’ centers designated for the exercise. Submissions centered mainly on issues of State creation and devolution of power. However, the zonal hearing slated for the Port Harcourt

Amidst unending controversies, the process that would mid-wive alterations to the 1999 constitution was flagged off on Wednesday with zonal public hearings in eleven out of the twelve states’ centers designated for the exercise. Submissions centered mainly on issues of State creation and devolution of power. However, the zonal hearing slated for the Port Harcourt centre, covering Rivers, Cross River, and Akwa Ibom states was deferred till Thursday due to logistic reasons.

These hearings are holding a few days before the House of Representatives will conduct its own hearings in a similar fashion and in the same number of states prompting analysts to describe the duplication as a jamboree and wasteful.

If accomplished successfully, this amendment would be the fifth alteration to the constitution since its promulgation in 1999. The proposed amendment is pursuant to section 9 of the constitution, according to Senator Omo Ovie-Agege, who is the Chairman of the Senate committee on the alteration exercise.

Nigerians have canvassed different opinions on different areas of the constitution to be amended but majority of the people seem to be of the opinion that what Nigeria needs is a brand new constitution written and debated by Nigerians not an amendment of a product by the military junta. Some groups opined that the National Assembly is on a wild goose chase as the amendment may eventually not be passed and assented to by the President. Others argued that the issue of security challenge facing the country is more urgent to be attended to than constitution review. Yet, some other persons felt that the Electoral Act 2010 (Amended) that is a low hanging fruit which should have been passed is accumulating dust in the chambers of the National Assembly having failed repeated timelines of passage.

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) through its President wants the issue of minimum wage for workers to remain a federal matter and not decentralised or subjected to the whims and caprices of the federating units.

Nevertheless, the political class has warmly participated in the first day of the public hearing with some State governors making presentations at some of the centres and putting issues concerning their people on the front burner. At the Lagos centre comprising, Lagos, Ogun and Oyo State, Lagos state governor Babajide Sanwoolu said the topmost issues of interest are those of state police, fiscal federalism and special status for Lagos state. The Imo state Governor Senator Hope Uzodinma said the Igbo people needed a constitution review that would give them justice and equity and not secession. He urged the South East people to seize the opportunity of the constitution review to seek redress and be properly integrated. According to him, “we need Nigeria just as Nigeria needs us.

“Whatever be our grievances against the system, we have a golden opportunity to seek redress under the upcoming constitutional review. What we seek is justice and equity for our people to thrive. And for that, we owe nobody any apology. But we cannot achieve it through violence or threat of secession. It is through an avenue like this that we put forward our request and follows it through.” Governor Uzodinma said.

Gov. Nasiru El-Rufai of Kaduna State advocated for devolution of powers to states and local governments to stop overburdening Federal Government with too many responsibilities it cannot efficiently handle.

The governor further stated that the APC Committee on True Federalism. which he headed, had identified legislative interventions that the National Assembly could more easily undertake to achieve a truly balanced, equitable and fair federal structure. He said he was speaking in his personal capacity.

Already there is a clamour for the creation of new states though no state has ever been successfully created under a democratic government. Even an attempt to create Local Governments by Lagos state government under Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu in 2005 was not successfully accomplished as it ended in Court with the Supreme Court describing the process as inchoate. States and Local government creations are listed in areas being considered in the constitution review.

From Oyo state, a group has submitted a paper for the creation of Ibadan-Ibarapa State out of the present Oyo state. 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 Worldwide under Nnia Nwodo, he said: “The Committee should consider the merit for the creation of Aba and Adada States respectively, resolved and recommended for the creation of Aba State, with 12 members supporting, and 5 abstaining. The Committee also recommended that any other State Creation exercise in the South-East should give Adada State priority.

Also, the Christians, Non-Hausa/Fulani from the Southern part of Kaduna state and its rival Northern Muslim Hausa/Fulani dominated part of Northern Kaduna, have agreed for the split of Kaduna State into two new states.

Speaking during the presentation and defence of their memos at the Senate ad-hoc Committee and the House of Reps Special Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution at the Hassan Katsina House on Wednesday who has been engaged in infamous inter-ethnic and religious clashes for decades, said creating new states from the present Kaduna State will go a long way at solving the bloody violence that seemed to defy solution.

The President of the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU), Hon. Jonathan Asake, who defended the memo of Southern Kaduna people said: “The wish of Southern Kaduna is to have a brand new constitution, not an amended one,” he said.

“But in the absence of that, we are here to make our inputs as a people who have suffered suppression and oppression for a long time,” he said.

“Southern Kaduna is made up of 67 ethnic nationalities spread in 13 of the 23 Local Government Areas (LGAs) of Kaduna state. It has a landmass of 26,000kmsq with an estimated population of 5.1 million. We are endowed with an educated population and with abundant natural resources,” he said.

Ayo Aluko-Olokun
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