May 27, 2021
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A return to the 1963 Republican Constitution, federal structure, national security, restructuring, national conference, devolution of powers, decentralisation of the police, autonomy for the judiciary, fiscal federalism, recognition of federal and states as federating units, as well as national minimum wage, among others, were major issues at the opening of the two-day zonal public hearings organised by the Senate. 

The Senate Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution had organised the hearings across the six geopolitical zones of the country. In separate submissions before the committees, governors, statesmen and the organised labour asserted that those issues were critical to the stability, progress and survival of the country. 

Lagos, Kaduna, Sokoto, Plateau, Niger, Gombe, Bauchi, Delta and Imo states hosted the sitting of the committees, with some principal officers of the Senate representing the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ovie-Omo-Agege, who doubles as the chairman of the constitution review committee. 

However, some eminent persons and organisations expressed reservations on the ongoing attempt to amend the constitution, instead of giving the people the opportunity to produce a constitution that would capture their wishes and aspirations. 

1963 Constitution remains the best for Nigeria

Akeredolu Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State maintained that the 1963 constitution remains the best document for Nigeria as a diverse and heterogeneous entity, adding that it will help to address all the ongoing agitations in the country. 

At his opening remark of the sitting held at the International Event Centre, the Dome in Akure, the governor noted that all the constitution reviews in the country were drafted and foisted on the people, except the 1963 Constitution which reflected the Republican status of the country. 

Akeredolu said: “The1963 Constitution retained regionalism and upheld the principle of autochtony, an organic development of the law using local experiences. The Republican status of the country was reflected. 

“The major provisions which allowed the three regions which existed before independence were retained in the 1963 Constitution. That remains the best document for a country as heterogeneous as Nigeria. It was the best practicable guide towards nationhood.” 

We need national conference, not constitution amendment —Afe Babalola 

Founder of Afe Babalola University Ado-Ekiti (ABUAD), Aare Afe Babalola, said the nation, at the moment, does not need an amendment to the 1999 Constitution but a national conference, where stakeholders would discuss and agreed on a new document for the country. 

The legal icon described the current process by the National Assembly to amend the constitution as an exercise in futility, saying, “there is no way the National Assembly can amend the 1999 Constitution to cure the inherent defects in it.” 

Babalola, in a statement made available to Nigerian Tribune in Ado-Ekiti, the Ekiti State capital, on Wednesday, said the National Assembly must summon the courage to save the country from collapse by commencing immediately the process of giving Nigerians a new federal constitution that would lead to a parliamentary system of government like it was in 1963. 

He said: “The root cause of our problem, which has brought Nigeria to the brink of extinction, is the 1999 Constitution foisted on it by the military, when it was exiting the reign of governance in 1999. 

“The fact remains that you cannot amend a coconut tree, which has no branches, to become an Iroko tree which has branches. It is a well-known fact that everything about the 1999 Constitution is wound round the presidential system of government. 

“Why then is the National Assembly afraid of calling a national constitutional conference to fashion out a new true federal constitution and come up with a parliamentary system of government like we had in 1963?” 

FG carries too much weight, overburdened —el-Rufai 

Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State said devolution of powers is necessary because the existing structure overburdens the Federal Government with too many responsibilities, which it cannot efficiently handle. 

The governor further said the All Progressives Congress (APC) committee on true federalism, which he headed, had identified legislative interventions that the National Assembly could easily undertake to achieve a truly balanced, equitable and fair federal structure. 

Speaking at the public hearing in Katsina, he revealed that ‘’we also drafted bills to alter the constitution and amend or repeal existing legislations to achieve the overall objective of true federalism. 

“The reality of our security situation today requires that Nigeria must strengthen its military and security agencies. This includes decentralising 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. 

He also proposed that the power to hire and fire police officers be reverted fully and totally to the Inspector General of Police, under the supervision of the National Police Council, as envisaged by the constitution. 

He recommended that all mineral resources, including oil and gas and solid minerals be accounted for by states, which will in turn pay royalties and taxes to the Federation Account. He also argued that each state should decide the model of democratic local government that best suits it, because Nigeria is a federation of the 36 states and the Federal Government. 

“Listing the 774 local governments in the constitution and trying to establish for them direct relations with the Federal Government violates the spirit of federalism,” he added. 

Southern, Northern Kaduna want separate states 

In a development that caught many unawares, the Christians, non-Hausa/Fulani from the Southern part of Kaduna State and its rival Northern Muslim Hausa/ Fulani dominated part of Northern Kaduna opted for the split of Kaduna State into two new states. 

Speaking during the presentation and defence of their memos at the public hearing in Katsina, the stakeholders said creating new states from the present Kaduna State will go a long way in solving the violence that seemed to defy solution. 

President of the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU), Honourable 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. 

“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. We are demanding for the amendment of the provision of Section 8 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which makes it almost an impossible task for the creation of a new state. 

“We have been demanding for a state of our own for over 30 years and Gurara State was among the 18 states proposed in the 2014 confab report. 

“We are demanding for the creation of the Gurara State after the amendment. This will help in solving the incessant conflicts between our people and the other divide.” 

The Northern part of Kaduna State, under the aegis of Kaduna Development Elders Initiatives, submitted a memo signed by the senator representing Kaduna North Senatorial Zone, Senator Sulieman Abdu Kwari; senator representing Kaduna Central, Senator Uba Sani; all the House of Representatives members from the Northern part of Kaduna; all members of state House of Assembly from northern part of Kaduna, alongside chairmen and councillors of local government areas from the area. Defending the memo of the group, Abdulkadir Ahmed said, “Let the state split and if they are asking for Gurara State, let them have it. 

“On our part, we are asking for the creation of ‘New Kaduna State’ which will include Kaduna North and Kaduna Central senatorial zones, but there should be a referendum for each section of the state to decide on where it wants to belong,” he added. 

North Central govs support review —Sani Bello 

Governors from the North-Central geopolitical zone of the country backed the ongoing national clamour for the restructuring only if it will not lead to the dismembering of the country. Governor Abubakar Sani Bello of Niger State and chairman of North-Central Governors’ Forum, stated this on Wednesday at the public hearing held at Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi International Conference Centre, Minna. 

The governor said in a federal system of government, restructuring is a dynamic process through legislative and other procedures acceptable to the citizens as the need arises. “One thing we in the North-Central states want and must remain sacrosanct is the unity of Nigeria. I believe we are better and stronger as one indivisible nation and that is the beauty of democracy and true federalism,” he said. 

Sanwo-Olu demands special economic status for Lagos 

Lagos State governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, demanded a special economic status for Lagos, saying the progress and prosperity of Nigeria is inextricably linked to the progress and prosperity of the state. At the public hearing under the leadership of Senator Oluremi Tinubu, held at Marriot Hotel, in Ikeja, the governor also advocated state police and true fiscal federalism in the ongoing constitution review process in the country. 

“For us in Lagos State, the issues of state police and fiscal federalism are at the top of the priority list in this ongoing review process. Equally fundamental, particularly for us in Lagos State, is the issue of a special economic status for Lagos, considering our place in the national economy and the special burdens we bear by virtue of our large population and limited land mass. 

“I believe 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,” he said. 

Tambuwal canvasses restructuring 

Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State called for restructuring as a way out of challenges bedevilling the country. 

Tambuwal, who was represented by the deputy governor, Alhaji Manniru Dan’iya, at the public hearing held in Sokoto, said: ”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.” 

Tambuwal said that in spite of the difficulties the nation is faced with, the democratic form of governance is better for “our people than the best dictatorship.” 

Constitution review only cannot guarantee peace —Northern govs 

Chairman, Northern Governors’ Forum and Plateau State governor, Simon Lalong, said that it is not how many times Nigeria amends its constitution that would guarantee its unity, development, peace, and good governance, rather, it is how committed Nigerians follow the constitution and obey the provisions that will make the difference. 

Lalong, speaking at the public hearing in Jos, said every Nigerian ought to be the guardians and defenders of the constitution and urged them to use the opportunity of the constitution review to answer critical questions about the country. 

“Who are we? Where are we and where are we going? How do we intend to get to our destination? What is our guiding philosophy as a people? We must be frank with one another and act with the best of intentions. That is the only way this exercise will make a difference and return our country to the path of development,” the governor said. 

On restructuring, he said the time had come to address the matter and ensure that the agitations and anxieties being expressed are addressed. 

“We should also not be ignorant of the desire by some internal or external forces to destabilise our nation by pushing their interests under the guise of promoting constitutional review, “We have to realise that there is no constitution that will ever resolve all our challenges as a people who are diverse in ethnic, religious, political and tribal affiliations. In any case, the review of the constitution is a continuous exercise that will always arise in response to the demands of the times. What is important at the moment is to ensure that we work towards building national cohesion and stability,” Lalong stressed. 

Borno, Yobe reject state police, new states N/East most devastated — Bala Mohammed 

Borno and Yobe states rejected calls for the creation of additional states, local councils and state police in the country. 

The states made their positions known in separate presentations at the public hearing held in Bauchi. 

Alhaji Abdulkareem Lawan, Speaker, Borno State House of Assembly, said the state was opposed to the creation of new states and state police. 

“Borno State is already devastated for now. We don’t need additional states and local government councils, because some of the councils just bear names without people. So, there is no need for the creation of state and local governments out of the present Borno State,” he said. 

Lawan stressed that Borno was also not in need of a state police, because it already had the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF), which had been effective in enhancing security in the state. He, however, advocated gender equality and increased women participation and other vulnerable persons in governance. 

In his submission, Mr Saleh Samanja, Yobe State Attorney-General, advocated the retention of the existing states and local councils’ structure. “We recommend that the existing number of states and local governments in the country be maintained and strengthened. Taking into consideration that even the existing ones are not adequately funded to execute viable developmental projects, not to even talk of creating additional ones,” he said. 

Samanja said Yobe State strongly opposed the establishment of state police because “state police can be abused for political reasons and create more insecurity, rather, measures should be put in place to encourage community policing under strict supervision.” 

]However, Alhaji Sabiu Baba, Secretary to the Bauchi State Government (SSG), said the state supports creation of additional states and local councils and state police. He noted that some states with a much lower population and land mass than Bauchi already had more local government councils. 

Speaking earlier while receiving the committee in his office, Bauchi State governor, Senator Bala Mohammed Abdulkadir, described the North-East as the most devastated in the country as a result of the activities of the insurgents and bandits, adding that the zone was shortchanged in the constitution, hence the need for review. 

The governor also said there are lots of inadequacies in the constitution, particularly in the area of revenue allocation, security and inclusiveness in the running of the affairs of the country. 

Adamawa, Gombe, Taraba canvass roles for traditional rulers 

Adamawa, Gombe and Taraba states of North-East canvassed for specific constitutional roles for traditional rulers in the country. 

They made their position known in separate submissions at the public hearing conducted in Gombe. Alhaji Zubairu Mohammed, Gombe State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, said the role of traditional rulers could not be overemphasised, hence the need for specific roles for them in the constitution. On gender, women and vulnerable groups, the state clamoured for the allocation of 35 per cent in order to have adequate representation. The state opposed creation of state police, because of funding and equipment. Malam Aminu Iya-Abbas, Speaker, Adamawa State House of Assembly, advocated constitutional role for traditional rulers, while also stressing the need for equal opportunities for all in politics. In his submission, the Taraba State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Yusuf Akirikwen, underscored the need for the creation of constitutional role for traditional rulers, being the custodian of culture. He further canvassed for equal opportunity for women and vulnerable groups in politics, just as he supported the creation of state police which would go a long way in checking the crimes at the grassroots level. 

Review will create opportunity for participation —Uzodimma 

Speaking at the public hearing in Owerri, Imo State, Governor Hope Uzodimma, said that the review would create opportunity for people to participate in the amendment of the constitution. 

He said already, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo had articulated the position of the South-East, while urging other groups to follow suit. 

He acknowledged the fact that all issues bordering the people of the zone could only be resolved through the review of the constitution, stating that what the Igbo want is constitution that would address their demands. 

He said the agitation for restructuring in the country will certainly provide an environment for the Igbo to unleash their potentials and talents, pointing out that making of constitution would not be by secession. 

While stressing need for the Igbo to follow the right path, the governor appealed to the youth of the zone to always listen to the voice of reason. 

NLC wants retention of national minimum wage on Exclusive Legislative List 

The Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) recommended the retention of the national minimum wage on the Exclusive Legislative List. Alhaji Kabiru Minjibir, Kano State chairman of NLC, gave the recommendation at the zonal public hearing in Kaduna. Minjibir, who represented the NLC zone comprising Kaduna, Kano, Jigawa and Katsina states, said their submissions at different constitution review engagements were anchored on promoting inclusive socioeconomic development. 

“We also try to promote decent work, gender equality, respect for labour standards, good governance and strengthening of institutions,” he said. 

He said that the submission for the minimum wage to remain in the exclusive legislative list was to ensure it remained implemented at the federal level and not brought down to the state where governors decide what to pay workers. 

“If the minimum wage is brought under the discretion of the state governors, then there will come a time when they will not pay their workers at all or they will decide to pay less of what it is being paid currently. Labour matters are governed by international standards as prescribed by the International Labour Organisation (ILO),” he said. 

NULGE wants INEC to conduct LG polls 

The Nigerian Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) called for the amendment of the constitution to allow the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct local government elections across the country. 

National president of NULGE, Mr Olatunji Ambali, said this at the South-West zone public hearing. 

According to him, the nation is yet to witness credible election being conducted by state electoral bodies at the local government level. He said the electorate will come out en masse to elect their leaders at the grassroots once an unbiased umpire like INEC is responsible for conducting elections. 

The NULGE president also said that the state electoral bodies should be scrapped, because governors had hijacked the independence of the bodies. Ambali said the problem with the present local government system in the country is the “undue interference by the state governments.” 

According to him, the state governors have killed the autonomy of the local governments as enshrined in the constitution through diversion of their resources which had impeded development at the grassroots. 

Women coalition seeks additional 37 Senate, 74 Reps seats 

Coalition of Women Leaders in Kaduna State canvassed for special seats in the Senate, House of Representatives and state Houses of Assembly for women. According to them, each state and Abuja should reserve one senatorial seat for women as well as the House of Representatives and House of Assembly. 

The groups asked that 37 senatorial seats, 74 House of Representatives seats and 108 state House of Assembly seats be reserved for women. 

Its spokesperson, Jemilat Abidoye, said the proportion of women in elective and appointive positions remained low, as the return of Nigeria to democracy in 1999 had not improved the level of inclusion of women at all levels. 

“We are, therefore, proposing these reforms to the constitutional provision; ensure gender-neutral and sensitive language in our constitution. Masculine languages are gender-biased and undermine women and girls’ political participation, which further hinders inclusive governance in Nigeria. 

“Ensure equitable women representation in government, through at least 35 per cent women representation in appointive offices at the federal and state levels. 

“Include gender as a benchmark for federal character. The constitution has already created the Federal Character as an Affirmative Action Mechanism that ensures the representation of margainalised groups in the country.” 

Constitution not cast in steel, there must be changes —Inuwa 

Gombe State governor, Muhammadu Inuwa Yahaya, said the evolvement dynamics of the country makes it imperative for a periodic constitution review in order to accommodate new realities and the concerns of the people across board. He stated this when he received members of the 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 exercise as an important national assignment and an opportunity for the people of Gombe and, by extension, the North-East to express their concerns and feelings on the Nigerian State. 

He said: “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 and 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,” he said. 

Disagreement between Presidency, NASS truncated 7th Assembly’s constitution review – Okowa 

Declaring the public hearing open for the people of Delta, Edo and Bayelsa states in Asaba, Delta State governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, lamented that the outcome of the public hearings organised by the seventh Assembly (2011-2015) in its lengthy constitution review process was truncated because of disagreement between the presidency and National Assembly over the removal of presidential assent from the process of constitution ammendment. 

He said current exercise will give the perfect opportunity to address current affairs that are germane to the country’s perculiar challenges, especially as it relates to federal structure and national security. 

The people of the states were, however, unanimous in their demands for the devolution of powers, increase in revenue formula, state police, true federalism and the rights of women in government. 

The state governments, speakers of houses of assembly, ethnic nationalities, women groups, among others demanded these at the public hearing held in Asaba. 

Senate sincere on constitution review —OmoAgege 

Meanwhile, the ninth Senate has declared its sincerity on reviewing the 1999 Constitution based on the yearnings of Nigerians. Deputy Senate President, Senator Omo-Agege, said this at the opening ceremonies of the zonal public hearings across the country through his representatives. He said the Senate decided to adopt a bottom-top approach by first listening to Nigerians at the geopolitical level. 

He also said the ongoing zonal public hearing was not targeted at writing a new constitution for the country, adding that the exercise would rather offer Nigerians the opportunity to bring the constitution closer to their desire. 

“Let me also remind our fellow patriots, countrymen and women that a constitution review represents a critical phase in our development and advancement as a nation.” 

He assured that all memoranda submitted will be attended to by the committee. 

“No doubt, we are going to have diverse and differing views on the different themes of the exercise. However, the focus for this committee is how to manage the review exercise in a fair, inclusive, credible, and transparent manner,” he said.

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