Constitution amendment: States want devolution of power revisited

The Conference of Speakers of State Legislatures has called for a revisit of the devolution power earlier rejected by the National Assembly during the voting on Constitution amendment.

Chairman of the Conference and Speaker of the Kebbi State House Assembly, Abdulmumin Kamba, said the devolution of power should form part of the next constitutional amendment process.

He spoke when state assemblies transmitted their resolutions on the Constitution amendment to the National Assembly yesterday.

He said the National Assembly had come under heavy criticism after it voted out devolution of powers last year.

“While we believe every proposed amendment transmitted to the state houses of assembly for ratification reflects the yearnings of the people, the voting out of the bill on devolution of power by the National Assembly which was part of the original work by this assembly has been strongly condemned.

“Therefore, on behalf of our constituents, we want to plead that the bill on devolution of powers be reconsidered and form part of the next proposed amendment to the constitution,” he said.

In his remarks, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, said President Muhammadu Buhari has no option than to assent to the Constitutional amendment.

He said Nigerians have spoken through their representatives at both Federal and state Assemblies.

“Although we would wait for presidential assent to the bill, It is the hope that since this thing has passed through the crucible of all the legislative processes at the national assembly and at the state level, it should not be a problem really for the chief executive to assent to this because we represent over 170 million people in Nigeria and we have spoken through this document before us.

“I don’t think it would be right at any level, having passed through all these processes for this to be returned and without being transmitted into the provisions of the constitution. The president is tied to do the wishes of the people,” he said.

Dogara said for the country’s democracy to work, the legislature must work and be independent.

“As a matter of fact, virtually all governments all over the world lay claim to being democratic. Even states that we know them to be practicing dictatorship. They call themselves democratic.

“It appears that the aspiration of any government is to be democratic but there is no government out there that can truly be described as being democratic if it doesn’t have a fiercely independent legislature.

He said: “Democracy has always been defined by men and women of courage. They say that democracy does not work; it is the people, citizens, utilizing the tools of democracy that make democracy work.

“If our democracy works in Nigeria, it is because we are making it work. If it fails, it is because we are determined not to make it succeed,” he said.

He commended the state assemblies for backing autonomy for the state legislature.

“I want to thank you for the courage at least for acceding to the independent of legislature at the local level. This is a very remarkable departure from the position in the past,” he said.

“Even though we legislate for the federation, the bulk of our people live and work in the state. If democracy doesn’t work at the state level, it is likely that most of our people would be short changed in terms of delivering the promise of democracy to them which is life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” he said.

Saraki laments Lagos, Rivers boycott

Senate President, Bukola Saraki has lamented the boycott of the exercise by the Lagos and Rivers states.

Saraki said out of the 36 states, only Lagos and Rivers states did not participated in the exercise.

The Senate President, who described the non participation of the two states as disappointing, said in an exercise such as constitutional amendment, “it is not about bullying but dialogue and negotiation”.

He assured the state lawmakers that the issue of devolution of powers would soon be revisited during the next constitutional amendment exercise.

“The foundation of our Constitution rests on its ability to enable us strengthen our unity, deepen democracy, engender good governance, and enable the enforcement and protection of our people’s rights as they go about seeking a better life for themselves.

“The process of amending the constitution is a solemn process that is not flimsily embarked upon. These current amendments which have passed through the last constitutional hurdle will help strengthen the bonds of our unity, strengthen our institutions to provide good governance.

“We remain resolved to continue to take on the hard-national issues that hold us down with a view to using all legislative and constitutional measures to resolve them for the welfare and security of our people,” he said.

He said: “with the success of the current exercise and the lessons learned, we are better equipped to take on more constitutional proposals that would give our people greater sense of belonging, safety and oneness including the issues of devolution of powers.

“It is our job as legislators to safeguard and ensure a democracy that works for everyone regardless of our individual interests. I thank you all for the patriotic and selfless service, devoid of partisanship which you all have brought to bear in this process.”.