State police, power devolution top constitution discussion

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Nigerian Senate has proposed to review the 1999 constitution Lauretta Onochie INEC

The urgent need for the resolution of the contentious ‘National Question’ was on the front burner Wednesday at the public hearing on the review of the 1999 Constitution.

Stakeholders who converged on 12 venues – two in each of the six geo-political zones – submitted memoranda to the Senator Ovie Omo-Agege-led National Assembly Committee on Constitution Amendment.

Issues raised include the federal structure and devolution of power, state police, review of the revenue allocation, local government administration, residency and indigeneship, immunity for public office holders and constitutional roles for traditional rulers.

Lagos State called for a special status while Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo state said Nigeria should return to the 1963 Republican Constitution.

He spoke while declaring open the Zonal Public hearing held at the Cultural and International Event Centre, Akure, the state capital, the centre for Ondo, Osun and Ekiti states.

Akeredolu stated that the powers of the Federal Government must be trimmed to reduce the friction and stem politics of bitterness.

He said the current attempt at constitution amendment should go beyond the usual jamboree.

The governor said the 1963 Constitution, which reflected the republican status of the country, is the best for a heterogeneous country.

He lamented that the guide towards nationhood was abolished by the military by imposing a unitary system on the country.

He said: “The new law must view, critically, the current misnomer which sees the Federal Government appropriating humongous amounts for moribund agencies whose duties overlap with those of the states. The fiscal policy of the country must be restructured to encourage ingenuity and uncommon resourcefulness. The Federal Government should only coordinate and receive royalties.”

Legal luminary Chief Afe Babalola (SAN) also urged the National Assembly to find ways of reenacting the 1963 Constitution.

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Chief Afe Babalola, SAN is the founder Afe Babalola University

Babalola, who gave the advice yesterday in a statement he personally signed in Ado-Ekiti, said the 1999 Constitution will not solve Nigeria’s problems.

The founder of Afe Babalola University said: “Alternatively, since amendment in law includes substitution for an existing document, why is it that the National Assembly cannot call for a Public Hearing on the substitution of the 1999 Constitution for the 1963 Constitution which was made with the consent of the people?”

Lagos seeks special status

Participants at the Lagos zonal public hearing called for the amendment of the constitution to reflect true federalism.

They also called for power devolution, state police, re-inclusion of Magistrates in the constitution and a review of the retirement age of Magistrates from 60 to 65.

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Senator Oluremi Tinubu leads Lagos engagements

Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Senator Oluremi Tinubu (Lagos Central and Chairman of Hearing Committee), Olamilekan Adeola (Lagos West), Tokunbo Abiru (Lagos East); Senators Ibikunle Amosun, Tolu Odebiyi (Ogun State); Senators Teslim Folarin and Abdulfatai Buhari (Oyo State), among others, attended.

Governor Sanwo-Olu, who opened the event, called for a special status for Lagos.

He said: “For us in Lagos State, the issues of state police and fiscal federalism top the priority list for us. Equally fundamental 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.

Senator Tinubu, who read Omo-Agege’s address, said the zonal hearings were coming before the national hearing because the Senate decided to adopt a bottom-top approach by first listening to Nigerians at the geo-political level.

She said: “A constitution review represents a critical phase in our development and advancement as a nation. At the commencement of this ninth Senate, we had set for ourselves a legislative agenda as a basis of which we are to be assessed. Sitting prominently in that agenda is the need to address, by way of constitutional amendments, topical issues like judicial and electoral reforms, local government autonomy, and devolution of powers. If we get those items through constitutional processes of alteration successfully, then our constitutional democracy will be set on the right pedestal and, ultimately, Nigeria will take its pride of place among the enviable constitutional democracies in the world.

“The success of the review process will be dependent on your beneficent support and partnership. This exercise is your exercise and I implore you all to embrace and own it.”

Lalong: amendment not panacea to peace

Chairman of the Northern Governors Forum Governor Simon Lalong said the constitution can guarantee unity, development, peace, and good governance if it is faithfully obeyed.

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Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State is the chairman of Northern Governors Forum

Lalong, who made the declaration in Jos, at the Northcentral public hearing venue said every Nigerians ought to be the guardians and defenders of the constitution.

On restructuring, Lalong said the agitations and anxieties being expressed are being addressed.

He said: “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.”

Lalong said citizenship and indigeneship should be thoroughly looked into adding that most of the problem in the country arose from it.

Chairman of the public hearing, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, announced that the committee has received over 45 memorandum from various stakeholders from the three states – Plateau, Benue and Nassarawa.

Tambuwal: restructuring is the answer

Sokoto State Governor Aminu Tambuwal called for restructuring for peace to return to the country.

Tambuwal, who was represented by his deputy, Alhaji Manniru Dan’iya, said: “The salient matters that require attention; include the ever persistent issue of restructuring, which is without doubt pivotal to the continued survival of Nigeria as an entity.”

“And constitutional reviews are the process for ensuring this guiding document plays that function.”

El-Rufai backs devolution of power

Kaduna State Governor Nasir El Rufai called for devolution of power.

No fewer than 24 groups and civil society organisations made presentations at the Kaduna zonal hearing.

El-Rufai said the current structure overburdens the Federal Government with too many responsibilities, which it cannot efficiently handle.

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Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna

The governor suggested 10 items that should be shared responsibilities between the state and Federal Governments, including policing, judiciary, minimum wage and local government administration among others.

El-Rufai said the APC Committee on True Federalism, which he headed, had identified legislative interventions that the National Assembly can easily undertake to achieve a truly balanced, equitable and fair federal structure.

On state police, he said: “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’’.

According to him, ‘’those expressing concerns about the ability of the states to bear the cost of policing should realize that apart from the payment of salaries by the Federal Government, most of the operational and capital costs of the Nigeria Police are borne by state and local governments.’’

The governor argued that fear of abuse of state police by sub-national governments is 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 hinderance to effective policing in Nigeria.

El-Rufai said 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.

Southern, Northern Kaduna seek separate state

The Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU) said the predominantly Christians, Non-Hausa/Fulani Southern part of Kaduna and its rival Northern Muslim Hausa/Fulani dominated part of Northern Kaduna, are in agreement over the agitation for the split of Kaduna into two new states.

At the North-West public hearing in Kaduna, SOKAPU President, Jonathan Asake said, both sides, having witnessed incessant inter ethnic and religious clashes for decades, agreed that, creating new state from the present Kaduna will go a long way at solving the bloody violence that seemed to defy solution.

The Kaduna Development Elders Initiatives submitted a memo signed by the Senators representing Kaduna North, Sulieman Abdu Kwari; the senator from Kaduna Central, Senator Uba Sani; House of Reps members from the Northern Part of Kaduna; members of Kaduna House of Assembly, chairmen of LGAs and councillors.

Defending the memo of the group, Abdulkadir Ahmed said, “we are canvassing for the creation of New Kaduna state from the present Kaduna state and we want the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria amended to make this possible.”

Sani Bello: We should uphold unity

Niger State Governor Abubakar Sani Bello said that the unity of Nigeria must remain sacrosanct.

“There are varied perceptions to the constitutional review but one thing that 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 our democracy and true federalism.”

Enugu: We want power devolution, state police

Power devolution, state police, local government autonomy were among the major issues canvassed in the Southeast Zonal Public Hearing in Enugu.

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SP Ebere Amaraizu

According to Valentine Madubuko of the National Human Rights Commission, Mazi Oguzilike Ofoelue of the Movement of Biafrans n Nigeria (MOBIN) and Arc. Ikem Nwafor of YIAGA Africa and #fixpoliticsinitiative, devolving power to the states and allowing them to have their own police would set the country off on a new development level.

“The current agitations in Nigeria which started with Biafrans, has spread to all parts of the Southern Nigeria, Middle Belt and indigenous peoples of the North.

“The call for self-determination of the indigenous people is the right of the indigenous peoples to determine their economic and political future. This right is contained in United Nations Charter in the right of the indigenous peoples which Nigeria is a signatory to.”

Niger-Delta seeks fiscal federalism, devolution

Niger-Delta stakeholders advocated a restructured federation and devolution of power to sub- national governments.

They further argued that the current federation, which they described as “lopsided”, benefits only a section of the country.

They also advocated fiscal federalism which they said is “crucial to the economic growth of the country”.

They spoke in Asaba, Delta State at the South/ South Zonal Public Hearing on The Proposed Alteration of the 1999 Constitution Of Federal Republic As Amended.

Clifford Obude, Benin National Congress (BNC) argued that states should have access and control over value added tax emanating from such State.

Obude argued that debtors should be barred from running for elective positions, stressing that anyone indicted by an administrative panel should also be barred for contesting elections.

The Urhobo Progress Union (UPU), said the group was not canvassing for an Urhobo State, but called for the carving of Anioma State from the current Delta State.

The Itsekiri group-led by Brown Mene, advocated resource control by the State such that minerals are found are controlled by the State, adding that a specified percent be paid to the central government.

Delta Speaker, Sheriff Oborevwori, who represented Gov Okowa called for autonomy on fiscal, legislative and judicial matters between the federal government and its federating units.

Southeast seeks state police, additional states

Participants in Imo State demanded more states in Southeast in the memoranda submitted to the committee chaired by former Abia State Governor Orji Uzor Kalu.

Also, Chief Theo Okire who represented Aba Mass Movement submitted that additional states should be created in the South east particularly in Abia, to have Aba State.

According to him, “if additional States are created in the Southeast, it would bring an even political atmosphere and less marginalisation in the zone.”

Gombe rejects state police

Gombe State government rejected the calls for a state police saying it is expensive to run. It also differed with Taraba State on the call for resource control.

The position of the state government was presented by the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Zubair Umar, to the Chairman of the North East Zone of Senate Committee, Senator Danjuma Goje.

Gombe State government’s position is directly against the 17 Southern Governors’ call for state policing system to curb the menace of insecurity in the country.

Umar submitted that rather than having a state police, the present structure of the Nigerian police should be decentralised in such a way that it will empower states to have more roles in it.

Borno, Yobe reject state police, new councils

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

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

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

In his submission, Mr Saleh Samanja, the Yobe state Attorney General, who corroborated earlier opinions, 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 as canvassed in some quarters.

“The 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,” he said.

However, Alhaji Sabiu Baba, Secretary to the Bauchi State Government (SSG), said the State was clamouring for the creation of additional states and local councils.

Culled from The Nation