Nigerians Flay Senate’s Constitution Review Insensitivity

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Nigerians Flay Senate’s Constitution Review Insensitivity

By Springnews   Aug 7, 2017 @ 01:00 GMT  |

THE clamour for restructuring of Nigeria suffered a major setback with the Senate rejecting the proposal for devolution of powers. The Red Chambers on Wednesday, July 26, rejected the constitution alteration bill seeking to move some items from the Exclusive List in the 1999 Constitution to the Concurrent List.

The devolution of powers bill, which sought to alter the Second Schedule, Part I and II of the constitution, was defeated with 48 no votes. Forty-six senators voted for it, with one abstention. The Land Use Act and affirmative action bills also suffered defeats in the upper legislative chamber during the electronic voting on the 33 bills presented to amend the 1999 Constitution.

Of the 33 bills, the lawmakers passed 29 and rejected four. They voted overwhelmingly in favour of bills seeking to reduce executive powers by removing the power of the executive arm of government to make laws, and provided procedures for overriding a presidential veto, in the event the president withholds assent to legislation.

Ninety-seven senators were in attendance during the voting exercise. It requires a minimum of 73 yes votes or two-thirds of 109 votes in the Senate. Also, the bill seeking to expunge the Land Use Act from the constitution and subject it to the regular process of legislative amendment was also defeated with 46 yes and 44 no votes.

The lawmakers also rejected bills seeking to enforce affirmative action that would have given women in the country at least 35 per cent of appointive positions in government. It was defeated in the Senate with 49 yes to 43 no votes and three abstentions, and at the state level with 61 yes and 35 no votes. Bill No. 22 seeking to alter Section 25 of the constitution and guarantee a married woman’s right to choose her indigeneship by either birth or by marriage, for the purpose of appointment or election, was also defeated.

At the end of the voting, Senate President Bukola Saraki, said, “What we have done today definitely is to lay the foundation for a far-reaching reform of our political, economic and social development. We have today through the amendments redefined our budget processes. We have addressed issues that have held our country down for many years. We have addressed the issue of saving money earned by the federation which has always been an issue in this country for many years. The fact is that as a nation, we now have a constitution that makes it paramount for the country to save for the rainy days.”

But this latest development has certainly set the Senate against some Nigerians who accused them of being insensitive to their plight and clamour for restructuring the country.

Yinka Odumakin, publicity secretary, Afenifere, pan Yoruba social-cultural organisation, faulted the rejection of devolution of powers by the Senate. He described the action of the Senate as a disservice to the people of the country.

“The Senate had the responsibility to save Nigeria from the brink to put this country back on track, but they frittered that away on the altar of insensitivity. The senators majored in minors today, they dealt with minor issues but left fundamental issues and therefore they have set this country on the part of auto restructuring and their names will be written in ignominy when the history of this country is written.

“But they have set this country on an irreversible part to auto restructuring, they have given room to all the centrifugal forces to up their games because the last hope that the people had is this constitutional review that they are doing, now that they have failed woefully this way, they have put this country on the part of auto restructuring. Nigeria will restructure itself because things cannot go on like this so the country will auto restructure without them and they will become history when that is done,” he said.

Also, Chuks Ibegbu, national publicity secretary, Ohaneze Ndigbo, said: “The thinking of ordinary Nigerians is that power should be devolved to the federating units. What the Senate has done is good but you know this has been resolved in the National Conference.

“We should stop deceiving ourselves. All the National Assembly is embarking upon is legislative busybody. Let the National Assembly get that document and study it. If half of that document is implemented Nigeria would be an Eldorado.”

Ibegbu said concentration of power encourages corruption. “As long as there is concentration of power at the centre, corruption can never stop. We have been talking about restructuring. What we need is structural and physical restructuring. For instance, we have five states and 95 local councils in the South East. Everything is shared based on states and local councils.

The Igbos in particular are losing more than N4 billion annually because of our deficiency in the number of states and local government areas.

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