State lawmakers under the auspices of the Conference of Speakers of State Houses of Assembly have transmitted passed constitution alteration bills to the National Assembly in the ongoing Constitution Review exercise.
Thirty-four of the 36 states of the federation voted on the 29 bills transmitted to them, but Lagos and Rivers states abstained from the exercise.
Of the 29 bills, 15 were passed, including the ‘Not Too Young To Run’ bill which seeks to reduce the ages of contestants for the office of the president, governor and National Assembly membership. The bill to give independence to state Houses of Assembly was also passed, while the states rejected autonomy for local government.
These details were made known by speakers at the transmission ceremony attended by lawmakers including the Senate President, Bukola Saraki and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, in Abuja on Thursday.
The Chairman of the Conference of Speakers, who is also the Speaker of Kebbi State House of Assembly, Abdulmumin Kamba, stated that the rejection of devolution of powers by the National Assembly was condemned by the state legislature.
He said, “While we believe that every proposed amendment transmitted to the state Houses of Assembly for ratification reflects the yearning and aspirations 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.”
Saraki, in his remarks, expressed his disappointment over Lagos and Rivers’ withdrawal from the exercise.
He said, “Let me also at this point commend those 34 states. I must also express my disappointment because I had hoped that this exercise would have ensured that all states participated fully. The non-participation of Lagos and Rivers is disappointing. I do hope that as we move ahead, that Lagos and Rivers will take a different approach because this is all about the interests of the country.”
Saraki noted that constitution amendment was not something of “you can bully me, I can bully you,” stating that, “It is by dialogue and discussion, by putting Nigeria first that matters.”
In his remarks, Dogara commended the states for approving independent legislature while expressing regret over the rejection of autonomy to the third tier of government.
He said, “I will say that I am a bit disappointed because we would have delivered the long-awaited local government autonomy but, unfortunately, maybe our courage did not go that far.
“…This is an exercise that is ongoing. I believe that as this one failed this time, maybe next time as state Houses of Assembly are now independent, they would be able to extend this same independence to local government. We all know the benefits of freeing the three tiers of government. So, please let us go ahead and do it.”
Dogara pointed out that since it was the people who spoke through the passage of the bills, President Muhammadu Buhari should give speedy assent to them.
He said, “Although we will wait for presidential assent to the bill, it is our hope that since this thing has passed through 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 the over 140 million people in Nigeria and we have spoken through these documents before us.
“I don’t think it would be right at any level, having passed through all these processes, for these to be returned and without the bills being transmitted into the provisions of the constitution. The President is tied to do the wishes of the people.”
The Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yusuf Lasun, stated that although Nigerians had different names for restructuring such as fiscal federalism or devolution of power, the consensus had been that the country needed development.