- Trades blame with NASS over power devolution
By Ikechukwu Okaforadi and Musa Adamu
The State Houses of Assembly yesterday transmitted the fifteen clauses it approved in the amendments of the 1999 Constitution to the National Assembly, in which it rejected autonomy for the local governments and granted itself both financial and administrative autonomy.
Peoples Daily reports that twenty nine clauses were last year sent to the State Assemblies for approval, in line with the constitutional requirement which states that each of the twenty nine amendment clauses must be approved by two-third of the state parliaments to become law, with or without assent of the President.
However, the Conference of Speakers, led by its chairman, Abdulmumini Ismaila Kambar, who arrived the National Assembly Complex yesterday evening to make the transmission, blamed the federal lawmakers over their inability to pass the power devolution Bill in the Senate in particular.
Kambar, who is also the Speaker of Kebbi State House of Assembly, and who spoke on behalf of other Speakers, he said what Nigerians at the grassroots needed was power devolution and not autonomy for the local government.
To this end, he suggested that since the rejection of the devolution of power by NASS has been condemned by the majority of Nigerians, it should be included in the next round of the amendment process to be sent to the State Assemblies.
He said the procedure of Constitution amendment is more inclusive than exhaustive, even as he commended the National Assembly for initiating the process, saying it is challenging but worths it.
However, the Speaker of House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, in his remarks, in turn blamed the state lawmakers for not having the courage to vote in favour of autonomy for the local government areas.
He argued that because majority of Nigerians reside in the local governments, that is where the autonomy is most desired, as it will impact more on the lives of the people, noting that lack of it will translate to miserable life at the grassroots.
“The importance of the third tier of government cannot be overemphasized, the struggle continues. I hope that the execute arm will, being a popular President, who always respect the which of the majority, sign the Bill into law”, he said.
Dogara, who said democracy is desirable everywhere, pointed out that without a fierce legislature, the claim to being democratic by any government is false, even as he asked how long it will take Nigeria’s democracy to grow.
He said it is a challenge that awaits all stakeholders to ensure that democracy works, adding that if it works any where it is because the politicians there want it to work, viz a viz.
He described democracy as the best form of government because besides it, there is no better one, and commended them for adopting independence and autonomy of the state legislature in the amendments they had earlier sent to them.
Speaking further, he said some of the measure they are introducing today may not be popular but in the long run, it will result in deepening Nigeria’s democracy.
Similarly, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, in his remarks, said many in the past attempted to achieve what they did but failed, adding that the amendment to the constitution brings about unity, development.
He said it has strengthen the electoral and budgeting process, pointing out that these are things that will make the country better off. He said the National Assembly will not stop at amending the constitution.
He disclosed that the senate and House of Representatives have set up a joint committee to look at their areas of differences with regards to power devolution which the senate did not pass, but passed in the green chamber, to enable them do a harmonization.
He therefore assured the Conference of Speakers that they will in no distant time forward new set of amendments, including the power devolution, to them for passage.
Earlier in his welcome address, the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representative, Yusuf Lasun, who spoke for the National Assembly Joint Committee on Constitution Amendment, he said they departed from the old practice of lumping the amendments together as a single Bill which resulted in failure of the whole process of amendment last session.
He said with the new order, there is hope that some part of the constitution must be amended, and signed into law by the President, adding that the transition marked that the lawmakers are determined to move the nation forward.
Meanwhile, Lagos and Rivers states did not participate in the amendment process, as Saraki lamented over this, saying the Constitution Amendment process of a democratic exercise which every state should participate in, and not an exercise to bully anybody or any state by another.