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Published On: Mon, Oct 23rd, 2017

Governors meet Dogara over constitution amendment

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…as States consider bond issuance to tackle cash crunch

By Lawrence Olaoye

States governors, under the auspices of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), have met with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, behind closed doors.
Dogara, who briefed newsmen after the meeting said any meaningful restructuring in the country will still require amendment of the 1999 constitution.
On what he discussed with the Governors, he said “I was asked to see them so that we can talk about some of these constitutional alterations in the National Assembly so l came to meet them so that we can talk on most of the Bills we are considering.
“Even though l am the Speaker, l can tell you that l can only speak where majority of our members have agreed upon. So it is a bit early for me to conclude. But this is a democracy and in a democracy, the majority matters.
“We are aware of the ongoing agitations in the country. Some are calling for restructuring while some call it true Federalism. This is an an issue on the manifestos of the APC. It is our feeling as a very responsive and responsible representatives of the people to ensure that this debate is done.
“And I agree like l said before that the position of the President that most of this matters and issues should be canvassed at the levels of the National Assembly.
“This is because some of the structural imbalances that we are talking about that need what they call restructuring cannot be corrected just by a stroke of the pen. Some of them are actually embedded in the provisions of the constitution.
“Even by pedestrians description of the function of government, the Executive cannot make laws, they cannot amend the constitution. They can only initiate the process in an Executive bill, but it ultimately revolves within the powers of the legislature.
“So, even the committee that is set up by the APC leadership on true federalism, by the time they conclude their work, most of the issues they come out with will require a kind of tinkering of the constitution.
“So, our feeling is that we should not just close the windows to the yearnings of majority of our people. We should listen again to all the stakeholders, listen more to Nigerians and at the end of the day, we will come up with an exercise that meets the expectations and yearnings of our peoples.
“We will not just amend the constitution for the sake of amending. We will want the exercise to be very impactful. The only way we can get that done is to listen and listen and listen more.” he said
NGF Chairman and governor of Zamfara state, Abdulazeez Yari, at the end of the meeting, said that the forum met with Dogara towards facilitating amendment of the 1999 Constitution.
The forum had few weeks back received briefings from the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu over the proposed amendment.
Yari said: “As a follow up to the briefing by Mr. Deputy Senate President, Mr. Speaker briefed us on the version of the House of Representatives on the constitutional amendment which very soon they will soon harmonise.
“As critical stakeholders, they visited us and gave us their input on the other critical areas that are not touched like the area of restructuring, devolution of power etc. all those are going to be looked into and considered for the betterment of our country.”
The governor also disclosed that the forum received briefing on how to tackle cash crunch in their states through issuance of bonds.
“We also received briefing from the Stock Exchange on how to address the issue of cash crunch on the nation. They spoke to us on the need to raise bond. Globally is the borrowing from outside that you use to for infrastructure not the borrowing from within.
“So the stock exchange has given us opportunity for some states that are ready to go into the stock exchange to raise bond to finance some projects.
“Because what is tied to the bonds is our income and our income is shrinking. Through the bonds we can finance projects that will impact on the water supply and sanitation etc.
“We are putting a committee in place made up of the members of the stock exchange as well as from the NGF secretariat to work together on that.” he said
He also debunked the media reports claiming that President Muhammadu Buhari was not happy with governors over salaries arrears.
He said “We briefed the members about our meeting with Mr president yesterday, which I’m surprised some of you turned it upside down. You got the full briefing from me and then some of your people went and said they got from inside, I don’t know which inside that the president is not happy with the governors. It is very unfortunate.
“We had a very fruitful meeting with Mr. President and Mr. President accepted all our requests. The only thing Mr. President said that he was not a technical person, and that we should wait for the minister of finance to return, and the chairman of the economic council to be around so that they can give him update and support on what he is going to say to us.
“So he said we should reschedule this meeting until when he returns from Turkey. I think this is what I told the press yesterday but I wonder how they turn it around. Please we have to be serious with our job, this is Nigeria we are working for, we are working for our country, working for our people so we shouldn’t misinform the public and should be guided with the things discussed.”

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