• Nation’s unity sacrosanct, say lawmakers
By Ikechukwu Okaforadi , Christiana Ekpa and Umar Mohammed Puma Abuja
Speaker of the House of House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, has said that, only the National Assembly has powers to resolve the ongoing debate about Nigeria’s restructuring.
He said the lower chamber will revisit voting on the constitution amendment in order to address agitations for restructuring in the country.
Delivering his welcome address at the resumption of plenary on Tuesday, the Speaker said all questions and issues regarding restructuring can only be addressed through the legislature.
“Do we have a legislative response to the issues that have been thrown up? Is the National Assembly involved in the debate? Can restructuring take place outside the existing legal order? Indeed all the arguments about restructuring are at the end of the day, legislative issues.
“It may be necessary in due course for the National Assembly to have a second look at the issues that have been thrown up. The National Assembly as a representative and product of the people cannot act contrary to the wishes and aspirations of its constituents. We need to sift all the ‘noise’ and find out what exactly a majority of our people actually want? This is a responsibility we cannot outsource.
“ Going forward, it is my view that we need to revisit some aspects of the voting on Constitution Alteration. Luckily we still have the legislative window of conferencing with the Senate, where we have differences, “ Dogara said.
He argued that it has become necessary to emphasise that Nigeria is a constitutional democracy with a clear legal framework for resolving differences that normally arise among citizens, between citizens and government as well as between the structures and arms of government.
“Make no mistake, as representatives of the people we have a duty to champion the protection and preservation of the rights of our constituents and peoples. We are very conscious and indeed jealous of the fundamental rights provided under our Constitution as well as the Human and Peoples Rights under the African Charter.”
On the NGO regulation Bill being considered by the House, the Speaker stated that public criticism of the content of the Bill is a welcome development and that it is the reason why every Bill is subjected to Public Hearing so that the inputs of stakeholders can be obtained to ensure public buy in.
According to him, “when opinions are targeted at disparaging the institution of the legislature then it becomes imperative to interrogate the motives driving such, especially when this emanates from those who should know.”
“Everyone should understand that the principal objective of the NGO Regulation Bill is to inject transparency, accountability and prevent the subversion of national security from both within and without.”
“No one can nor indeed should gag the operations of NGOs in Nigeria, but just as they aspire for this freedom, it must be stated that freedom does not come without responsibility as there is no such thing as freedom to be irresponsible. There are also desperate attempts to instigate religious bodies and cultural Organizations to oppose the Bill by spreading falsehood that they are the target of this bill.”
“For the avoidance of doubt, let me state once again that Churches, Mosques, Esusu, Market Women Associations as well as Local Quasi Financial Institutions are NOT NGOs and thus the bill has nothing to do with their operations. The legislative process cannot be short circuited.
“National Assembly cannot be intimidated into abandon its sacred legislative duties of providing a platform for Nigerians to agree or disagree on any proposed legislative measure. This openness and transparency is what the NGOs have always canvassed and promoted and they should therefore embrace this opportunity to interrogate the issues with open arms.”
He also urged President Muhammadu Buhari to implement policies necessary to sustain a sound and productive economy which the National
Assembly highlighted in the Resolutions sent to the President earlier should be continued with even greater vigour to ensure that “our people enjoy the positive impact of the exit. We shall in this respect make our oversight of the Executive branch more robust, effective and informed.”
Meanwhile, the National Assembly yesterday, after about two hours separate closed door meeting, rose with a resolution that the unity of Nigeria was sacrosanct, even as it cautioned all agitators across the country against contravening the provisions of the constitution.
Senate on its part advised that all groups with political concerns should address them to the National Assembly as constitutionally provided, adding that the proscription of the Indegenous People of Biafra (IPOB) remains valid as pronounced by the Federal High Court in Abuja, until set aside by a court of competent jurisdiction.
The House of Representatives has also passed a resolution to work for the unity of Nigeria.
Briefing journalists on what the lawmakers discussed in the closed door session which lasted for about two hours, the Senate spokesman, senator Abdullahi Sabi, confirmed that the senate extensively discussed the agitation by IPOB, the clamour for restructuring as being canvassed across the country, including other issues.
Sabi said also that in the closed session, the lawmakers considered the role they have to play in ensuring that the constitutional precepts of the country is upheld at all time, adding that the Senate after the debate of recommitted to upholding and defending the constitution of the country.
While pointing out that the senate has cautioned its members, top political and religious leaders to exercise restraint by making only comments that will uphold the unity of the country, Sabi said the senate further in the closed door resolved to explore all possible avenue to restore peace in the troubled areas of the country.
According to Sabi, senate also expressed concern over the Benue flooding, urging the Federal Ministry of Water Resources to dredge Rivers Niger and Benue, just as it enjoined the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to provide relief to the victims of the floods.
The NASS resolution on Nigeria’s unity yesterday got the commendation of, President Muhammadu Buhari .
He commended the lawmakers for passing a resolution to work for the unity of Nigeria in the face of daunting challenges and threats by certain groups, who are bent on causing disharmony and disunity among Nigerians.
In a statement issued yesterday by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (House of Representatives), Suleiman Abdulrahman Kawu Sumaila, the President said there is no better time to come out with such a strong position than now.
He also commended the lawmakers’ resolved to work with the president for one Nigeria so as to take the country to the next level of development is laudable.
He assured the lawmakers that the president is committed to bringing the change he promised Nigerians in different facets of lives.