The clamour for federalism, local government autonomy, community policing and devolution of power dominated the nationwide public hearings conducted Tuesday by the House of Representatives Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution.
However, while the Sultan of Sokoto and President-General of the Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar, called for the removal of the immunity clause in the constitution, the Ondo State Governor, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu , advocated the scrapping of the Senate to make the federal legislature unicameral, as one of the ways of reducing the cost of governance.
Plateau, Benue and Nasarawa states have also unanimously demanded devolution of power in a manner that the states will be given more powers and finance considering their enormous responsibilities.
At Akure, one of the two venues of the public hearing for the South-west zone, Akeredolu said devolution of powers, true federalism, state police, among others, as presented last week to the Senate Committee on Constitutional Review were germane in restructuring the country.
Akeredolu, who was represented by his deputy, Mr. Lucky Ayedatiwa, also advocated that membership of the National Assembly should be part-time.
He said: “The membership of the (National) Assembly should be part time. No member should earn allowances not known to the Revenue Mobilisation and Allocation Committee and, more importantly, people they claim to serve.
“Legislators should earn under a uniform salary structure. Allowance peculiarities must not be about obscenity. The Senate should be scrapped. The House of Representatives too should not be unwieldly. A maximum of four representatives should come from each zone.”
The governor also advocated the decentralisation of the Supreme Court.
He said: “The Supreme Court should be decentralised to ease the current burden of the appellate court.
“In a true federal state, there should be a Supreme Court whose decisions are final in residual matters. The Supreme Court at the centre should concern itself mainly with issues bordering on constitutional interpretations and matters arising between and among the states and the federal government, as well as revenue generation by the federal government. It should also administer the National Judicial Council.”
In Bauchi, the state Governor, Senator Bala Abdulkadir Mohammed, stated that Nigeria needed a workable and acceptable constitution to serve the interests of the people.
Such a document, he added, should allow for true federalism where Nigeria states are autonomous entities with power to run their affairs.
The governor also appealed to the House Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution to look into the various agitations of the state and reflect them in its report.
According to him, the participatory approach by the National Assembly in the amendment of the constitution is expected to produce a people’s constitution that will address the social-economic problems in the country.
He added that Nigeria must break from the command structure imposed on the country by the defunct military government, which concentrated enormous power at the centre as manifested in the 1999 Constitution.
“The constituent units of the Nigerian federation represented by the current 36 states, the FCT and the 774 local government areas are near to the people that must be given enough powers with resources in order to positively impact the lives of the people at the grassroots,” he stated.
In Lagos State, the Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, restated his calls for a special economic status for the state owing to its status and the economic epicentre of the nation and the burdens it bears.
He said at the South-west zonal public hearing that the continuous request for a special status for the state was by no means a selfish one, but stemmed from the interest of every Nigerian in the state.
He stated that progress and prosperity of Nigeria as a nation is linked to that of Lagos State.
Earlier, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, while urging Nigerians to take the ongoing constitutional amendment seriously, had said the process of review and amendment would give the nation a near perfect constitution.
He expressed optimism that such a new constitution will resolve the issue of “identity, political structure, human rights, administration of government, resource control, national security and so much else that has made our nation fragile and that has hindered our progress and prosperity.”
He added: “The 1999 Constitution is as a result of a hurried national compromise that Nigeria entered into two decades ago, just to allow the military vacate the political scene and return to the barracks. It has always been our intention that one day, as one people, we will return to amend this document to give voice to the yearning of the Nigerian people”.
In Enugu, the Governor, Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, reiterated his administration’s unwavering commitment to an egalitarian Nigeria where justice, fairness, equity and inclusiveness shall be functional directive principles of state policy.
The governor had declared the state government’s support for amending the constitution to enhance the nation’s quest for unity and prosperity “in an environment where justice, fairness and equity shall prevail.”
Declaring open the South-east zonal public hearing in Enugu, the governor enjoined all institutions, civil society organisations, stakeholders and the entire Enugu State citizenry “to stand up and be counted in this important national discussion.”
Women groups, organisations and labour unions made varying submissions on how to improve the constitution.
Labour unions demanded autonomy for local government, the legislature and the judiciary for improved service delivery, autonomy.
Also, women groups called for gender parity and inclusion to allow women to participate actively in governance and decision-making.
Segun James in Lagos, Christopher Isiguzo and Gideon Arinze in Enugu, Seriki Adinoyi in Jos, James Sowole in Akure and Segun Awofadeji in Bauchi