GOING by the speeches of different speakers and stakeholders at the on-going retreat of the Senate Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution, critical issues of devolution of powers, fiscal federalism, the concept of federating units, the system of local government administration, including funding, creation and autonomy, will be at the front burner as members of the Upper Legislative arm meet in the Delta State, capital of Asaba. The guardian reports
The speakers, which included Senate President, David Mark; Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu; Deputy House of Representatives Speaker, Emeka Ihedioha; Delta State governor Emmanuel Uduaghan; his Rivers State counterpart, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi and a host of others all seemed to agree that other areas that need to be looked at are judicial reforms, creation of states, national security – terrorism and insurgency – boundary adjustment, further fine-tuning of the electoral system, state police, citizenship versus indigeneship, the role of traditional rulers and prisons.
Mark said that the 1999 Constitution which was bequeathed to the country by the military was far from being a perfect document as no plebiscite or referendum preceded its promulgation.
He said: “The Constitution is for all Nigerians and not for Senators alone. It is therefore the synthesis of the true will of the Nigerian people that will be reflected in the Constitution. But what we will not allow is for a vocal minority to foist its dictates on Nigerians. The Senate will resist any such attempt. We will certainly not permit the thunder of a fraction to drown the voice of the nation.”
He said that the success of the exercise required the keen participation, commitment and co-operation of several stakeholders which include the Houses of Assembly of the 36 States of the Federation, the Federal and State Governments, and the general public who must be carried along.
For Uduaghan, the 1999 Constitution was born under unusual circumstances as the document was midwifed by the military and handed over to civilians.
The Delta State governor said that there is an urgent need to amend the Constitution as by its structure, military orientation is not often in alignment with popular democratic wishes of the people.
He advised the promoters of Sovereign National Conference (SNC) to step forward with their proposals and make same available to the Committee as part of their inputs in building a Constitution that will herald better democratic governance.
Fiscal Federalism, Uduaghan insisted was about allocation of resources to secure the autonomy of the respective federating units as well as the central government in a true federation, saying that the principle of fiscal federalism underlying the 1999 Constitution was inequitable and flawed in that it has left the Niger Delta prostrate.
On his part, Amaechi claimed they are restrained by the overbearing unitary provisions of the Constitution which cripples substantially the spirit and letters of federalism upon which Nigeria was built. “It is our view that the Constitution needs a radical review in order to enthrone true federalism and fiscal federalism,” he said.