Governor of Delta State, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa yesterday called for the overhaul of the 1999 constitution for a new one.
The Governor also asked for devolution of power from the federal government to give the federating units more powers, a review of revenue allocation to states as well as an upward review of the 13 percent derivation to oil producing states in the country.
This was as the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu said that the legitimacy of any constitution stemmed from the participation of the citizens in the amendment processes.
Speaking when the Chairman of the Constitution Review Committee and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ahmed Wase, accompanied by the Minority Leader in Government House in Asaba, the state capital on the heels of the Zonal public hearing on the constitution amendment, Okowa also said it was necessary to establish state police to assist in tackling of Insecurity.
He said, “Is it possible to have a brand new constitution when there is one exiting? As the constitution is at the moment, there is no provision to allow that. But I believe that if we have a deep thought and look at Section 9 of the constitution, it would be possible to add a clause and when that clause must have been approved and has become law, it would now be possible under such a condition for the National Assembly to rewrite an entire constitution which would come into effect after all the processes have been done.
“There is a need for devolution of power. We believe that the exclusive list is too burdensome for the Federal government to handle. It is not about this administration. It is about all the administrations at the Federal level. When you take too much for yourself, you find it difficult to be as efficient as you would have been ordinarily.
“And whether we like it or not the truth is the sub-national governments are closer to their people and are best situated to represent their people and to reach out and to touch them in ways and manners that the people would best appreciate. We think there is a need to looking at that exclusive list and make an adjustment to devolve more power to the sub-national government.
“Of course, going through on that would be that there would need to be the reallocation of resources to be able to make the sub-national government more impactful than they are at the moment. When we concentrate too much power at the national level it creates a lot of challenges. We can help ourselves as a nation by devolving those powers.”
Okowa also asked for the upward review revenue allocation formula, saying it was long overdue since 1999.
“We also believe that on the issue of derivation, the oil communities are not well treated. We know that the provision of the constitution is that derivation shall be at least 13 percent, but from all our workings, with all; that goes out, the states that are oil-producing do not get up to 13 percent.
“There is need for the establishment of state police not because we believe that the federal police is inefficient, but we believe that it would be difficult for them to have enough personnel with such a command structure that will be functional enough to handle the level of insecurity in the land today. We are not asking for a scrapping of the federal police, but there is a need for the creation of state police. Nigeria would not be the first nation to have that and it can be worked out in a manner that would correlate with each other,” he said.
In his reaction, the Deputy Speaker, Wase assured that attention would be given to all the presentations at the public hearings.
Similarly, Elumelu in his remarks commended Okowa for hosting the zonal hearing, assuring the people that the issues of resource control, citizenship registration, fiscal federalism, improved derivation formula, devolution of power, as well as democratization of electoral processes would be thoroughly examined by the 9th Assembly in general.
Delivering his welcome address at the opening of the ongoing South-South zonal public hearing on the review of the constitution in the State, Elumelu who chaired the subcommittee that the proposed amendment must meet the aspiration of the people.
He said: “Indeed, the convergence of our leaders and citizens from the three states that make up this cluster, underscores the urgency and significance the people of the states; the people of the Niger Delta region and indeed Nigerians at large, attach to this exercise.
“As we go into this exercise, we must bear in mind that every democratic constitution is made by the people for the fulfilment of their collective aspirations and objective as a society.
“Consequently, any constitution that does not guarantee the fulfilment of such aspirations, is to the extent of such shortcomings, defective, frustrating and cannot deliver benefits to the people. Instead, such constitutions breed discontentment dissonances, agitations, violence, restiveness, economic retardation and political frictions.
“Your Excellencies, our leaders, ladies and gentlemen, the current 1999 (as amended) has been adjudged by many as being replete with grave defects which are inimical to and frustrating the practice of a federal system that most Nigerians desire.
“There are also agitations for creation of additional states as well as the inclusion of the traditional institution as a special tier with statutory roles for our traditional rulers.
“Across the Niger Delta region, there has been demands that the Federal Government should completely relinquish ownership, control, and management of oil and gas resources situated in the various states of the region”.
The minority leader further stressed that “as a critical stakeholder in the Niger Delta, I have witnessed firsthand, the challenges that lead to the various agitations. These include the agonizing poverty and lack, unemployment, disregard to demands for local content in employment and other opportunities that abound in the oil and gas sector, oil spillage and environmental degradation, decayed infrastructure and painful neglect, despite the huge economic resources coming from the region.”
According to him, the situation had led to restiveness and avoidable violence.
“And it is my belief that the time has come for us to address these vexed issues and ensure a more stable and productive nation, through the desired constitution amendment.
“This public hearing, therefore, offers a voice as well as an ear to the aspiration of the people. Of course, any system that ignores such loud voices from the citizens is doing so at its peril.
“It is however imperative to state that nothing in this exercise gives room for any question on the unity and corporate existence of Nigeria as one indivisible nation. The public hearing and desired amendments, rather than detract from our national cohesiveness, are aimed at consolidating our national unity by ensuring a stronger federal system with greater participation of citizens in governance at all levels.
“I, therefore, urge all stakeholders and participants to come up with progressive submissions and recommendations that will engender stronger national unity and greater productivity.
“We desire suggestions that will bring clarity to the concept of restructuring as being demanded. What items should be devolved from the Exclusive Legislative List to the Concurrent List? What is acceptable resource control and revenue sharing prescription with regard to the agitations of sub-national units under fiscal federalism?
“Are there items that should be under the exclusive control of the state and even local government? What provisions are more appropriate for resource-producing communities?
“On elections; what type of decentralized electoral system is desirable in a federal system like ours. Which elections should be under the state and which should be under federal purview? What is the role of the armed forces in our elections?
“Furthermore, what are the practical modalities for state creation, acceptable state policing, civil service system, land use, control and ownership; judiciary jurisdiction, taxation and other subjects of agitation among sub-national units? What statutory recognition can be accorded to the traditional institutions and what appropriate roles can be prescribed for traditional rulers?
“These and many more are serious issues that require concerted consideration”, Elumelu said.