Senator David Mark
Onwuka Nzeshi , Gboyega Akinsanmi , Segun Awofadeji , Ibrahim Shuaibu and Jude Okwe
The clamour to accord Lagos State with special status took the centre stage at the South-west public hearing on the review of the 1999 Constitution, as the Senate President, David Mark, threw his weight behind the proposal just like other former capital cities across the world.
The special status clamour also came on a day the Senate President stated that he was in support of the creation of more states in the country even though the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, denied that the National Assembly has ruled out the creation of additional states in the country.
But, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, yesterday received the reports of the Peoples Public Sessions held last weekend in all the 360 federal constituencies in Nigeria.
Mark, who endorsed the special status proposal for Lagos, at the Airport Hotel in Ikeja, noted that the people of the state “are not calling for something special.”
In his address, the Senate President said when the call for special status in Lagos State “comes up, you are not asking for anything out of the ordinary. But I am here to collect the views of the people. I believe the view of the governor on the status of Lagos state is the view of Lagosians. We are all here to collate the views.”
“This is my humble suggestion. Let me also say that all of you are conversant with Delhi in India and Rio in Brazil among others. But I do know former capitals have special status in these countries,” he explained.
He also expressed readiness of the federal lawmakers to ensure objective review of the 1999 Constitution, noting that the National Assembly “have no hidden agenda. The only agenda we have is the aggregate of people’s views.”
Also, at the public hearing attended by federal and state lawmakers across the geo-political zone, Governor Babatunde Fashola (SAN), called for the establishment of state police and provisions that would guarantee a practice of true federalism and dispassionate devolution of powers and responsibilities.
On true federalism, Fashola said the best way “is to allow each independent state to develop at its own speed, its own resources and its own ability in a way that the prosperity of each state can become the prosperity of Nigeria.
Ekweremadu, while denying media reports that the possibility of creating new states was slim at the opening of the two-day South-south public hearing on the review of the 1999 Constitution, explained that the position of the National Assembly was that new sates would be created based on merit.
“It is not true that the National Assembly has ruled out state creation. It is also not true that it is pursuing any special agenda on the matter. We have no such powers. Rather, the position of the National Assembly is that while it is committed to ensuring that every request is treated on its merit, taking constitutional requirements, good governance, justice, and national development into account, Nigerians need to understand that the processes for state creation are slightly different from that of conventional constitution amendment,” he said.
However, Tambuwal while receiving the reports of the various town hall meetings on the Peoples Public Sessions, which were presented at a brief ceremony, noted that the reports included those earlier submitted by lawmakers, after the people had voted for and against the various aspects of the 1999 Constitution that were slated for review.
Corroborating Tambuwal’s position, the Deputy Speaker and Chairman, House Ad hoc Committee on Constitution Review, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, said following the successful conduct of the public sessions and the formal submission of the preliminary reports, civil society organisations and other stakeholders were expected to nominate members to observe and participate in the collation of the reports received from the various constituencies.
Ihedioha said the collation process would begin on November 19, 2012 by 12 noon at the Secretariat of the Constitution Review Committee of the House of Representatives within the National Assembly complex.
The stakeholders, he said, were being invited to participate in the collation exercise to further accord the constitution amendment process the required transparency and inclusiveness which the House of Representatives had pledged to respect throughout the exercise.
Mark, while throwing his weight behind the clamour for the creation of more states in the country, said the essence of democracy was to bring development and government closer to the people.
The Senate President, who was at the Senate’s North-east zonal public hearing on the review of the 1999 Constitution, stated that even though it was his personal opinion, the views and submissions of the people would carry the day at the end.
“Nobody will dabble with the enthusiasm already exhibited by the people of this country towards this exercise and nobody would take the exercise to where we do not want it to go,” he assured.
The public hearing in the North-east zone, was however held with the absence of the immediate past Governor of the state, Senator Danjuma Goje of Gombe Central Senatorial zone and Senator Sai’du Ahmed Alkali of Gombe North senatorial zone. Senator Joshua Lidani of Gombe South was the only Senator from the state, who was present at the occasion.
Meanwhile, Kano State Governor, Alhaji Musa Kwankwaso, has said what Nigerians need now is dividends of democracy and not a review of the nation’s constitution.
A statement by his media aide, Malam Halilu Dantiye, in Kano stated that Kwankwaso made his presentation at the ongoing Senate North-west zonal public hearing on constitution review in Sokoto Thursday.
“I do not see how constitution review can add value to the lives of Nigerians, what the people need is provision of water, good roads, improved agriculture and other life-changing amenities,” the governor stated.
On states’ creation, he argued that the federating units should remain as they were today, stressing that though creating more states was a good idea, it should not be based on sentiments.