Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu
Olaolu Olusina with reports from our correspondents
As the House of Representatives begins tomorrow the compilation of reports from the public sessions on the review of the 1999 Constitution held in the 360 federal constituencies across the country penultimate Saturday, there appears to be a sharp contrast between what the Northerners want and the requests of the people from the South.
THISDAY gathered that the differences emerged in respect of critical and sensitive issues such as fiscal federalism, review of revenue allocation formula, creation of new states, state police, single tenure for the president and state governors.
Others included constitutional recognition for the six geo-political zones as the federating units.
Whereas most states in the South are clamouring for a total review of the constitution to bring about true federalism, rotational presidency, state police and creation of new states, the North at the various public sessions in most parts of the region canvassed among others a single tenure for the president and state governors as well as the non-inclusion of geo-political zones in the constitution.
However, there seems to be a consensus across the North and South on the need to review the revenue allocation formula in favour of states and local governments as well as financial autonomy for local governments.
Also at most public sessions in the South, as opposed to what was witnessed in most areas in the North, participants saw the ongoing constitution review as a way of correcting the perceived injustice in the polity and distortion in the country’s federal system.
In Damaturu, Yobe State Governor Ibrahim Gaidam, for instance, said while the repeated calls for the review of the constitution may be important, it would not be enough to put things right in the country.
Rather, he said good governance, sincere commitment to the rule of law and eradication of corruption were necessary for a healthy growth of the Nigerian nation.
His views were also shared by Kano State Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, who said what the people need is good governance rather than constitution review.
Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima noted that creation of more states would not proffer a solution to the issue of development, saying what the people need is good governance.
Participants at most of the sessions in the Niger State were opposed to the creation of more states and the idea of state police.
In Kano, the people also kicked against state police, rotation of office of president between the North and South and the six geo-political zones in the country.
They also called for the scrapping of States' Independent Electoral Commissions (SIECs) to enable the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct all elections from the local, state and federal levels.
Autonomy for state legislature, abolition of local government joint account and state police were the issues that featured prominently at the public hearing held in the six federal constituencies in Taraba State.
Other issues were the total rejection of state police and the removal of immunity clause as well as the scrapping of SIECs.
Also, in its position paper read out in one of the sessions in Sokoto State by Prof. Zayyanu Umar at the public hearing held at Dankani Guest Inn Sokoto, the Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto Branch of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) canvassed a six-year single term for the president and state governors.
The union also kicked against the inclusion of geo-political zones in the constitution.
"ASUU's position is that geopolitical zones should neither be recognised in the constitution for administrative purposes nor included as another tier of government," Umar stated.
This position, however, runs contrary to the request of the people of the South-east who clamoured for additional states to ensure equitable distribution of states among the six geo-political zones in the country.
In Anambra State, for instance, the creation of two additional states in the South-east, scrapping of SIECs as well as State/Local Government Joint Account topped the list of demands in Idemili North/South and Aniocha/Njikoka/Dunukofia federal constituencies.
The people were also unanimous that the perceived ambiguity in the state distribution should be removed while the six geo-political zones should become important factors in the process.
In the eight federal constituencies in Enugu State, the people kicked against state police as well as single tenure for president and governors.
They upheld the retention of the present two terms of four years each for the president and governors.
They also supported rotational presidency among the six geo-political zones.
Issues of state police, creation of new states, special status for Lagos, financial autonomy for local governments, among others, were widely canvassed in Lagos, Ogun and Oyo states, as opposed to the stance in the North.
The House of Representatives had flagged off its people’s public sessions towards review of the constitution on Thursday, November 8. The flag off ceremony was performed by Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal, who highlighted areas of focus.
Declaring the public sessions open, Tambuwal gave an open window to civil society groups like the NBA to canvass their views. NBA prefers that National Assembly subject the constitution amendment to people's referendum. However, Tambuwal said, “The fact is that it is not available to us as an option for now. However, we accept the proposal for the inclusion of referendum in our constitution review process.”