Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State
House: New constitution to be ready next year South-east PDP Tasks FG, N’Assembly on state creation
By Onwuka Nzeshi in Abuja, Adibe Emenyonu in Benin City, Christopher Isiguzo in Enugu and Hammed Shittu in Ilorin
Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State and his Ogun State counterpart, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, at the weekend, stated that what Nigeria needed was a constitution that would protect the rights of the people to live in any part of the country as well as guarantee speedy development of the country.
Similarly, the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Media and Publicity, Hon. Zakari Muhammed, has hinted that a new constitution that would be based on the people’s will would be unveiled to Nigerians by the National Assembly next year.
The assurance by Muhammed also came on the heels of a call by the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the South-east zone on members of the National Assembly from the zone to work towards the creation of additional states in the zone, in order to bring it at par with other geo-political zones in the country.
While Oshiomhole spoke in Benin City, during an interaction with members of the House of Representatives from Edo State and the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) caucus leaders at the Government House, Amosun on his part spoke in Abeokuta, during the ongoing debate on review of the 1999 Constitution.
Speaking against the background of calls for a people-oriented constitution, Oshiomhole said the indigene, settler dichotomy which divided the people should be adequately addressed.
According to him, “Edo people are energetic and enterprising and reside in all parts of the country. We should therefore work out a constitution that removes discrimination in all guises so that people are free to live and thrive wherever they choose to live in. People cannot continue to be strangers in a place they choose to live and settle in.”
He said: “I want my children to inherit a nation united on a purpose and not on a configuration of ethnic divide.”
The governor therefore, urged the lawmakers, as representatives of the people to be more reflective on the issue so as to arrive at decisions that will “serve the interests of our people and safeguard their welfare and well-being.”
According to him,” the National Assembly must grab the opportunity of the ongoing efforts to amend the 1999 Constitution to ensure the outcome is geared towards building a nation where every citizen has a stakea and benefits from the rights and privileges available to all free people.”
On his part, Amosun expressed regret that the absence of a people-oriented constitution in the country, had impacted negatively on the growth and development of the nation.
“The growing agitation for a review of the 1999 Constitution only lends credence to the fact that the Constitution is not a true reflection of the wishes and aspirations of the Nigerian citizenry,” he said.
The governor, who described a constitution as the Supreme Law, from which all other laws derived their legitimacy, observed that “a document of such importance must be carefully authored and must of necessity evolve from the very people and entities whose relationship it seeks to regulate.”
Amosun also stated that, “with the exception of the 1963 Republican Constitution, all other constitutions that we have had in this nation were products of either the colonial rulers or the military.”
While hinting that a new constitution would soon be unveiled to Nigerians, Muhammed said already, members of the National Assembly have commenced the collation of the report of the just concluded public hearings on the amendments of the major grey areas of the 1999 Constitution.
Fielding questions from journalists in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, on the state of the nation, Muhammed said: “There is no constitution that is perfect in the world hence the conduct of the public hearing across the federal constituencies in Nigeria would allow more inputs for service delivery.”
He added that: “Development has provided an opportunity for all and sundry to take part on how they feel the laws that would be guiding them in their day to day governance are made.”
Muhammed, who represent Baruten/Kaima federal constituency from Kwara State at the lower chamber, said: “Among such agitations include, the issue of creation of states, new revenue formular, state police, creation of more local government councils and autonomy of local government councils and the 36 state House of Assemblies in the country.”
In the same vein, the Deputy Leader of the House of Representatives, Hon. Leo Ogor (PDP/Delta) has assured Nigerians of transparency and adherence to due process in the ongoing review of the 1999 Constitution.
Ogor, who gave the pledge, at the weekend, during a chat with journalists, at the National Assembly, said the kind of enthusiasm shown by Nigerians during the just concluded “Peoples Public Sessions” was an indication that the House of Representatives was right in taking the constitution review process to the grassroots.
Ogor, who represents Isoko Federal Constituency, said the leadership of the House and the Ad hoc Committee on Constitution Review would do everything possible to preserve the sanctity of the process and ensure that the will of the people prevailed at the end of the day.
He lamented that the town hall meetings have also become a platforms for political detractors to launch unnecessary campaigns of calumny against legislators, including himself.
Speaking also during the Zonal Executive Council meeting of the party in Enugu, the National Vice- Chairman of PDP, South-east zone, Austin Akobundu, said a situation where the South-east remained the zone with the least number of states was no longer acceptable and as such should be addressed in the course of the ongoing review of the 1999 Constitution.
He noted that the current constitutional amendment exercise had generated great national interest and participation and called on National Assembly members to present and pursue all those aspects of constitutional amendment that are of great interest to their people, particularly the creation of additional States in the South-east geo-political zone.
The party, which also expressed worry over the deplorable state of roads in the South-east zone, which it noted had assumed critical and emergency proportions, urged the Federal Government to rise to the occasion and find a way of keeping to its earlier promises of fixing the roads before long.
Akobundu, however, commended the efforts of the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, and the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Emeka Ihedioha, who are the Chairmen of the committees for constitutional amendment in the Senate and House of Representatives respectively for the good job they are doing.
Meanwhile, the Pro-National Conference Organisation (PRONACO) has described the ongoing constitutional amendment process driven by the National Assembly as a false hope deliberately raised to supplant the popular will of the peoples for a brand new peoples constitution.
Commenting on the series of public hearing held across the country by members of the National Assembly, PRONACO spokesperson, Olawale Okunniyi, said yesterday in Lagos, that while it may be legal for the National Assembly, by the provisions of the 1999 Constitution to amend sections of the constitution such process can never lead to the desired peoples’ constitution.
Okunniyi said since the constitution under review was not owned by the constituents of the Nigeria but foisted on the people by a military government, it would forever remain, in reality, a military decree, no matter the degree of amendments carried out on it
“Under the present constitutional contraption foisted by the military and sustained by opportunistic politicians in government, the current amendment is not likely to make the desired impact of isolating corruption, except the peoples of Nigeria are first allowed to own and restructure their political system and make it less juicy, bogus and ostentatious,” he said.