House Says Rejection of Power Devolution, A Mistake

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• To be reconsidered in September

James Emejo in Abuja

Apparently feeling the heat of public anger against the killing of the devolution of powers bill by the National Assembly, the House of Representatives has said the legislative act was a mistake that would be corrected upon its resumption from summer vacation in September.

The House spoke thorough its Majority Leader, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, who said the rejection was occasioned by the mistake of lumping many of the powers to be devolved into one single bill, leading to confusion among many members.

Entitled Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, (Fourth Alteration) Bill, No. 3, 2017 (Devolution of Powers), the bill sought to alter the Second Schedule, Part I & II to move certain items to the Concurrent Legislative List to give more legislative powers to states.
It also delineated the extent to which the federal legislature and state assemblies could legislate on the items that had been moved to the Concurrent Legislative List.

But the bill suffered a massive defeat in the Senate with 46 senators in support and 48 against, falling far short of the 74 votes required to pass. Although it made a good showing in the House, scoring 210 against 71 votes, it was still struck down having fallen below the 240 vote-threshold required.

Public reactions were vehemently opposed to the killing of the bill, which was seen as a shortcut to achieving the prevailing and deafening clamour for the restructuring of the country.
So loud was the public outcry against the legislative act that the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, in an attempt to calm frayed nerves had to issue an explanation and a commitment for a review of the decision.

He said many senators struck down the bill due to suspicions actuated by recent hate speeches as well as inadequate consultations, and raised hopes that the decision could be reviewed.
The House followed the same line Tuesday as its leader in a statement said lumping the powers for devolution in one single bill was a mistake that would be corrected in September without fail.

“Many of us will be asking for the issue of devolution of powers to be revisited upon resumption in September,” he said, adding: “It’s either an oversight or mistake for several items to have been lumped under the devolution of powers bill, a situation that led to the defeat of the bill.”

He explained: “There were about nine items, including railways, pensions, arbitration, stamp duties, parks and others under the subhead and members should have voted on each rather than vote in one fell swoop.

“A member may have agreed to certain items for devolution to states and not to others. The way we voted one would never know how to pass judgment on each item,” he recounted.

He added: “I believe each item should stand or fall on its own merit. It is important to note that devolution of powers is baby steps and the simplest form of reconstruction not a surgical dismemberment of our country. We must feel the pulse of the nation in moments like this.”
Many aggrieved groups had registered their grievances against the rejection of the bill, while others had threatened brimstone.

On Monday, the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) had at a press conference addressed by its National Leader and Convener, Chief Edwin Clerk, condemned the killing of the bill, saying it was hostile to the interest of the Niger Delta. The group called for an immediate reconsideration of the bill.
However, Gbajabiamila said Tuesday: “The democratic process was played out as it should be during the voting exercise. However, the process is ongoing and not concluded.”

He said the bill still has a lifeline to succeed, noting: “Under our rules, we do have a mechanism, which allows for rescission of a decision when appropriate or when new unknown facts emerge.
“For me, it was a mistake or oversight to have lumped all items for devolution under one umbrella or subhead titled devolution of powers,” he pointed out.