- Lagos, Rivers shun voting, as state speakers demand re-introduction of Devolution of Power Bill
Damilola Oyedele in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari must grant assent to the 15 constitution alteration bills recently transmitted to him by the National Assembly, as the amendments are a true reflection of the wishes of Nigerians, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, has said.
Dogara said this while speaking at a ceremony thursday where the Conference of Speakers of state parliaments, formally transmitted their resolutions on the 1999 Constitution amendment to the leadership of the National Assembly.
â€œI do not think that it will be right at this level, after passing through these processes for these bills to be returned without passing them into law. The president is a popular person. What we have done reflects the wishes of the people. The president must do the wishes of the people who put him in that office,â€ Dogara said.
The Speaker however lamented that the state assemblies rejected the local government autonomy bill, particularly when considering that the importance of the third tier of government to development.
He expressed hope that the state assemblies which have now been granted autonomy by the current alteration, would grant same to local government in the next round of constitution amendment exercise.
â€œDemocracy does not work until the people utilise the tools. If democracy works or fails, it is the people. For giving nod to the independence of state assemblies, this is remarkable. Our firm belief is that the bulk of our people live at the state levels. If democracy does not work well there, Nigerians will be short changed,â€ Dogara stated.
Senate President, Bukola Saraki, in his address, revealed that Rivers and Lagos States did not participate in the constitution amendment exercise.
Saraki did not say what prompted the decision of the two state Houses of Assembly, but noted that such action is not good for democratic processes.
â€œEven if we are disappointed in certain things, it is a process. I hope that they will participate in the next round,â€ he added.
Saraki further stated that the 1999 Constitution alteration process is a continuous one, and steps have already begun to reintroduce the bills that were defeated at the last voting round.
â€œWhen we made this promise at the beginning of the eighth Senate, we were not sure. We have been able to achieve a lot. There are other areas like the devolution of powers. We have set up a joint committee from the Senate and the House of Representatives to work on areas of differences. In the next few days, we will get back to work,â€ he added.
The Chairman of the Conference of Speakers, Hon Abdulmumuni Kamba, expressed disappointment that the devolution of powers bill was defeated at the National Assembly level.
Kamba, who is the Speaker, Kebbi State House of Assembly, urged that the bill be reconsidered and reintroduced into the next round of the amendment exercise.
â€œThis is in line with the yearnings of the people. Voting out devolution of powers has been strongly condemned by the people at the grassrootsâ€™â€
â€œThe journey has been challenging and we are not under any illusion that it would be easy given the opposition in the seventh assembly,â€ he said.
It should be recalled that the National Assembly transmitted 29 clauses to the state assemblies, who passed 15 of them.