Constitution Review: Senate Extends Memoranda Submission till Next Week

  • Total memo now 68 Omo-Agege advises Nigerians to lobby lawmakers for state creation

Deji Elumoye in Abuja

The submission of memoranda by the general public to the Senate committee on constitution review which was scheduled to close on Tuesday has been extended till next week Friday.

This is just as the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Constitution Review, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, advised agitators for additional state creation to be ready to lobby both federal and state legislators as well as other geo-political zones in the country.

THISDAY learnt that the extension of the date for the collection of Memoranda from interested groups and individuals was not unconnected to enormous pressure mounted by various interest groups physically and through telephone calls to the Deputy President of the Senate, Ovie Omo- Agege in his capacity as Chairman of the Committee.

It was gathered that the committee had to go against its earlier plan to stop the collection of Memoranda on Tuesday in line with 14 days grace given for that purpose on August 26, 2020, when it called for submission of memoranda from Nigerians.

A secretariat staff told THISDAY “We were supposed to stop the collection of Memoranda yesterday (Tuesday) or even today (Wednesday), based on the earlier announcement made to Nigerians, but a counter directive has been given that such collection should continue till Friday, September 18, 2020, apparently due to pressures being mounted on the Committee”.

As at close of work on Wednesday, 18 additional Memoranda were submitted in addition to 50 others earlier collected by the committee, making the total number to stand at 68.

Among the Memoranda collected by the Secretariat of the committee on Wednesday, were those from the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Movement for creation of Zuma State out of Niger State, Movement for creation of Savana State out of Gombe, Taraba and Adamawa States.

Others include Yiaga Africa, Okun Development Association, Benue State Government, Concerned Nurses Association of Nigeria, Urhobo Progressive Union and Zontai International, among others

Omo- Agege had in advice on Wednesday to State creation agitators while playing host to the apex socio-cultural umbrella body of Urhobo people in Nigeria (Urhobo Progress Union (UPU), said getting the buy-in of other legislators and groups from other parts of the country are key and very important for such agitations if they are to see the light of the day.

His words: “Let me also make this clear that the constitutional review exercise is not a tea party by any means. It is a very tedious exercise. If you check Section 9 of the Constitution, it lays out a very difficult procedure that you must go through before you can achieve success with respect to the amendment.

“I don’t know what is in your submission but what I hear from the grapevine is that there is a likelihood that UPU is asking for a state. If that is right, I am sure you also know the provisions of Section 8 of the Constitution.

“That is even more tedious than every other procedure because unlike other sections of the Constitution that recognises a constitution amendment bill to pass with a two-third majority of both chambers here and a two-thirds majority of state assembly, for state creation, which is under Section 8, it requires four-fifth of the majority. Even more majority than the regular two-third.

“But that is not to say it is impossible. If the demand is genuine and legitimate, there is no reason why it should not succeed. But you have to do the needful. You have to reach out to others. You have to lobby as to why this should be the case.

“As the Chairman of this committee, I am not supposed to take a position. You have to reach out to people, different geopolitical zones and make your case.

“If they see the merit in your argument, then they could, acting through their members in the House of Representatives and Senate, go with you and vote in support. You have to go out and lobby. You don’t stay at home and they reward you with a free state. It is only in the military that states are created by Fiat. But under democratic set up in the 1999 Constitution (as amended), the procedures are well laid out under Section 9 of the Constitution”.

He assured the UPU representatives that federal lawmakers from the area would not support anti-Urhobo legislation in the National Assembly.

Speaking earlier, leader of the group and Okobaro of Ughievwen Kingdom, HRM Dr. Mathew Ediri Egbi (JP), Owahwa II said the group decided to pay a courtesy call on the Deputy President of the Senate after submitting its memorandum to the Secretariat of the Constitution Review Committee.

He urged Omo-Agege to always protect the interest of Urhobos using his position as the nation’s Number Six Citizen.