Barau: Zonal Development Commission Bills Won’t Return Nigeria to Regional Government

Sunday Aborisade in Abuja

The Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Jibrin Barau, has assured Nigerians that the establishment of the zonal development commissions was not a plot to return the country to regional government as it was the practice in the First Republic.

Barau, who is the Chairman, Senate Committee on Constitution Review, gave the explanation in an interview with journalists in Abuja.
Already different bills for the creation of the North West Development Commission, North Central Development Commission, South East Development Commission, and the South West Development Commission are at various stages of legislation at the federal parliament.

The  Niger Delta Development Commission, which is mainly for the oil-rich South-South region and the North East Development Commission are fully operational after the presidential assent.
Barau said the process for the review of the 1999 constitution as amended, had started with his committee already receiving memoranda from different segments of the society.

He said the passage of additional zonal development commission bills in the National Assembly was to enable the government at the federal and sub-national levels to tackle specific problems affecting the various communities.
He said, “We are not asking for regionalism; far from it. When you have a desperate situation, you bring solutions that will assuage the feelings of the people involved and fix the problems.

“If you can have a commission for every community, do it as long as it brings prosperity.”
The Deputy President of the Senate said fresh amendments to the nation’s constitution would meet the wishes and aspirations of Nigerians.
He said, “We will tailor our constitution to meet the wishes and aspirations of the masses. As we speak, we are beginning to prepare the grounds.

“We have already started collating memoranda, and we have started receiving presentations from well-meaning Nigerians.
“This is before we visit the geopolitical zones of this country, where people can come in person or through written presentations to dictate what they feel should be amended in the constitution of this country.

“We are going to listen to them. We are going to aggregate the presentations, assess them, work on them, and put forward those that we feel are in tandem with the aspirations of most of the people. We are up to the task.
“So, they should expect us to have an outcome that will address the aspirations and wishes of the people of this country in terms of the kind of constitution they want.”

Asked whether the bill advocating the country’s return to the parliamentary system of government, sponsored by 60 members of the House of Representatives, would be considered, Barau said all proposals would be tabled before Nigerians.
He added: “That bill on parliamentary system is their sponsors’ views. We have received several presentations concerning what people think should be in our constitution.

“We are going to take that as part of all these solutions. Don’t forget that we have over 200 million Nigerians and will receive several presentations from them – civil society, religious bodies, traditional rulers, professional bodies, etc.
“So, we will get the presentations, work on them, and process them to bring about the needed changes and amendments in the constitution.
“All that we are going to do shall be in terms of the preponderance of the opinions of most of the people of this country. “

Barau said the establishment of the North West Development Commission was necessary to restore hope and peace in the area.
He explained, “In my presentation during the second reading of the bill, I drew the attention of my colleagues to a region that has been bastardised and destroyed by the activities of Boko Haram and bandits.
“The state so affected after Borno – which Boko Haram devastated is Kano – they destroyed so much of our infrastructure and killed several people— and moved to Kaduna, where you have the worst of it all: bandits.

“There is nowhere in this country that the bandits are creating havoc like in the North West geopolitical zone.
“The North West used to be the food basket of the nation. But the bandits have destroyed a whole lot of our farmlands. Think about cotton in Funtua and other parts of Katsina State.
“In Zamfara State, cotton, beans, among others, in Sokoto, Kebbi, you marvel when you see what they could do.

“Now, farms and agricultural infrastructure are destroyed, and people are now devastated in terms of their economic well-being.

“That’s those who have not lost their lives. School infrastructure, hospitals, roads, etc have been destroyed. It’s a terrible situation. This is what has become of the North West.”

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