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NASS accuses governors of truncating constitutional amendment

Police leading decedent Senators to truncate democracy – PDP caucus

The National Assembly on Tuesday accused the 36 state governors of attempts to truncate the ongoing constitution review process embarked upon by the federal legislature.

Ovie Omo-Agege, deputy president of the Senate and co-chairman of the National Assembly Ad-hoc committee on constitution review, made this allegation while addressing journalists in Abuja.

Omo-Agege lamented that after six months the National Assembly transmitted 44 constitutional amendments bills to the State Houses of Assembly, 25 were yet to consider and vote on the pieces of legislation.
He said, instead the Conference of Nigeria Speakers in a letter threatened not to pass the 44 Constitution review bills transmitted to them by the National Assembly until four bills they have proposed are passed.
These are bills to establish state police; state judicial council; streamline the procedure for removing presiding officers of State Houses of Assembly; and, institutionalise legislative bureaucracy in the constitution.
Omo-Agege, who spoke in unison with Ahmed Idris-Wase, the speaker of the House of Representatives and co-chairman of the Ad-hoc committee, however said, 11 State Houses of Assembly have so far passed the amendment bills transmitted to them.
“So far, only Abia, Akwa-Ibom, Anambra, Delta, Edo, Kaduna, Katsina, Kogi, Lagos, Ogun and Osun States have successfully considered, voted on, and forwarded their resolutions on the 44 bills to the National Assembly.
“More worrisome is that while we are still expecting the receipt of the resolutions of the remaining Houses of Assembly, we received a letter from the Conference of Speakers of State Assemblies informing the National Assembly that the remaining states will not act on the 44 Bills unless the National Assembly passes four new Bills they have proposed in the letter.
“We want to ensure everyone understands this: the National Assembly is in no way averse to acting on any proposed Bill or memoranda appropriately tabled before it, at any time in its life. However, it is legally inappropriate for the Conference of Speakers to use the four Bills as a quid pro quo to act on the 44 Bills the National Assembly 44 Bills transmitted. It is clear, and we cannot overstate, that this letter is not in keeping with the obligation the Constitution has placed on them regarding the Constitutional amendment.

“Let us be clear, the Bills the National Assembly transmitted to the State Houses of Assembly as required by the Constitution are not about members of the National Assembly. It transcends our personal and political interests. It is about the people who have graciously given us_ the temporary privilege to serve them. The offices and positions we each hold belong to the people. And they yearn for a government that is honest, accountable, and responsive to their needs,” he stated.

Omo-Agege also said it was disheartening that some State Houses of Assembly, through the Conference of Speakers, would give the National Assembly conditions before fulfilling their constitutional obligations.
He said, although the Conference of Speakers did not allude to it in their letter, the National Assembly is aware of the undue interference with legislative processes and the political capture of some State Houses of Assembly by some State Governors.

The deputy senate president alleged that some state governors have worked tirelessly to turn the Conference of Speakers and some State Assemblies into political puppets, thereby undermining and de-legitimizing the legislative institution at the state level.

He said this interference has been ramped up, especially in opposition to the bills granting financial and administrative autonomy to local governments.

Read also: Senate holds public hearing on constitutional amendment across geo-political zones

“An independent state legislature is essential to the well-being of Nigeria’s constitutional democracy. That is why the ongoing attempt by some State Governors, with the support of some Speakers and allies in the State Houses of Assembly, to eliminate that independence should alarm all Nigerians. This posturing by the Conference of Speakers of State Assemblies should be shown for what it truly is — a total disregard for the Nigerian constitutional system.

“It remains true that each State House of Assembly is independent of the other. However, Constitution amendment Bills require the approval of two-thirds (24) of the 36 States House of Assembly before they can be presented for the President’s assent. Therefore, how a State Assembly decides on each of the Bills is its prerogative. But, there must be a decision for citizens to know where each State House of Assembly stand on the issues the Bills seek to address.

“Please permit us to use this opportunity to appeal to citizens, civil society organizations, interest/professional groups and institutions to prevail on the Conference of Speakers to withdraw their threat to truncate the constitution amendment process. Instead, we should all speak up to defend our Constitution and democracy.

“Suppose we ignore this brazen attempt by some Governors to truncate a constitutional process. In that case, we will ultimately be enablers of the undermining of a critical bulwark of our democracy — which we should not be.

“While we use this medium to applaud all State Houses of Assembly that have successfully considered and approved the Constitution Alteration Bills, we also urge the remaining 25 State Houses of Assembly to keep faith with Nigerians and the Constitution they swore to uphold. May we all honour our pledge to Nigerians to build and reform by listening to the people,” he added.

Speaking further on the proposal for state police by the sub-nationals legislature, Omo-Agege said: “Some of those governors clamouring today for state police in their states have not been able to pay salaries. Some are owing for months. But they want state police.

“What does that entail? Placing guns in the hands of new set of employees, there would be a new set of employees and you now put guns in their hands. And if you don’t pay their salaries in months, what happens? Some of them may decide to rent these guns to armed robbers for business in return for money. These are legitimate fears.
You need to disabuse the minds of people.”

The deputy senate president also said, some members of the National Assembly cannot even go home for fear of the governors who do not even control the police since it is a federal agency but because of the influence they wield over the police bosses in their various states, they can stop lawmakers from entering their states for politicking.

“Those are also legitimate fears. They need to come and have interaction with our colleagues to disabuse their minds that these fears are justified. I am not saying those are my fears but those are fears out there. They have not done enough work or lobbying. They have to convince members of the National Assembly,” he noted.