By Uche Anichukwu, Special Adviser (Media) to the Deputy President of the Senate.
…Says devolution of powers key to infrastructural development
The Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, has expressed optimism that proposed amendments to the 1999 Constitution recently rejected by the National Assembly could still meet the constitutional threshold to become part of the Nigerian constitution when revisited.
Ekweremadu, who commended his colleagues for approving about 95 per cent of the recommendations presented by his Committee, said that it was not the end of the road for the failed alteration bills since constitution amendment was a continuum, noting that further consultation as well as understanding of the issues was needed.
The Senator, who also chairs the Senate Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution spoke during a consultative meeting on South East infrastructural development with a delegation of the Partnership to Engage, Reform, and Learn (PERL) and the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) led by PERL’s Team Leader, Dr. Adiya Ode in Abuja.
He said: “We commend our colleagues for their understanding and ensuring that about 95 per cent of the amendments we proposed to them scaled through.
“We are also conscious of the fact that Nigerians are worried about some of the recommendations that did not pass. Let me use this opportunity to further appreciate and reassure Nigerians that we are sensitive to their feelings and that we are likely going to revisit some of the issues they are concerned about when we return from our vacation.
“Some of the issues did not scale through because there is need for fuller understanding as well as more consultations and consensus building on them and their implications for our people”.
Ekweremadu reiterated that devolution of more power to the federating units would quicken infrastructural development in the country.
He added: “No doubt, your studies on South East were right because the region is indeed highly challenged, especially in the areas of transport infrastructure such as roads, railway, seaport. We are also challenged in the areas of power.
“That is why we in the Committee on Constitution Review believe we mean well when we talk about things like devolution of power. Our view is that some of these things should be moved from the Exclusive List to the Concurrent List so that while the Federal Government is making efforts, the States too will be making efforts either individually or in clusters or partnership with one another.
“That was why we took things like power to the Concurrent List so that States can generate power, transmit, and distribute power. The same goes for railway, which is still the exclusive preserve of the Federal Government. That way, Nigeria can effectively speed up socio-economic development in all parts of the country.
“Unfortunately, some of these issues were misunderstood. But it is not the end of the road. We believe that with more engagements, the issues will be better appreciated and we are positive about more favourable dispositions when we revisit them. As leaders we all have our eyes on the future and are committed to building a better Nigeria for posterity”.
Earlier in her remarks, the Team Leader of PERL, Dr. Ode, commended the National Assembly for voting in favour of autonomy for Local Governments and State Houses of Assembly, while also calling for greater support for gender mainstreaming and other amendments that would speed up national development.
She said PERL and DFID were currently working to address infrastructural deficits that impede the business environment in the South East and sought the support of the Deputy President of the Senate towards convening political leaders of the region to discuss issues that would aid the development of the region.
Meanwhile, Ekwremadu’s reassurance comes on the heels of an earlier one by the President of the Senate, Senator Bukola Saraki that the National Assembly had not yet foreclosed some constitution amendment bills that were not approved by the federal legislature, recently.