Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo Agege, has said the stance of President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, and certain principal officers of the Red Chamber who have strong reservations about restructuring would not jeopardise the outcome of the Constitution Review exercise to be conducted by the upper legislative chamber.
Senator Omo Agege, who is the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Constitution Review made the clarification on Monday while briefing journalists ahead of zonal public hearings to be conducted by his team.
The zonal public hearings are expected to hold in 2 centres in each of the 6-geo-political zones in the country.
Checks revealed that the President of the Senate had recently while reacting to demand for restructuring by the Governors of the southern part of the country at the end of their meeting held in Asaba, Delta State capital asked the governors to first initiate restructuring at their respective states before requesting the central government to initiate the process.
In the same vein, former Nasarawa State governor and Senator representing Nasarawa West, Abdullahi Adamu, accused the governors of betrayal of trust, as he claimed that their demand was indicative of a gang up against President Muhammadu Buhari.
Further checks revealed that Senator Adamu will chair the North Central public hearing on the Constitution amendment to hold in Jos where citizens of North Central states of Plateau, Benue and Nasarawa are expected to ventilate their views.
The Deputy Senate President, however, assured Nigerians that the lawmakers’ individual positions would not be an encumbrance to the position to be taken by Nigerians as he noted that each of the lawmakers is entitled to one vote on the floor of the Parliament where the debate on the thematic issues in the proposed amendment would be taken clause by clause.
He said: “Constitution review is a major plan of the 9th Senate and I can assure you that Senator Ahmed Lawan is not against anything, he is not against restructuring. Restructuring is just one aspect of several aspects of this constitution review and it also depends on what you mean by restructuring and who is speaking to that.
“I can assure you that the Senate President has not taken any position, he is entitled to his views like any of us, he is in support of what I am doing and you can take this to the bank that we will have an exercise that the Nigerian people will be glad.”
Asked to respond to the cynicism trailing the proposed amendment as Nigerians expressed the fear that President Muhammadu Buhari would deny the amendment the vital Presidential assent, the Senator representing Delta Central expressed the confidence that the amendment would enjoy the blessings of President Buhari if completed within the scheduled time.
He said: “The exercise is not a jamboree, it will be incremental. By the time we succeed in this exercise, God willing, it will be the 5th alteration.
“In the assurance that President Buhari will sign, he said it depends on the bills. The President, as the head of the Executive, has the constitutional power to decide what to support or not, while we also exercise section 4 rights to put together the bills for him. He could decide to sign or decline assent. But he has given assent in the past. It is my hope and expectation that most of these bills will get presidential approval.”
Senator Omo Agege told newsmen that his Committee had received over 250 memoranda on various issues which include, Gender Equity, Power devolution, local government autonomy, Public Revenue, Fiscal Federalism and Revenue Allocation, Constitutional Provision for the Establishment of State Police, Electoral Reform, amongst others.
The Deputy Senate President said the 9th Senate chose amendment of the 1999 Constitution as part of its legislative agenda “to address fundamental governance challenges. Others have called on the National Assembly to initiate bills that will devolve more powers to the States and address the security challenges in the country.
“This constitution amendment process is an attempt by the National Assembly to respond to these demands within the context of the powers conferred on it by the Constitution in a manner that will further strengthen our democracy. We are using this opportunity to call on Nigerians to effectively engage the process and present their demands or recommendations for consideration by the National Assembly. Democracy is a process of consultation and constructive engagement, so let us all leverage on this platform to build the country of our dream.”
Senator Omo Agege said the Senate decided not to wait for the House of Representatives for a joint zonal public hearing on the Constitution amendment as he noted that both Chambers have a separate calendar.
He, however, offered a hint of the paucity of the fund as he disclosed that the budgetary provision for the exercise was yet to be approved.
“In 2021 budget, we have not received an appropriation yet due to some oversight so we are still working on the 2020 budget and we are hoping that during the supplementary exercise, we will be accommodated.”