• Differs with Senate on separation of AGF from Justice Minister
• Lawmakers to hold harmonisation conference on differences
• Atiku accuses APC senators of betraying partmises The House of Representatives on Thursday toed the line of the Senate which on Wednesday rejected the devolution of powers, in the ongoing constitution review, as it also rejected the devolution of power to the states, a key ingredient for the much sought restructuring of the nation.
But Reps contradicted the Senate on certain key provisions as it concluded votes on 33 alterations of the 1999 constitution in the amendment proposals. Voting on the provision on yesterday, 191 members of the House voted Yes in favour of devolution of power, while 91 voted No, and 3 abstained. However, despite the majority vote of 191, the amendment was rejected having failed to meet the 240 votes prescribed by the standing rules of the House on constitution amendment.
The House began by amending Bill number 1 on matters of inclusion of former presiding officers of the National Assembly on the National Council of State by including any dismissed former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) in the proviso that disqualifies any impeached former presiding officer and president. The green chamber also disagreed with the Senate on a provision that any Nigerian who has spent a certain number of years in the Federal Capital Territory can be appointed a minister of the Territory by rejecting the clause. The Senate had Wednesday, passed the same amendment during voting exercise on the alteration process of the 1999 constitution.
On the change of some local governments’ names to reflect their true identities in Federal Government records with regard to issues of revenue allocation and other sundry considerations, the House also differed with the Senate which passed the clause on Wednesday. 220 lawmakers voted yes in favour of the amendment, 57 voted no while 8 members abstained. It however failed to sail through, having fallen short of the 240 votes set by the House rules. On the removal of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), and the Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) establishment Acts from the constitution, lawmakers in the House voted to retain them as against the pro-removal votes by the Senate. The only clause which attracted unanimous verdict from both chambers in that class of amendment was the Land Use Act for which they voted to be removed.
On amendment guaranteeing 35percent affirmative action for appointment of women into positions of authority, particularly ministerial appointments, the House favoured the alteration allowing it to pass, even though, the Senate rejected it. Also on the separation of the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation (OAGF) from the Minister of Justice which the Senate approved, the House of Representatives rejected the clause, leaving the two offices under the control of one individual. On the proposal seeking the abolition of State Independent Electoral Commission’s (SIECs) to enable the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) handle all elections from states to local governments, the House of Reps rejected it in opposition to the senate which approved it. In all, the House of Representatives rejected a total of 9 amendments while the Senate rejected 4, to force the composition of a conference committee for the harmonisation of differences before the document can be transmitted to State Assemblies.
Meanwhile, former Vice President and APC chieftain, Atiku Abubakar, has described as shocking and saddening the decision of the APC-led Senate to block the passage of Bill No. 3, which would have granted devolution of power to the states saying it is a lost opportunity. According to a press statement released by his media office in Abuja on Thursday, the Waziri of Adamawa decried the lost opportunity to honour one of the Party’s election promises to bring about change by shifting power closer to the people in the remotest regions of our country. Atiku said, “This blockage of the Bill by an APC-led Senate majority is a betrayal of our Party’s pre-election promise. It was an important vote and I am shocked by some so-called progressive’s visceral and cynical opposition to restructuring”.
Atiku frowned at the reluctance of democratically elected lawmakers to remove the insidious structural impediments to development which decades of military rule had hoisted upon our nation. According to him, “instead of building the foundations for a true federation, a small group of so-called progressive Senators decided to stick with the new party line, pretending they did not know what restructuring is all about, and that even if they knew, it couldn’t be done.
“I think this is disingenuous; and I think it is a sad day for our party. But I am confident the APC will learn the right lesson from this self-inflicted defeat and remember the mission and mandate given to us by the people”. The Waziri also expressed hope that Nigeria’s lawmakers would find the courage to stand by what is right, and not by what serves their personal vanities and political interests. “Let me be clear; restructuring is no panacea to all our nation’s problems. Devolving resources and responsibilities from an overbearing, unresponsive, and ineffective federal government to the states is the first step we must make if we are serious about putting our nation back on track; and our people to work”, he added.
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