Constitution Review: Forget New States – Senators

Constitution Review: Forget New States – Senators

Constitution Review: Forget New States – Senators
As the National Assembly resumes from its Easter recess, indications have emerged that creation of new states in the fresh amendment of the 1999 Constitution may be a mirage after all.

Also, consideration of a single term tenure of six or seven years for both the President and his deputy, the governors and their deputies, may have been foreclosed in the Senate.

Daily Sun checks in the federal legislature showed that despite promises by National Assembly joint Constitution Review Committees (CRC), creation of new states by the Seventh National Assembly may not scale through.

Demand for new states has shot up from the initial 46 in the Sixth National Assembly to 56, at the last count. A ranking member of the Senate CRC told Daily Sun yesterday that “the Senate has no agenda in state creation. If we ever had an agenda, then, Senate has no position on the issue…”

Asked whether the Upper Legislative Chamber was also considering the single term of six or seven years as proposed by President Goodluck Jonathan, the Senator, who declined to be named, replied: “We have never sat down to say this is what we want to do concerning either state creation or single term. It was never on our agenda, please.”

Other sources on the Senate CRC disclosed that there had been no “meaningful step taken towards creation of new states. In fact, the body language of members during our CRC meetings indicated that state creation is a cumbersome process which nobody wants to touch for now.

“Besides, this Constitution amendment process will wind up in the third quarter of 2013; so, there really is no time to commence any work on creation of states…”

Regardless, the Senator Ike Ekweremadu-led CRC is set to consider a 16-pronged agenda in the fresh exercise. In addition to state creation, other clauses to be considered in the new Constitution are: devolution of powers; entrenchment of the six geo-political zones, recognition of the role of traditional rulers and local governments.

Ekweremadu had earlier explained that any section of the country that wants a new state must necessarily go through the constitutional provisions, failing which such requests will not scale through.

“Any group that wants a state can necessarily start the process without any requirement of a committee of the Senate or the House of Representatives dealing with the issue of Constitution amendment.

“It’s something that can completely run its own course without involving the committee. Now, what is going on really is that Nigerians are making their requests on state creation based on the fact that they believe that, maybe, these two committees, the Senate and the House of Representatives, can come up with criteria that would now favour them and I’ve explained this, we are supposed to make laws for order and good governance of this country and I believe that in doing so, as part of this exercise, what we can naturally do is; we have 56 requests for states creation and as responsible citizens of Nigeria, we can advise our colleagues on how many states can possibly be created and if the system can sustain it.

The Deputy Senate President reiterated that the Senate is committed to giving Nigerians a new Constitution this July.

Meanwhile, it was also gathered that in preparation for the July deadline, the Senate CRC is planning an exclusive retreat where “all issues thrown up during the public hearings would be thoroughly thrashed out and put to a debate.

“We will debate the issue at the retreat and whatever decisions we take will be forwarded to the state Houses of Assembly and their decisions would also be brought back to the floor of both houses of the National Assembly for further debate and only those issues that are backed by two-thirds of both houses would scale through.”

The retreat will take place in Lagos next month.

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