President Muhammadu Buhari has recently signed 16 new Bill into law, in a bid to amend parts of the 1999 constitution. This was however disclosed by the Joint Senate and House of Representatives’ Special Ad Hoc Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution. Information from Ahmed Wuse, the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives and a Co-Chairman of the committee indicated that one of the assented Bill included the devolution of power to the state from the federal, with some other items in the constitution also moved to the Concurrent list from the Exclusive Legislative List.
Over the years, there has been numerous arguments by analysts as to why the Exclusive Legislative List, which featured matters designed to be authorized by only the federal government, was extremely heavy and thus, needed to be devolved to the state government. Some of these power devolution Bill that passed the legislative requirements include airports, prisons, power, railways, as well as biometric and criminal records. However, while these Bill were signed to grant the state legislature and judiciary a much needed operational liberty, the state HoA were against the local government sovereignty.
State HoA urged to fulfill their duties of constitution amendment
Reports indicate that about 35 of the 44 Constitution Alteration Bill were transmitted in January by the National Assembly after being passed by the state HoA. In amending a clause in the constitution, it is required that a majority (two-third) of the National Assembly (Senate and House of Representatives) must approve the amendments. Upon this, it is transmitted to the state HoA, where at least 24 of the 36 (two-third) must also approve the Bill.
Of the 36 states, the 27 Houses of Assembly that forwarded their resolutions as regards the Bill include Abia, Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Benue, Borno, Cross River, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Ekiti, Enugu, Imo, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kogi, Lagos, Nasarawa, Niger, Ondo, Ogun, Osun, Rivers and Yobe. The Federal HoR however urged the remaining states to fulfill their constitutionally imposed obligation to the amendment process of the constitution by submitting their own resolutions.
Ayo Adebanjo notes that this development is not the ultimate solution.
A statement from the office of the Deputy Speaker, on Friday, quoted Ahmed Wuse commending the assenting “some momentous legislations”. The Fifth Alteration Bill No. 6, 7, 16 and 17 however dealt with devolving power, enhancing federalism and strengthening the judiciary and state HoA. He appreciated members of the Ninth Assembly for their immense contributions towards ensuring the passage of this legacy legislation. One significant Bill which was also assented was the ministerial nominations of elected presidents and governors. Recall that President Buhari, after winning the 2015 election, took about 6 months after his inauguration, to nominate his cabinet members. This caused a lot of public criticism. However, with this Bill, the president-elect and governor-elect have to submit the list of cabinet members within 60 days of assuming office.
Reacting to this development however, Ayo Adebanjo, the leader of Afenifere, a Yoruba Socio-political organization, noted that whilst this power devolution was a welcome development, it was in no way the ultimate solution to the country’s problems. In an interview, he indicated his disbelief in the amendment, criticizing the president for not signing the State Police Amendment. He also stated that the constitution being amended was the military’s, calling for an acceptance of the 2014 constitutional conference.
Power devolution posed to make the state more functional.
Also reacting to this development was Mr. Olalekan Ojo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, who commended the president and National Assembly and noted that this development would make the state more functional. He explained that Lagos was already showing the lead as to the establishment and control of railways and the power revolution would only give states more power to control certain items. Mr. Afam Osigwe (SAN) also added that this devolution of power would further enhance Nigeria’s federalism.