UPDATED: Houses of Assembly back devolution of powers, criticise National Assembly

Speaker Kebbi House of Assembly, Abdulmumin Kamba, presenting the state assemblies' constitution amendment report to Senate President, Bukola Saraki {Photo credit: Bukola Saraki's Twitter handle]

Houses of Assembly in Nigeria have condemned the National Assembly for rejecting the devolution of power in the ongoing constitutional amendment.

The chairman of the speakers of Houses of Assembly, Abdulmumin Kamba, said this in his remark before presenting the constitutional amendments of state assemblies to the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, on Thursday.

Mr. Kamba, said the state assemblies ‘condemned’ the position of the National Assembly.

Mr. Kamba, who is the speaker of the Kebbi State House of Assembly, appealed to the federal legislators to rescind their decision on the issue.

The Senate in 2017 rejected a proposal for devolution of power by 90 to five votes. The House of Representatives also supported the Senate in rejecting the proposal.

“While we believe every proposed amendment transmitted to the state Houses of Assemblies for ratification reflects the yearnings and aspirations of the people, the voting out of the bill on devolution of power by the National Assembly, which was part of the original work by this assembly, has been strongly condemned.

“Therefore, on behalf of our constituents, we want to plead that the bill on devolution of powers be reconsidered and form part of the next proposed amendment to the Constitution,” Mr. Kamba said on Thursday.

The Senate President, Mr. Saraki, said the amendments will strengthen various systems in the country.

“We all know that with the foundation of a constitution rest on its ability to strengthen our unity, deepening our democracy, good governance, protection of people’s right and that is what we’ve done is this amendment.

“With this amendment, we have done things to strengthen our electoral process, we have done everything to strengthen our budgeting process, we have also more importantly strengthened our judiciary.”

On devolution of powers, Mr. Saraki said the process of the amendment has not ended.

“There are other areas of course, that we all know; devolution of powers, and others, I’m happy to let you know that as we have promised Nigerians after the first exercise, we are not going to stop, it’s a continuous process and we have not stopped. We have set up a joint committee both in the House and the Senate to look at the areas where we have differences,” he said.

He expressed disappointment at Lagos and Rivers states’ decision not to participate in the process.

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, thanked the state lawmakers for adopting independence of the legislature at the local level.

“I want to thank you for the courage at least for acceding to the independence of legislature at the local level. This is a very remarkable departure from the position in the past. In previous assemblies where the national assembly decided that it was good for legislature at the state level to be independent, I overheard one of the speakers then incidentally is now a member of the national assembly saying that it wasn’t the original intent of the framers as if they confirmed to him that the legislature at the local and at the state level should be independent. Currently, they turned it down.”

He backed the state lawmakers in their clamour for devolution of powers while condemning them for opposing local government autonomy.

“I must commend you that the legislature of the state level should be independent. However, this is not expression of the opinion of national assembly. I want to appropriate it as my personal opinion. I will say that I am a bit disappointed because I thought with the courage, the most rated by this highly skilled legislators, some of whom are seated before us, we would have delivered the long awaited local government autonomy but unfortunately maybe our courage did not go that far.”

The chairman of the ad-hoc committee on constitution review and Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Lasun Yusuf, also supported power devolution.

“Constitutional amendment is a continuous process. Because after the exercise, particularly the one we carried out at the National Assembly, there was a renewed agitation in terms of restructuring. In the last exercise by the National Assembly, we called it devolution of powers and what does that mean? To go to the exclusive list of the constitution itself, because we believe that that place is too heavy and concentrated, and try to remove some of these parts and devolve it to state level. So, because of that, Nigerians have come to understand that they are not alone in clamouring for devolution of power,” he said.

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