Nigerian senators came under fire yesterday for rejecting the devolution of power to states.
The House of Representatives, which voted on some bills yesterday, also rejected power devolution in a bid to amend the constitution.
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Ohanaeze Ndigbo and some senior lawyers slammed the lawmakers for passing “self serving” bills rather than working on issues that affect the polity.
Atiku described the failure of the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led Senate to approve power devolution as a betrayal of the party’s promise.
Atiku, in a statement from his media office in Abuja, described the action as “shocking and saddening”.
He said: “This blockage of the Bill by an APC-led Senate majority is a betrayal of our party’s pre-election promises. It was an important vote and I’m shocked by some so-called progressives’ visceral and cynical opposition to restructuring.”
The former vice president frowned at what he described as the reluctance of democratically-elected lawmakers to remove the insidious structural impediments to development, which decades of military rule had foisted on our nation.
He argued that “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 didn’t know what restructuring was all about, and that even if they knew, it couldn’t be done.
“I think this is disingenuous. 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 Adamawa hopes 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. But 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 back to work,” he said.
The Pan-Igbo Socio-cultural group, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, was disappointed over the decision on power devolution.
President-General Chief John Nwodo, in a statement said:”The barrage of voices in this country lately shows clearly that majority of Nigerians are desirous of the country running a true federal system and one expected the NASS to have appreciated this in all their actions especially in constitutional amendment,” Nwodo said.
The Ndigbo umbrella body counseled the National Assembly that rather than go into constitutional amendment at this time that the mood of the country was tuned towards total restructuring, they should have concerned themselves in making the legislative enactment to empower the convening of a national conference for real constitutional drafting.
He said any action by either the executive or legislator that does not address the agitation of Nigerians would not yield results.
”Any action whether legislative or executive in this country today that is not programmed to respond to the yearnings of the populace will amount to exercise in futility.
”Ohanaeze therefore urges the National Assembly and other legislative levels involved in the constitutional amendment in the country to put the interest of the country first and ensure that its actions are such that would help to douse the tension and stabilise the country,” the statement said.
The group urged the National Assembly to revisit the 2014 Conference Report which implementation had generated heated argument among the political class.
”Ohanaeze finally charged all the legislative bodies involved in constitutional amendment to consider seriously the 2014 Confab report if they really desire political progress and stability for the country,” the statement added.
Senior lawyers also criticised the National Assembly’s constitutional review move.
Mr Femi Falana (SAN) said: “If the amendment is passed, it will not affect the on-going review of the Constitution as it cannot have a retrospective effect.
“The proposed amendment bill will have to be signed into law by President (Muhammadu) Buhari. If he withholds his assent, the votes of two-thirds majority of the National Assembly members and 24 states will be required to pass the proposal.”
Mr. Babatunde Fashanu (SAN): “I take the position of my teacher, Professor Akin Oyebode, of the Faculty of Law, University of Lagos, that what the National Assembly should be doing right now is to be deliberating on and enacting laws for the setting up of a Constituent Assembly to produce a brand new constitution.”
Mr. Sebatian Hon (SAN) also said: “It is not well intended. It is a sharp break from our constitutional history of amending the constitution. The Senate needs to convince Nigerians if they have good intentions for introducing that amendment.
Mr. Seyi Sowemimo (SAN) said: “The areas they have dwelt on now, to me, are not really the important areas we require constitutional amendments. They should focus on devolution of powers, restructuring generally, not this other things which they have done.”
But the Indigenous People of Biafra( IPOB) praised the Senate for rejecting the proposed restructuring of the country.
A statement by the group’s spokesperson, Emma Powerful,said: “We are equally thanking them for voting down the controversial call for restructuring that cannot benefit anyone in Nigeria. We Biafrans and other sensible Nigerians can now believe that Northern senators have demonstrated, through their rejection of restructuring that IPOB remains the only legitimate voice that understand the plight of the masses and prepared to do something about it. Only a referendum can resolve the issue of Biafra not restructure. It remains the only way the masses can decide their future in Nigeria.”