The Chairman of the Conference of Speakers, Mr Abdulmumin Kamba, said this while transmitting the resolutions of State Houses of Assembly on constitution amendments to the leadership of the National Assembly.
While urging the National Assembly to revisit the issue of devolution of powers in the next constitution alteration exercise, Kamba stressed that it was the wish of the people at the grassroots.
He said that 34 out of 36 state assemblies went through the 29 constitution amendment bills sent to them and concurred with the National Assembly on 15.
According to him, during our interactions with stakeholders at the grassroots on the proposed constitution amendments, they expressed their displeasure on the absence of devolution of powers.
He added that the state assemblies carried out their duties in accordance with the yearnings of the people.
“The process of amending the constitution is more inclusive than exhaustive.
“Section 29 of the constitution defines the role of the state houses of assembly in any alteration exercise.
“In this fourth alteration, just like in the previous ones, state legislators have not only acted expeditiously given the importance of the exercise but also discharged their constitutional duties in line with the yearning and aspirations of the people they represent.
“The alteration exercise has been challenging but worthwhile. We are not however, under any illusion that it will be free of opposition given the experience in the 7th Assembly.
“While we believe that every proposed amendment transmitted to the state houses of assembly by the National Assembly for ratification reflect the yearnings and aspirations of Nigerians, the voting out of bill on devolution of powers was strongly condemned by people at the grassroots.
“Therefore, on behalf of the constituents, we want to plead that the bill on the devolution of power be reconsidered and form part of the next proposed amendments to the constitution,’’ Kamba said.
In his remark, the Speaker, House of Representatives, Mr Yakubu Dogara, stressed that there would never be a solid democracy without an independent legislature.
He commended the state assemblies for approving autonomy for state assemblies, but expressed misgivings over the denial of autonomy for the local governments.
The speaker said all hope was not lost as they could still decide to give their approval when the National Assembly presents it again in the future.
“I must commend you for deciding that the legislature in states should be independent, however, this is not an expression of the opinion of the National Assembly.
“I want to appropriate this as my personal opinion.
“I can say that I am disappointed because I thought that the courage demonstrated by these highly skilled legislators, some of whom are seated before us, would have delivered the long awaited local government autonomy, but unfortunately, maybe our courage didn’t go that far.
“But you see, courage isn’t really the absence of fear, but it is acting in spite of your fears and if it was not because of men and women of courage, I tell you that the democracy itself that we experience now wouldn’t have been possible.
“When William Wilberforce said slaves must be free, he belonged to the party, majority of whom were slave owners and on account of that a revolution started,” he added.
Dogara further said “while most of the measures the National Assembly is seeking to introduce may not be popular, if they stand by them, the kind of future that will come from it will only ensure the deepening of democracy and the progress of Nigeria.
“Just as the financial independence for state legislatures failed the other time, maybe in the next exercise, because our state legislatures are now independent, they will be able to extend this same independence to local governments.
“We all know the benefits of the independence of the third tier,’’ Dogara said.
In his remark, the President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki, said that the devolution of powers being demanded by Nigerians would surely be attended to by the National Assembly as soon as possible.
Saraki urged the State Houses of Assembly to also ensure the passage of constitutional amendment on local government autonomy when sent to them again.
He said, “the foundation of our constitution rests on its ability to strengthen our unity, deepen democracy, engender good governance, and also the enforcement and protection of our peoples’ rights as they go about seeking a better life for themselves.
“These are the crux of the proposed alterations to the constitution which the 8th National Assembly in accordance with the 1999 Constitution sent to the State Assemblies for their approval.
“The conclusion of this process today is another great testament to the growing stature of our democratic practice and the maturity that all of you in this room and those outside have shown.
“I am proud of the value and the patriotism you have exhibited to get us this far. I commend your hard work and your forthrightness.
“The process of amending the constitution is a solemn process that is not flimsily embarked upon. `
“These current amendments which have passed through the last constitutional hurdle will help strengthen the bonds of our unity and our institutions to provide good governance.
“We remain resolved to continue to take on the hard-national issues that hold us down with a view to using all legislative and constitutional measures to resolve them for the welfare and security of our people.
“It is our expectations that with the success of the current exercise and the lessons learned, we are better equipped to take on more constitutional proposals that would give our people greater sense of belonging, safety and oneness including the issues of devolution of powers,’’ Saraki said.