12 October 2012

Nigeria: As Constitution Review Hearing Opens, State Creation, State Police Top Agenda

Photo: D. Hakes/Carter Center Photos
Two women wait to vote.

The Senate opened a public hearing on constitution amendment yesterday with divisive issues of state creation, state police, revenue allocation and tenure of executive officers taking the front burner.

Other items billed for discussion, according to Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, are constitutional recognition of the six geopolitical zones, local government system, rotation of offices, immunity clause, judicial reforms, mayoral status for FCT, devolution of powers and indigeneship.

The two-day hearing is organised by the Senate constitution review committee, chaired by Ekweremadu, to collate views of the public on the issues slated for amendment.

State creation and state police, as well as most of the other items billed for debate have been contentious and divisive.

Senate President David Mark said the National Assembly has no hidden agenda in the review process.

"In this most solemn of task, the National Assembly neither harbours any presumptions, hidden agenda, preconceptions, nor an intention to foist a fait accompli," he said while declaring the session open.

"It is the ultimate synthesis of the desires of the people of Nigeria, analysed and carefully considered in the context of modern realities, that will prevail. What the Senate will certainly resist is any attempt by a vocal minority to tyrannically hijack the process and impose its views on the majority."

Ekweremadu, who has been accused of trying to exploit the constitution review process to create a new state from the Southeast, warned against what he called unfounded imputation of motives which "will only envenom the process and make consensus building difficult, if not impossible."

"We must all be willing to give and also to take. More also, even that which we may be tempted to clutch tightly as our personal, group, sectional and institutional advantages may not necessarily guarantee our happiness and prosperity because the peace and prosperity of a part can best be guaranteed by the peace and prosperity of the whole. Equity and justice are the parents of peace and unity, just as peace and unity are the springboards of lasting prosperity," he added.

No to state police

In his submission, Inspector-General of Police Mohammed Abubakar said Nigeria is not yet politically ripe for state police.

Abubakar, who was represented by Chief Superintendent of Police David Abua, said the existing police force has not failed to collaborate with the state governments on security matters.

"The force has been co-operating with the states on this, but no man can satisfy everyone.

"Nigeria is not politically mature for state police now. Our peculiarities are different from those of other countries. State police will cause rivalry and unnecessary competition in Nigeria.

"Funding is the major problem, and that is why people are calling for state police. If our central police force is properly funded, it would be able to perform well," he said.

Director-General of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Brigadier-General Nnamdi Okorie-Afia said the corps would be weakened and its capacity to foster national unity eroded if the NYSC Act is expunged from the constitution.

"The need for national unity is more paramount now more than ever before. Therefore, a platform such as NYSC which will continue to give our youths a better understanding of Nigeria should be allowed to remain in the constitution," he said.

The Senate has so far received a total of 231 memoranda for the amendment of the 1999 constitution in addition to 56 others proposing the creation of new states, Ekweremadu said.

He said memoranda and presentations for and against state creation would be taken at the national public hearing, while those proposing state creation would be taken at the zonal public hearings coming up next month.

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