Daily Trust (Abuja)

11 November 2012

Nigeria: Constitutional Review - Citizens Reject Rotational, Single Term Presidency

Nigerians yesterday rejected single term presidency, which is being canvassed by President Goodluck Jonathan, during the House of Representatives Public Hearing on the review of the 1999 Constitution at the 360 Federal Constituencies in the country.

Also, in most states, the call for the creation of additional states and the recognition of the six geopolitical zones in the constitution were rejected. So, also, the people rejected the idea of rotating the presidency between North and South, as most of them voted for leadership by merit.

At the various venues of the public hearing, delegates were asked to tick 'yes' or 'no' against each of the 43 aspects of the 1999 Constitution which is being amended by the National Assembly.

In Tambuwal, the Federal Constituency of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the move to have additional states was unanimously opposed.

During the People's Public Session comprising of 350 delegates representing seven districts in the Tambuwal/Kebbe Federal constituency being represented by the Speaker the people voted against it.

The session took place at Girls Commercial Secondary School, Tambuwal's assembly hall.

Delegates overwhelmingly voted against Items 1, 2, and 3, which sought for the creation of additional states in Nigeria. Item 3 states thus: "should a state be created in order to bring parity to the number of states among the geo-political zones?" While Item 2, which sought to know how many states should be created in Nigeria was not supported by the delegates.

In the same vein, Items 4 and 5, which sought to include the six geo-political zones structure in the constitution and make them another tier of government was rejected unanimously.

The proposal for granting of financial autonomy to the 36 state Houses of Assembly was also adopted, together with the one seeking to abolish the "state joint local government account," so that allocations due to the local governments may be paid to them directly. The delegates further voted in favour of Item 13, which would deny revenue allocation to unelected local government councils.

However, Item 11, seeking to give states powers to create local government areas and assume responsibility for their funding was equally rejected. This was in addition to voting to define tenure for the councils in the constitution.

Similarly, the stakeholders unanimously adopted item 16 which is calling for the abolition of State Electoral Commission and vest the powers of conducting all elections in the Independent National Electoral Commission.

However, Item 17, which calls for the removal of the immunity clause for president, vice president, governors and their deputies contained in Section 308 of the 1999 Constitution, was overwhelmingly rejected. They further unanimously rejected Item 19 which sought to amend Section 214 subsection 1 to enable the establishment of state police.

Item 22 of the voting template which states thus: "should a provision be inserted in the constitution for the rotation of the office of the President between the northern and southern parts of Nigeria?" was unanimously rejected by both a resounding nays and show of hand. The same fate befell the proposal for a single tenure of 5, 6, and 7 years for the office of governors and the President, which many believe is an attempt to extend the tenure of President Goodluck Jonathan and the 36 state governors.

Moreso, Items 35 and 36, which sought to allow states keeps 50 percent of revenues from natural resources and increasing oil derivation from the present 13 percent to 20 percent of oil revenues in the Niger Delta, or resource control, was also rejected.

However, the proposal to allow each state determine its minimum wage, state prison service, abolition of the National Youth Service Corps, Land Use Act, lowering qualification age for contesting various elective offices and reserving certain percentage of elective offices for women were all voted against.

However, Item 37, which is advocating for constitutional role for traditional rulers scaled through without any hurdle. Same with issue of independent candidacy, time limit for election cases, separation of the office of the Accountant-General of the Federation and that of the federal government, Attorney General of the Federation and the Minister of Justice were all adopted.

They, however, adopted item 27, which is proposing rotation of the office of the governor of a state between the three senatorial districts.

"This is the first time we are witnessing this kind of situation whereby people at the grassroots are engaged in determining their future and existence as one people and one nation," said Alhaji Mohammed Arzika, a former minister

Speaking to newsmen shortly after the event, Speaker Tambuwal described it as peaceful and transparent, and promised to transmit what the people had voted on to the National Assembly.

In Zaria and Soba federal constituencies in Kaduna State yesterday the delegates kicked against giving role for traditional rulers and single tenure for president.

The two constituencies made their position known during separate hearing held in Zaria and Maigana in Soba local government area, respectively.

The opinion of the two constituencies appeared to be similar in some areas that included rejection of section 135 and 180 for a single tenure for the office of the President and Governors, respectively.

They also rejected the amendment of the constitution to lower the qualifying age for contesting various elective offices in the country.

Also, the two constituencies rejected the amendment to allow for parliamentary system of government to substitute the present presidential system.

The congregation also discarded the derivation component of revenue allocation to be increased to at least 20 per cent.

The constituencies, however, accepted that section 162 be amended to abolish states and local governments' joint account.

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