By Abu Shekara
The Governor of Sokoto State and Chairman PDP Governors Forum, Rt Hon Aminu Waziri Tambuwal says current efforts at restructuring of the country though desirable will not achieve success if they are not channelled through the National Assembly as amendments to the 1999 constitution.
Speaking at the opening plenary of the 26th Nigerian Economic Summit tagged “Building partnerships for resilience” Governor Tambuwal said the nation must avoid a repeat of the mistake of 2015 when a robust attempt by the House of Representatives to amend the constitution was rejected at last minute.
Speaking alongside Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, Funke Opeke; Chief Executive Officer, MainOne and Chidi Ajaere; CEO, The GIG Group in Abuja, Governor Tambuwal who was Speaker of the House of Representatives when the attempt at constitution amendment was made said restructuring can only be done by constitution amendments.
“As it were at the moment, whatever you are going to do about the constitution, has been prescribed by the constitution, how you are going to do it, the Grundnorm” he said pointing out that “the constitution has prescribed how a word in that constitution is going to be amended
“Except of course we are saying we are going to jettison the National Assembly and the State Assemblies, in getting it done, which is not possible” he added.
According to Governor Tambuwal “you can only do that through the introduction of bills at the National Assembly, debates at the National Assembly, public hearings and getting the concurrence of the 36 States Houses of Assemblies”
He said this was what the House of Representatives did in 2015 when it elaborately debated the issues after Nigerians had first debated them and their views collated and synthesised into an Act that was presented to the President Jonathan for assent.
He said that President Obasanjo and President Jonathan’s constitutional conferences failed because their Resolutions were not translated into legislation.
“So, you cannot go outside of the constitution to amend the constitution, so we better came to terms with this realisation and agree to come together and agree on how best we can work together to achieve what the nation desires” Governor Tambuwal told his audience at the summit opening.
“In that effort that we made, we attempted to reduce the items we have in the exclusive legislative list and move them to the concurrent legislative list, things like power, power generation and distribution, railway and a host of others to move them because we realised their importance to sub national development.
“Because as it is today you have to get the permission of the federal government to generate, transmit and distribute power, but if you amend the constitution and move that item to the concurrent legislative list, a state like Sokoto may begin the process of establishing a solar plant with capacity to generate say 20 – 30 Megawatts of electricity and set up another hydro plant and have a mix of power generation that can generate up to 60 Megawatts of electricity enough to power the entire state,
“So also, with railways, if you take it off the exclusive legislative list, states or zones in terms of the 6 geopolitical zones that we have in the country, may come together and establish railway for their people
“We also removed policing from the exclusive legislative list to the concurrent legislative list, which would have allowed states by now to have state police but as it is now you cannot have state police without constitutional amendment.
What we did then was a multifaceted approach to address the lists of challenges Nigeria was facing as at that time in terms of security, power, central and general development,
“Even by removing the issues that had to do with basic education and primary healthcare from chapter 2 that is not justiciable to chapter 4 that is, were landmark decisions that were all made by the 7th House of Representatives to make things easy and possible for implementation by sub national and federal governments.
Governor Tambuwal said the proposed amendments were still on paper and presents a way out for the nation at this time.
“Yes, a way out for now will be to get the bill and represent it to the present national assembly for enactment” he said during the panel discussion
Abu Shekara is Special Adviser, Public Affairs to Sokoto State Governor