Whither True Federalism As Senate Stands Against Devolution of Powers
The Nigeria News takes a look at some of the alterations made in the 1999 constitution by the senate as it affects true federalism.
The senate stance over devolution of powers in yesterday plenary has moved true federalism far away from Nigeria enduring democracy.
The senate dealt a big blow on the state government that had been clamouring for more powers as it disapproved its rights to handle regulations on railways, collection of stamp duties; regulation of electricity and management of tertiary health institutions.
It was a day the senate altered the 1999 constitution to indirectly address the call for restructuring from some quarters in the country.
It was a day the senate refused to remove from the constitution the Land Use Act, which of course the state had seriously wanted.
It was also the day the senate refused to decongest the exclusive legislative lists but favoured the concurrent to the detriment of the residual powers of the state.
The senate on Wednesday removed the electoral powers of the state to organize election for local governments and gave it to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
By so doing, state Independent Electoral Commission is abrogated and its functions given to INEC.
The senate went further to stop state/local government joint account to give the local government autonomy to get its funds from the Federation account without necessarily waiting for the state government.
Out of the 32 bills presented, the senate ensured that issues bordering on restructuring were quashed and as the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki put it, the alterations so far carried out would stabilize the polity.
The senate also ensured that any vice president or deputy governor that has been sworn in as president or governor due to the death of the president or governor will not be entitled to contest for second term in office.
The senate also approved new ages for candidate who seek elective posts. According to new law, anybody seeking for the position of president must be 35 years and above instead of the former 40 years and above.
For senate, it is now 30 instead of 35 while House of Representatives and house of assembly is put at 25 instead of the former 30 years.
Another important law is the approval of independent candidacy as against the former rule that any candidate aspiring must belong to a political party.
The senate also approved financial autonomy for State House of Assembly, which of course is another blow to the state government.
While the lawmakers see this as a great leap in the search for true democracy, the presidency cannot. The senate ensured that it removed the powers from the president to make law and arrogated more to itself.
With the new law, the National Assembly expects any elected president to submit names of all his ministers with their portfolios for approval.
Disturbed by the various amendments, the Pan Yoruba Socio-political group, Afenifere described the decisions of the senate as efforts in futility.
Speaking through his National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, the group said that the senate had left the real issue of resource control and restructuring out of the amendments.
To him, Nigeria nationhood depends more on restructuring and resource control, which the senate had refused to address.