The Senate Committee on Constitutional Review yesterday said that out of the 61 requests it received from new state agitators, none of them fulfilled the constitutional requirements provided for state creation as enshrined in Section 81 of the 1999 Constitution.
Consequently, the committee has turned down the requests for additional states creation.
Chairman of the committee and Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, who revealed this during the presentation of the report at plenary, also confirmed the recommendation of a six-year single tenure for the President and the Vice-President as well as for governors and their deputies.
In line with the six-year single tenure, the committee recommended that in the event that a serving president or governor is unable to complete his tenure, the tenure will be completed by the vicepresident or the deputy governor who will not be qualified for re-election after completing that tenure.
Section 135(2) of the draft bill states that “Subject to the provisions of section 1 of this section, the president shall vacate his office at the expiration of a period of six years commencing from the date he took his oath of office.”
While section 136(2) states that “Where a vice-president-elect or vice-president succeeds the president-elect or the president in accordance with section (1) of this section, he shall not be eligible to contest for the office of the president in any subsequent election.”
The committee went ahead to specify those who can benefit from the single tenure in section 137(1)(c) where it states that: “A person holding the office of the President or Vice-President, immediately before the coming into force of the alteration of the sections 135 and 136 of this constitution shall not be eligible to contest election for a single term of six years.”
The committee also recommended the separation of the office of the Attorney- General of the Federation or a state from the office of the Minister of Justice or Commissioner of Justice.
In Section 150 of the draft bill, where the recommendation was contained, the committee noted that “There shall be an Attorney-General of the Federation, AGF, who shall be the chief law officer of the federation.”
The AGF in the new dispensation will be appointed by the President subject to the confirmation of the Senate.
The chief law officer of the federation, who shall hold office for a single term of seven years, shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other authority or person in the performance of the functions of his office.
To address the issue of autonomy for the local government councils, the committee recommended the abrogation of the states and local government joint accounts and recommended direct payment to local governments from the Federation Account.
Section 162 of the draft bill states that “any amount standing to the credit of local governments in the Federation Account shall be allocated and paid directly to the local governments for their benefit on such terms and such manner as may be prescribed by the National Assembly.”
The provision goes further to recommend that the amount standing to the credit of the local government without a democratically elected local government council shall not apply to the council.
Furthermore, the committee recommended the removal of the word, “force”, from the Nigerian Police Force and replace it with the word, “service,” to now read, the “Nigerian Police Service.”
The committee, however, acceded to the request of the indigenous people of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, by recommending a mayoral status for the city in Section 299 of the draft bill where it referred to the “Mayoralty of the Federal Capital Territory.”
As part of efforts to decentralise or devolve power to the states, the committee recommended the reduction of the items on the Exclusive Legislative Lists and redistributing same to the Concurrent List.
In line with that, it listed certain items in the Concurrent List. These are Aviation, Environment, Arbitration, Healthcare, Land and Agriculture, Prisons, Public Complaints, Railways, Road Safety, Stamp Duties, Wages and Youths.
As part of recommendations to reposition the judiciary, the committee recommended the removing of the Chief Justice of Nigeria and other serving judicial officers as the chairperson and members respectively from the Federal Judicial Service Commission.
To address the issue of the withholding of presidential assent to bills passed by the National Assembly, the committee recommended in section 58 of the draft bill that, “where the president neglects to signify his assent or that he withholds such assent, the bill shall automatically become law after a period of 30 days.” This way, there is no need for the veto of the president as is currently the case.
In order to engender accountability and efficient service delivery, the committee recommended the provision for State Houses of Assembly, State Independent Electoral Commission, Auditors- General of the state and the Attorney-General of the states to get their funding directly from the State Consolidated Revenue Fund.
The committee stated that after some painstaking analysis of the proposals, comments from stakeholders and strategic partners, reports of experts, feedbacks from the national and zonal public hearings and the bills referred to it, it was clear that some of the bills referred to it were not as comprehensive as required and were rife with ambiguities.
It added that some did not promote the spirit of separation of powers in a presidential system of government, while some proposals are better treated as conventional rather than codified in the constitution.
Subsequently, the committee rejected the bill seeking the establishment of state courts of appeal in the six geo-political zones; the bill seeking to provide for the implementation and execution of the National Assembly resolutions and or approve report of investigations conducted by the National Assembly and the bill seeking to make provisions that will enable the National Assembly to be more effective in the screening of ministerial nominees by ensuring that portfolio is attached to each nominee.
In addition, the committee rejected the bill seeking to prohibit the education of children and wards of public officers abroad on courses offered by institutions in Nigeria save for specialised courses at post graduate levels and a bill seeking the establishment of state police. Instead, it recommended that the preferred approach at this time is to critically look at the current federal police system with a view to sanitising and strengthening it.
It also rejected a special status for Lagos (it noted that such status should be a matter of political decision, which should be kept out of the constitution); ministerial slot for the FCT; rotation of executive offices (this should be a matter of consideration amongst the various political parties); prohibition of foreign accounts and Diaspora voting and state creation.
Meanwhile, the debate on the draft report will start after the Senate resumes from its two-week break, which commences tomorrow.
Senate President David Mark urged members to arm themselves with copies of the draft report and endeavour to study same while on break. He said upon resumption, the Senate will devote some weeks for debate of the report, so that every senator would be given sufficient time to make inputs in the amendment bill because of its importance. He also stated that voting on the bill will not be by voice vote but by individual recognition.