The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Femi Gbajabimila has declared that the country is in an intense battle for survival, as it contends with an avalanche of problems.
The helmsman of the Green Chamber’s view was contained in his remarks at the inauguration of the House of Representatives Special Ad-Hoc Committee on the review of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
He said, “When you ask me what the state of our nation is, the honest answer is this: we are in a fight for the very survival of our country and the continuation of the Nigerian project.
“Recent global developments have exposed all our systemic weaknesses so that we can no longer pretend to ourselves that things are on an even keel and slow progress is enough to get us to where we ought to be yet are still so far away from”.
According to him, “We are commencing this constitutional review process at a time of great and ongoing upheaval in our country. New challenges emerge daily from every corner.
“Some of these challenges are of our own making, and others, we could not have foreseen or been prepared for. Whichever may be the case, the Nigerian people look up to us as a government to proffer solutions that work, to do the heavy lifting of writing a new constitution, one better suited to our current aspirations and reflect our vision of the future”.
The speaker opined that “the answer to many of our development questions lies in the pages of a new Nigerian Constitution. This 9th House of Representatives has since committed to the cause of reform. Our commitment must neither waver nor wane on the matter of thoughtful and fair overhaul of our nation’s Constitution.
“The reality of our current circumstances and the now certain knowledge that only us can save ourselves imposes on us an obligation to act with greater determination and all the urgency this moment calls for”.
He assured that the House would take the issue of electoral reforms very seriously, adding that “overcoming our overwhelming national security challenges now requires of us all that we be willing to accept new approaches and consider novel ideas”.
He warned that “neither the security institutions nor political leaders can afford to hold on too tightly to a status quo whose frustrating limitations are painfully evident, whilst reflexively rejecting innovations that may improve our fortunes if properly implemented”.
In his welcome address, Deputy Speaker and Chairman of the Special Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution, Hon Ahmed Idris Wase, disclosed that the House would consider the creation of states, state police, true federalism, local government and judicial autonomy in the review of the 1999 Constitution.
He said, “Let me start by stating that the need and importance of reviewing our extant constitution cannot be overemphasized as a vast majority of Nigerians consider the 1999 Constitution, a product of military exigency, and that the reference to ‘We the people’ in the Constitution does not truly represent them. Various political actors have, therefore, been advocating for a serious review”.
According to the deputy speaker, “There have been several attempts to amend the 1999 Constitution, yet the agitations for a much more fundamental amendment has not stopped.
“This is because there are very critical aspects of our Constitution that touch on our continued existence as a strong, indivisible nation. Until these critical areas are resolved, we may continue to face clamour for a new Constitution.
“Therefore, in order to achieve the much-needed success by the 9th Assembly, there are pertinent areas that must be looked into. These are burning issues that have been left to burn for so long without giving them the much-needed attention”.
He said “The federal structure (true federalism), local government autonomy, state policing, state creation and judicial autonomy”.
He said, already over 15 constitution alteration bills have been referred to the committee touching on these broad thematic areas.
Wase observed that “Despite the fact that Nigeria prides herself as a ‘federal state’, it is sadly evident that it is far from what federalism entails.
“Some have stated that our federal system is more unitary than federalist, especially with the number of items on the exclusive legislative list where the Federal Government regulates even simple items like primary education and agriculture. Hence, there has been a clamour for more devolution of powers from the centre to the states in order to make states more viable and economically sustainable”.
On local government, he said, “As a third-tier government, all local governments are supposed to be independent. However, we have not seen such independence in a long time. Arguably, the framers of the 1999 Constitution, created a worrisome situation by giving validity to the existence of 3.162 (6), which prescribes the ‘State and local government joint account’”.
On state police, the deputy speaker said “While internal security is of paramount importance, the concentration of the power of the police at the central government has created several policing challenges at the states.
“While some have advocated for the creation of state police, others have expressed worry on the possible abuse of such power by state governors.
“However, one thing that is clear is the need for us to take a second look at our internal security superstructure in order to make it work for our people and protect their lives and properties”.
Speaking on the agitation for state creation, he stated that, “It is pertinent to note that the current 36 states of our federation were created via military decrees. Hence the true wishes and aspirations of the people were never considered in such creations.
“There is a need, therefore to examine the subject of state creation (and the associated constitutional rigours and difficulties surrounding it) in such manner as to reflect the wishes and aspirations of homogenous people in a democratic system”.
The ad-hoc committee chairman noted that, “The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) guarantees the independence of the Judiciary in the country, including state courts.
“Unfortunately, state courts (judiciary) in Nigeria and of course legislatures have over the years relied on the executive for their funding. This is clearly antithetical to the principle of separation of powers as guaranteed under the constitution”, he stated.
Don’t Hide Under Guise Of Curfew To Shut Operations, RSG Warns Banks, Others
The Rivers State Government has warned companies, business operators and financial institutions in the state not hide under the guise of the curfew imposed by the government to shut down operations that may help undermine the economy of the state.
The warning comes on the heels of attempts by some firms, business owners and financial institutions to close their doors to customers in the state following the imposition of 24-hour curfew by the state government on the entire Oyigbo Local Government Area, and some parts of Port Harcourt City and Obio/Akpor local government areas.
The government’s action, last Wednesday, was sequel to some untoward criminal activities and attempts to cause chaos and breakdown of law and order by certain unscrupulous elements, ostensibly hired by enemies of the state to disrupt the peace currently being enjoyed by residents of the state.
In a statement by the state Commissioner for Information and Communications, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim, the government warned that any entity found to have taken advantage of the directive to subject the people of the state to any unnecessary hardship would be resisted, and those culpable sanctioned.
The statement reads, “It has come to the attention of the Rivers State Government that some members of the business community are using the curfew imposed in some parts of the state as an excuse to cripple government and economic activities.
“Commercial banks and other businesses are supposed to be open for normal services.
“Therefore, commercial banks where government accounts are operated are advised not to join those involved in any unpatriotic act or lose their patronage.
“For the avoidance of doubt, curfew was imposed only at Oyigbo Local Government Area, Mile One, Mile Two, Iloabuchi, Emenike, Ikoku and Oil Mill areas of Port Harcourt.
“All other parts of the state are expected to be fully open for business,” the statement added.
Earlier, the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, had imposed a 24-hour curfew in the entire Oyigbo Local Government Area of the state.
Wike, in a state-wide broadcast, last Wednesday, also announced that the curfew also extends to Mile 1, Mile 2, Emenike, Ikowu and Iloaubuchi areas of Port Harcourt Local Government Area as well as Oil Mill area of Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of the state.
The governor explained that the decision to impose the curfew was taken after a State Security Council meeting which held at the Government House, Port Harcourt earlier on Wednesday.
Wike stated that while the state government appreciate and commend the peaceful nature of the ongoing #EndSARS protests, it was becoming clear by the day that the protest had been hijacked by hoodlums to unleash carnage.
“Earlier today, some hoodlums attacked and destroyed police stations and court buildings in Oyigbo Local Government Area of the state. Another set of hooligans were also on rampage at the Ikoku spare parts markets disturbing public peace and damaging property”.
Wike asserted that the state government cannot watch helplessly and allow trouble-makers to take the laws into their hands and use the current situation to create a state of panic and insecurity.
To this end, he said consequently, the State’s Security Council had decided to impose curfew in some parts of the state to secure lives and property.
“A 24-hour curfew has been imposed on Mile 1, Mile 2, Emenike, Ikoku and Iloaubuchi areas of Port Harcourt from 6.30 p.m. today, 21st October, 2020.”
“A 24-hour curfew has been imposed on the entire Oyigbo Local Government Area from 6.30 p.m. today, 21st October, 2020; a 24-hour curfew has also been imposed on Oil Mill area in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area”, he said.
The governor has therefore directed security agencies to enforce the curfew with effect from 6.30 p.m. today, 21st October, 2020.
Similarly, local government chairmen have also been directed to mobilize vigilantes and work with security agencies to ensure that no hoodlum is allowed to disturb the peace or destroy lives and property in their local government areas.
“We urge all citizens to remain vigilant and report all suspicious characters to the security agencies for immediate action. Let me appeal to our youths not to allow themselves to be used to roll-back the peace we are enjoying in the State under any pretext” he added.
#EndSARS: PDP Diaspora Initiative Flays Buhari For Rights Abuses, Killings
Following the recent killings of innocent and unarmed protesters in Lagos and other parts of the country by armed soldiers, the US-based organization of Nigerians living abroad, PDP Diaspora Initiative (PDPDI), has issued a solemn condemnation of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration for killing innocent Nigerians and violating their rights.
The organization made its position known to newsmen in an October 21 press statement released through its National Publicity Secretary, Chidi Igwe, yesterday.
According to the statement, “it is obvious that Nigerians from all sections of the country have lost confidence in President Buhari and his administration and the Nigerian youths want a change in direction for a better future.
“Imagine what is going on in our country right now! Buhari’s administration sent his armed soldiers and police to intimidate peaceful protesters and suppress their voices,” the PDP Diaspora Initiative founder and National Chair, Victoria Pamugo, exclaimed.
“When they realized the brave Nigerian youths are not buying the nonsense Buhari’s government is trying to sell and that Buhari has failed in his attempts to keep the Nigerian youths quiet, the government resorted to violence and took up arms against innocent and unarmed citizens who are protesting against police brutality, injustice, corruption and mismanagement of the country by their president and his cronies. Buhari’s armed soldiers opened fire on peaceful protesters, killing many innocent people and causing many more injuries,” Pamugo lamented.
“The youths they are killing are our children, brothers, sisters, cousins, uncles, etc. What sin did they commit?” she asked.
“They have not done anything wrong!” she noted.
“They are just expressing their constitutional right of peaceful protest and assembly. They did not do anything wrong. They were not burning buildings.
She also noted that the youths are angry because their government has disappointed them and called for an end to corruption, embezzlement and police brutality.
Oil Spills: Environmentalists Berate SPDC For Defying Regulatory Compliance
Environmentalists yesterday berated the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) for poor compliance to regulatory verdict on oil spill matters in its operational fields in the Niger Delta region.
They recalled that the spill regulatory agency, National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), had fined SNEPCO, a Shell subsidiary 3.6 billion dollars for the Bonga, facility in December 2011.
The oil firm however went to court to challenge the fine and lost at the Federal High Court.
A fact-check on the claim indicated that Justice Mojisola Olatoregun of a Federal High Court in Lagos, had on June 20, 2018, upheld the 3.6 billion dollars fine imposed on Shell by NOSDRA, dismissing Shell’s case.
However, Shell declined to pay the fine.
The environmentalists under the auspices of Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), at a forum with spill impacted communities in Ikara, Bayelsa State, applauded NOSDRA for its objectivity.
Mr Alagoà Morris, the Head, Bayelsa State Office of ERA/FoEN, who represented the Acting Executive Director of the group, Mr Chima Williams, spoke on the theme: ‘Resisting Regulatory Capture’.
The NGO frowned on alleged frequent disregard to regulatory directives on oil spill incidents and wondered if the oil firm was self-regulatory, adding that a situation where an operator disagreed frequently with regulators “is unhealthy’’.
“As indicated in the theme, this event is unique as it seems to discourage any attempts at regulatory capture.
“One of the main areas of disagreements between stakeholders in the oil industry is in cause of spill as a lot depends on it.
“While there is nothing wrong in any stakeholder contesting whatever is declared as cause of spill, there are certain things to be considered in arriving at declaring the cause.
“In Nigeria, oil industry regulators are supposed to be referees. NOSDRA and state ministries of environment are the regulators.
“As a grassroots organ-isation, ERA has been working with several communities over the years. Ikarama community is one of those communities. From our records, Ikarama is the community with the highest frequency of documented oil spills.
“The oil spill along Shell’s Adibawa-Okordia delivery line on November12, 2011, was one of the clear cases of corrosion incidents,” Morris said.
Newsmen reported that SPDC had rejected the conclusion of NOSDRA that the November 12, 2011, leak on the Adibawa-Okordia pipeline was due to corrosion leading to the subjection to further ultrasonic tests and scans which confirmed the pipe was corroded.
Mr Musa Idris, the Director-General of NOSDRA had told The Tide source that the agency took the steps to ensure that its conclusions were validated by scientifically accepted best practices.
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