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Constitution Review: Nigeria Battling To Survive, Reps Warn …Consider States’ Creation, State Police, Restructuring, Others

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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.

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Zamfara Police Confirm 317 School Girls Abducted

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The Zamfara State Police Command have confirmed that bandits early Friday morning, abducted a total of 317 students of Government Girls Secondary School, Jangebe.

Earlier reports had indicated that 300 students of the school, were abducted.
However, the Police Command in the state, through a statement by its spokesperson, SP Mohammed Shehu, and made available to newsmen on Friday, said 317 students were abducted.
According to him, security agencies, including the army and police, had collaborated in joint search for the students.
“The Zamfara Police Command, in collaboration with the military, have commenced a joint search and rescue operations with a view to rescuing the 317 students kidnapped by the armed bandits in Government Girls Science Secondary School, Jangebe in Talata Mafara Local Government Area on February 26, 2021 at about 0100 hours.
“The Commissioner of Police, Abutu Yaro; the Force Commander of Operations Hadarin Daji, Major General Aminu Bande; Brigade Commander, 1 Brigade, Nigeria Army, Gusau, and other state government officials, led a heavily armed reinforcement team to Jangebe to complement the ongoing rescue operation in the locations where the students were believed to be taken to,” the statement reads.
Yaro urged the principal of the school and the parents to remain “calm as joint efforts of the police and other security agencies will assurely led to the successful rescue of the students.”

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Bandits Abduct 300 Zamfara School Girls

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Barely 12 hours after President Muhammadu Buhari said the Federal Government would not give amnesty to criminal bandits, over 200 female students of Government Girls Secondary School, Jangebe in Talata-Mafara Local Government Area of Zamfara State, have been abducted.

The Commissioner of Security and Home Affairs, Alhaji Abubakar Dauran, who confirmed the incident on Friday, said security agents had been been mobilized to pursue the bandits.
“I can confirm to you now that we have sadly received the report on the abduction of the students of GGSS, Jangebe and right now, am on my way to the school.
“At this moment, l cannot say how many students were taken away by the gunmen until l get there but we have already mobilized security men and members of the vigilantatè who are now in pursuit of the abductors,” he said.
A source in the school said the bandits went to the school at about 2 am shooting in the air before kidnapping some of the students.
“Gunmen in their hundreds invaded the town around 2am of Friday, shot sporadically in the air to scare the residents before coming into the school.
“After taking away most of the students, we rounded up those that escaped or hid from the bandits and conducted a census where we counted 54 students and we are still searching to see if we can get more,” he said.
Another source, Haliru Jangebe said the local vigilantè, who tried to repel the invaders were over powered.
“The bandits were too many and they all seemed to be carrying heavy arms as we heard gunshots from all parts of the town and when the shots stopped, we heard that the students had been taken away,” he said.

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Wike Blasts NASS Over Ex-Service Chiefs’ Confirmation …Blames Poor Performance Of NDDC On Presidency, NASS

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The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, says Nigerians are disappointed with the National Assembly for confirming sacked service chiefs as ambassadors.
The governor related the disappointment of Nigerians to members of the Senate Committee on Niger Delta, when they paid a courtesy visit to him at Government House, Port Harcourt, last Wednesday.
Wike wondered why senators, who agreed with Nigerians when they decried the poor performance of the service chiefs, would sit to clear them for another appointment.
“Let me use this opportunity to express the dismay of most Nigerians to the Senate. Convey this to the Senate. We must be courageous in whatever we are doing. Everything must not be party affairs. You (senators) sat and discussed that they should dismiss the service chiefs. You said they’re not performing.
“Now, the same people who were not performing, you have confirmed them as ambassadors. What kind of country are we?
“In anything we do, we must remember that there is tomorrow; our conscience is key. It’s not because I want to be loyalists to a party. No. There are things you cannot reconcile at all,” he said.
Speaking about the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Wike said the commission has abandoned its core mandate; leaving those who canvassed for its establishment disillusioned.
“I don’t like talking about NDDC. It is unfortunate that those who fought for it, if they knew that this is how NDDC will be, I don’t think they would have even asked for it.”
He noted that over the years, various National Assembly committees on NDDC hah failed to provide sufficient direction that would make the commission focus on its core mandate of developing the region.
Wike said some politicians have transformed the NDDC into a cash cow for the prosecution of sinister political agenda.
To buttress this, he accused the commission of spending N10billion to unseat him from office, but added that the scheme failed.
The governor urged the committee’s leadership to prevail on the management of the NDDC to embark on legacy infrastructure projects such as flyovers in the impacted states, and not waste resources on doing 50 or 100-metre roads.
“You, as the Senate Committee chairman, and that of the House Committee, you’re from the region too. You are supervising NDDC; so, why not sit down with them to know the legacy projects they want to carry out this year in the Niger Delta states. Tell them these are projects they must make sure they execute first.
“Rather than do that, you allow them do 50 or 100 meters’ road or a close that leads to someone’s house. What’s their business there?”, he asked.
The governor accused the Presidency, the National Assembly and the ruling party of aiding the gross inefficiency of the NDDC.
“The National Assembly is part of the problem of NDDC. The Presidency is part of the problem of NDDC, and the party in power is part of the problem of NDDC, whichever party it is. They don’t allow NDDC to perform. We too, in Niger Delta, are not allowing them to perform. We are enemies to ourselves.”
He noted how the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) refused to endorse the amendment of the Electoral Act for fear that they would lose the 2019 General Election when it was the best thing to do for the country.
The governor also expressed displeasure over a senator who overstepped his immunity during plenary to demean a serving governor by calling him a ‘drunk’.
In his speech, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Niger Delta, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, said they were in Government House, to assure Wike, as the host of NDDC, that the commission would be supervised to perform within its core mandate.
“As a committee, we are aware that you have some reservations with the NDDC based on your state’s previous relationship with them. We have come to assure you that with the people you have seen here, who are patriotic Nigerians, we will make sure that the aspirations and the aims of creating the NDDC would be achieved.
“We will do everything possible within the limits of the Constitution, through our oversight functions, for them to achieve their objectives.”
Nwaoboshi also commended the governor for having done well in providing security in Rivers State with NDDC benefiting from it.
He noted that Wike has become the strongest voice that has continued to speak truth to power at the risk of his political career.
“We say without fear of contradiction that you are the strongest voice in the Niger Delta region. You have always been courageous, even at the risk of your political career, to speak truth to power.”
“You have also advanced the interest of the people of the Niger Delta. That is why anybody visiting Niger Delta will have nothing but to come and see that courageous man that is bestriding the area like a colossus”, Nwaoboshi added.

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