Conference of Speakers of State Legislatures of Nigeria has declared that it has never truncated and will never truncate any constitution alteration exercise in the country.
The Conference in a rejoinder to the Press Release by the Deputy President and the Chairman Constitution Review Committee, Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Sen Ovie Omo-Agege on the ongoing Constitution review exercise made on the 18th October 2022 stated that the response would have been unnecessary.
It however stated that “it is very clear that the Press Release was designed not only to blackmail the State Houses of Assembly but also to undermine them. And we like to make it clear that we will not give in to blackmail and intimidation by anyone no matter how highly placed”.
According to Rt Hon Abubakar Y. Suleiman, Speaker of Bauchi State House of Assembly and Chairman, Conference of Speakers of State Legislatures of Nigeria, “It is therefore imperative we make clarifications in the misrepresentations of the Conference of Speakers of State Legislatures of Nigeria and indeed the State Houses of Assembly in the Press Release”.
He explained that “Sen Ovie Omo-Agege rightly alluded to a letter by the Conference of Speakers of State Legislatures of Nigeria conveying the four Bills for consideration by the National Assembly. The letter was addressed to the two Chairmen of both the Committees of the National Assembly on the constitutional Review separately “.
Abubakar Sulaiman added that “And what we raised in our letter as highlighted by the Deputy Senate President were same issues we have consistently raised in many fora of our engagements with the two committees on Constitution Review of the National Assembly long before the transmission of the resolutions of the National Assembly to the State Houses of Assembly”.
“As major stakeholders in the Constitution alteration exercise and the representatives of the people at the grassroots, we are by far in a better position to know basic and pressing needs of the people”, he added.
The Conference Chairman further stated that “Hence our appeal for inclusion of the Bills. For instance, the issue of insecurity should agitate any conscientious leaders. So we believe this should be tackled frontally by the government”.
Also, “The best way and the most generally acceptable way to curb the menace, we believe, is by providing for state policing in the constitution. Sadly, the proposed amendment was missing in the Resolutions transmitted by the National Assembly to the State Houses of Assembly”.
“So, for the great importance of this proposed amendment and others namely, streamlining the procedure for removing Presiding Officers of State Assemblies, Institutionalizing State Legislative Bureaucracy in the Constitution, and Establishing State Judicial Council; the Conference of Speakers further appealed to the National Assembly for their inclusion in the exercise.
“Expectedly, a reply by Sen Ovie Omo-Agege to our letter was received on the 6th of October 2022 acknowledging the importance of the four Bills for incorporation in the alteration exercise and appealing to the State Houses of Assembly to proceed on the initial 44 Bills transmitted”, he explained.
Abubakar Sulaiman further explained that “On the strong appeal by Sen Ovie Omo-Agege and assurance that the four Bills would be considered, the State Houses of Assembly have already proceeded on the ratification of the resolutions of the National Assembly on the Constitution Review”.
He lamented that “It is rather very disheartening that the Deputy Senate President could make a turnaround within few days of his reply to our letter to blackmail the Hon Speakers of the State Houses of Assembly by erroneously saying the Conference of Speakers “are using the four Bills as a quid pro quo to act on the 44 Bills the National Assembly transmitted to State Houses of Assembly”.
“The inconsistency and flip-flop displayed in his statements are regrettable and beneath the dignity of the occupant of such a revered office.”
He however explained that “Contrary to the number given by Sen Ovie Omo-Agege, the actual number of the State Houses of Assembly that have, so far, passed the resolutions of the National Assembly on the Constitution Review is 16”.
The states according to him are: “Abia, Anambra, Enugu, Delta, Edo, Akwa Ibom, Lagos, Ogun, Osun, Ekiti, Kogi, Benue, Nasarawa, Kaduna, Katsina, and Adamawa States. We believe the misrepresentation was deliberate to demonize the Hon Speakers and the State Houses of Assembly in the eye of the citizenry. This is also regrettable and disappointing”
“The Deputy Senate President in his statements has undermined the Hon Speakers of the State Houses of Assembly by suggesting that they are stooges to the Governors. Sen Ovie Omo-Agege would perhaps want to see the Hon Speakers of the State Houses of Assembly to be confrontational with the Governors in their respective States. Agreed, one of the cardinal principles of Democracy is Checks and Balances, but it must not be carried out in a confrontational manner”, he claimed.
According to him, “It is not out of place if the Executive Governors are carried along in the process of altering the Constitution of the nation but it is wrong to insinuate that the Hon Speakers have abandoned their constitutional role for the Governor’s”.
He added that “His Excellency, the Deputy President, Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in his statements said the transmission of the resolution of the National Assembly has been made for six months now”.
Abubakar Sulaiman concluded by stating, “It is correct. However, it should be made clear that the transmission was done when Political Parties’ National, Sub-National Conventions as well as Parties’ Primaries were being conducted in the country. Hence, the political Parties’ Primaries and other activities delayed the process at the state level”.
He stressed that the “Alteration exercise of the Constitution is too important for a few to assume exclusive powers for. And while reiterating our resolve to ratify the resolutions of the National Assembly on the ongoing review of the Constitution, it is important to educate that State Houses of Assembly are individually empowered by the Constitution to play their roles according to the needs of the people and that we shall do without playing to the gallery”.
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