By Abdulrahman A. Abdulrauf Abuja
Fresh facts have emerged on the reason the aspect of power devolution failed during the last proposed constitutional amendments exercise by the National Assembly.
According to our findings, the northern lawmakers in both arms of the federal legislature voted against the section because “it was targeted at Land Use Act which would not favour the region.”
How members voted
The Constitution Alteration Bill No. 3, 2017, which provided for the devolution of powers to states “seeks to alter the Second Schedule, Part I & II to move certain items to the Concurrent Legislative List to give more legislative powers to states,” among others.
The lawmakers, during a clause by clause consideration of the amendments in July, overwhelmingly voted against the clause, a development that drew angst from some Nigerians across religious, political and cultural divides. In the Senate, only 46 voted in support of the Constitution Alteration Bill No. 3, 2017, while some 48 senators voted against it.
The votes fell short of 73, being two-third majority votes needed for the clause to be adopted. The story was the same in the lower chamber, where 210 members voted in favour with 71 opposing, and eight abstaining in the proposal that required 240 votes to sail through.
What Saraki said
Although Senate President Bukola Saaraki had hinted that the conduct and utterances of some groups and sections of the country were responsible for the voting pattern, he was not defi nite where the distrust really lied.
He said: “This was why I said when I was in Ilorin that we should all blame ourselves because I think the commentaries by sections, groups and individuals have built a lot of mistrust. “If the constitutional review had come like eight months ago, the devolution clause would have passed. I think that the sentiments, fake news and one part of the country saying they want to go and another saying they want to stay, contributed to the rejection.
“All of these issues created this mistrust as people are not sure of what it is all about and are having insinuations that some people want to play a fast one on them. So, those who were sceptical said they were not ready to support this and as I keep saying, we are a country of multiple religions, multiple ethnicity, which must be respected.”
The real reason
“The numerical strength of lawmakers from the region played a very crucial role in determining where the pendulum swung during the clause by clause consideration of the proposed constitutional Constitution amendment: Northern lawmakers frustrated power devolution – Zoro amendments.
“It was very clear that a particular section of the country had a hidden agenda gradually playing out, especially on our land resource, and we will be very stupid to allow this happen,” said the source.
Confirming this to our reporter, a member of the House of Representatives, Sani Zoro Mohammed, representing Jigawa state, said the North would be the ultimate loser in the power devolution because of its land resource.
He said: “Even though the National Assembly is bicameral, each can take a decision independent of another. But when it comes to constitutional amendment there is always a nexus.
Once one of the Houses shoots down a proposal, even if the other upholds it, it is dead on arrival. So, the one that would be transmitted to the houses of assembly is the one that was upheld.” When further asked what becomes of the proposal, he said it was dead on arrival. “Yes. I give you a typical example which is INEC conducting local government elections in states which some of us wanted. But even if we had voted for it in the House of Reps, it had been shot down in Senate; it is not going to fl y. “Also, devolution is dead on arrival and not going to fly.
I can tell you why devolution died on arrival. It is because, at some point, from what I understood, some people who served on the committee thought they were wiser than others, integrated land use act and subdued it under devolution of power. We, the lawmakers from the northern part of the country feel there is a need for Land Use Act because it protects the land.
“I give you an example. Those who are canvassing for land use act are people who do not have enough land in their place.
They are also the same politicians asking for resource control. It now means someone from another part of Nigeria can come to another part of Nigeria, buy off a land where there are stones and gems, mount a quarry, and because that place belongs to him, if he is lucky he can even get petrol, gas and that become his own. And we said no, since we cannot go to Delta and buy land where there are oil wells or quarry, we need to protect our own.”