The House of Representatives Speaker , Rt. Honourable Yakubu Dogara said the issue of Local Government funding, functions, structure and elections should be reformed if Nigeria will make progress as a nation.
According to the Speaker , at the last botched Constitution Review exercise, twenty States voted to allow financial and structural autonomy for Local Governments.
“If we got the buy- in of four more states, it could have been achieved. So we should not give up.” He stated.
Dogara who disclosed this in his remark during the opening ceremony of the Working session/retreat of House of Representatives Ad-Hoc committee on constitution review held at Cultural Centre , Abeokuta, Ogun State, said after dealing with agreed issues on Constitution Review, the lawmakers should start discussion on possible amendment of contentious areas of the Constitution.
He also said considering the Boko Haram experience ,which has exposed the need for some form of decentralized policing in Nigeria.
” I believe that this may be achieved by allowing a decentralized police force within one national police organization or existence of several localized police structures. This is a matter for Nigerians to ponder and debate.” He added.
While welcoming the lawmakers to the Retreat organised by the House Ad-Hoc Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution with the theme of this very important retreat entitled: “The imperatives of Constitution Review/Amendment in Nation building”, he noted , ” Without a doubt, the constitutional architecture of our country is very critical for our economic growth and prosperity, our political stability, social progress, the security of lives and property, infrastructural development and all facets of our national life.”
He further explained , “ It is because of the importance of this Committee to the work of the House of Representatives that it is traditionally headed by a presiding officer, the Deputy Speaker and all the principal officers of the House are members. All States are also represented.
“When this Committee was inaugurated on 21st January 2016, I enjoined the Committee to be faithful to our commitment in our Legislative Agenda of delivering in the shortest possible time amendments to the Constitution that will stand the test of time and to continue the work of the 7th Assembly especially in areas where consensus had been reached. By consensus I mean, those areas that already received the approval of both Chambers of the National Assembly, Two- Thirds support of the State Houses of Assembly; approval of Nigerians in the Peoples Public Sessions conducted earlier by House, and the support of the Presidency.
“Thereafter, we shall embark on other areas identified by members and other ideas from the Political Conference Report of 2014. However, since one parliament does not bind another, it is germane that your Committee re-examine all the issues and proceed in the best way possible to achieve the commitments we made to Nigerians. I am therefore very confident that this Retreat is a very positive move to achieve the goals set out above.
” l am told that the Committee has held several meetings, Consultative workshops/ Retreat even in conjunction with the Senate; engaged seasoned consultants two of whom are Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN), processed the 4th alteration Bill now segmented into 14 Bills, which I am told may soon be presented to the House for consideration. Furthermore, I understand that about 36 more Bills have scaled 2nd reading in the House. These bills should be critically looked at by the Committee to determine the best way to process them in line with the mandate of your Committee.”
Meanwhile he said , ” We need to clarify some issues of procedure. There has been misconception especially in the media as to the Status of Constitution review bills referred to this Committee after Second Reading. For the avoidance of doubt, the Constitution review exercise require a special procedure which has been set out in the Standing Orders of the House. It is not every matter that is referred to your Committee that must necessarily see the light of day. Your Committee is fully empowered to process all the referred bills and where necessary amend, reject or recommend as you may deem fit for the peace, progress and stability of our nation, Nigeria. You must be guided by national interest and not parochial, sectional or religious considerations in your assignment.
“As I said during the inauguration, and as your activities suggest, you should continue to engage in full consultation with the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on your assignment and where possible, hold joint activities. It is also very important that the State Houses of Assembly are consulted and carried along at this stage of the amendment process so that they get familiar with the issues you are dealing with.
He however , appreciated the host State under the able leadership of Senator Ibikunle Amosun CON FCA, for hosting the Committee.
He observed that the serene and conducive atmosphere of Abeokuta will enable members settle down and come up with recommendations that will benefit the citizens of this great country.
He also thanked the Guest Speaker, Prince Bola Ajibola, a celebrated Jurist of international stature, all invited guests and Stakeholders, including the Royal Fathers, the former Legislators and other leaders, Hon Speakers of State Houses of Assembly, Our Development Partners, the Media and others present at the event .
He therefore formally declare the Retreat open .