From Blessing Ibunge, Port Harcourt
Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, at the South-South Senate Committee Public hearing on 1999 constitution review in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, demanded for 25 percent increase in the derivation fund as well as the devolution of power from the centre to the states.
Represented by his deputy, Dr. Ipalibo Harry-Banigo, Governor Wike also called for the fiscal federalism, creation of state police, strengthen of the electoral system as well as allowing states to create and sustain local government councils.
According to Governor Wike, Nigerians need a constitution that will give them a true sense of belonging, secure and advance their well-being.
He said: “We are not even processing a new constitution; a people’s constitution, which to some people is the only path to having a united, peaceful, cohesive and progressive nation.
“Others believe that the basis for a new constitution does not exist since we already have a constitution that we have practised for over 20 years now, which shortcomings can be corrected through amendments.
“The truth is that whether new or old, what Nigeria and Nigerians need is a constitution approximates the collective aspiration of all Nigerians to live in a country that is free, fair and just to all component parts.
“Nigerians need a constitution that will give them a true sense of belonging, secure and advance their well-being and enable their children to aspire to achieve their potentials for any office without discrimination.
“No one is under illusion that the present Constitution does not meet the minimum conditions that can keep and sustain a multi-cultural and mutually-suspicious nationality together.
“No one is deceived that present constitution annihilates minority society, justifies the provocative exploitation of the people’s resources and gives greater resources to a glutinous federal government, to the detriment of the states and local government areas.
“We therefore need a constitution that addresses the lingering issues, including but not limited to the following; devolution of power from the centre to the states, fiscal federalism, creation of state police, strengthen of the electoral system, increasing the derivation fund to not less than 25 percent, allowing states to create and sustain local government councils and reducing the cost of governance at both federal and state levels”.
One of the youth activists group and advocate of good governance and gender equality, ” Rugged Steps Foundation For African Youth Development, through its focal person in Rivers state, Chiefson Nwaiwu, canvassed among other things for gender diversity in appointive positions, Legislative, leadership and Executive seats of political parties.
Chiefson who also represented Lead Generation Initiatives seek the need for Police Reform, Election Reform, Justice Delivery, Local Government administration and Autonomy, and creation of more opportunities for women in all areas of service, stressing that women have proven the capacity to lead, just as men.
Parts of the call by the group was for Senate to adopt and pass the some pending bills before the House, which include, “An Act to Further Alter The Provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999; To Provide For Gender Equity in Executive Committees of Political Parties And For Related Matters”.
“An Act To Further Alter The Provisions of The Constitution of The Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999; To Provide For Gender Diversity in Appointive Positions And For Related Matters”.
Meanwhile, some ethnic groups from the zone are demanding for creation of more states, abrogation of land use act, among others.
The Anang people of Akwa Ibom state proposed for a state. Ogoni People of Rivers state also demanded the creation of “Bori State.”, while Ogbakor Ikwerre Ethnic Nationality Worldwide called for the abrogation of land use Act from the new constitution to be produced.
In their presentation, the People of Anang, under the aegis of Anang People Foundation demanded that a distinct state be carved for them to bring them at pal with their counterparts in old colonial province.
The presenter, Emem Akpabio said,, “Anang is one of the only two provinces that have not been made a state, some have been made two states, some three, we believe that in the interest of equity, fairness and justice, our request would be granted to us.”
Ogoni people through the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) international, said, “One of the cardinal issues Ogoni people are agitating for is State creation, we have produced enough to sustain Nigeria, even before independence, yet the people have been deprived of their rights.
“We are also asking that we be allowed to take control of our resources and pay certain percentage of revenue we generated to the government as tax, as the practice is across the world.”
The Presenter for Ogbakor Ikwerre, Prof. Emenike Wami asked that the land use Act be abrogated, while the National Assembly facilitates the passage of Petroleum Industry bill.
The ethnic group equally suggested that oil producing Communities that suffer the aftermaths of oil exploration should be given priority while managing resources generated from oil and gas.
The event was led by Senator Betty Apiafi from Rivers state.