The South-West States Governors under the South-West Governors Forum, SWGF, in a document presented to members of the National Assembly from the geopolitical zone, have proposed the conversion of the present 6 geopolitical zones in the country into Federating Units, as part of the ongoing review of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, by the Federal Legislature, .
The South-West Governors also made other proposals to weaken Federal Government, while allocating more powers to the Federating Units and States.
The document containing the proposals by the Governors, was presented to the South-West Caucus of the National Assembly, on Tuesday, after the Governors met with the Lawmakers, in Abuja, behind closed-doors, last week.
After the meeting, the Governor of Ondo State and Chairman of the Forum, Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN, said that the South-West would be approaching the Constitution amendment with a common front.
He added that the meeting had set-up a Committee made of up Senators led by the Caucus Chairman, Opeyemi Bamidele, and House of Representatives Caucus Chairman, Femi Fakeye, and Attorneys-Generals of the South-West States.
His words: “The Committee is to harmonise our position, so that we can present it when necessary before the 2 Houses, and at the end of the day, have a constitutional amendment, and have our serious input. Thank you all.”
It was learnt that the joint Senate and House Committee would fine tune the proposals, and ensure that they are captured in the Constitution review exercise.
In the document titled: ‘Proposals for the Review of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (As Amended): Presentation by South-West Governors’ Forum’, dated July 5, 2021, the Governors sought for the amendment to Section 3 (1) and (3) of the Constitution.
The present Section 3 (1) reads: “There shall be 36 States in Nigeria, that is to say, Abia, Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Benue, Borno, Cross River, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Ekiti, Enugu, Gombe, Imo, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Kogi, Kwara, Lagos, Nasarawa, Niger, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Oyo, Plateau, Rivers, Sokoto, Taraba, Yobe and Zamfara.”
The Governors added: “We propose that Section 3 (1) be amended as a Federation, consisting of six geopolitical zones constituted from the States. The Federating Units or Regions are divided into the following geopolitical zones: North-West Zone, North-Eastern Zone, Middle-Belt Zone, South-East Zone, South-South Zone, South-West Zone, and the Federal Capital Territory.
“The geopolitical zones have been recognised and accepted by Nigeria’s political class.
“Section 3 (6) be amended to provide for a number of Local Governments or such autonomous administrative units to be created by the respective Federating Units or States, the criteria of which shall include population, taxable capacity, ethno-religious or other cultural and social affinities.”
Another major proposal in the presentation was an amendment to Section 7 of the Constitution, which is about Local Governments.
The South-West Governors asked that the section “include an additional (sub)section prohibiting the dissolution of elected Local Government Councils”.
“This will be in compliance with the Supreme Court decisions in ALGON v. Oyo State Government; AG Plateau State & Others v. Goyol & Others; Governor, Ekiti State v. Olubunmo & Others.”
The South-West Governors also proposed that Section 8 be amended by deleting Subsections 5 and 6, thereby removing the powers to create State from the Federal Government.
The proposal reads: “Section 8 (5) and (6) should be expunged. Section 8 (1) and (2) provide for the procedures for creation of State, while Section 8 (3), (4), (5) and (6) provide for the procedure for creation of Local Governments.
“However, Section 8(5) and (6) should be expunged to make Local Government creation the exclusive duty of the State Government.”
The Governors also want the wordings of Section 14 (4) to be changed.
The present version reads: “The composition of the government of a state, a local government council, or any of the agencies of such government or council, and the conduct of the affairs of the government or council or such agencies shall be carried out in such manner as to recognise the diversity of the people within its area of authority and the need to promote a sense of belonging and loyalty among all the people of the federation.”
The proposed version reads: “The composition of the government of the federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, fair representation of individuals and groups and also command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of a particular gender and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that government or in any of its agencies.”
If the proposed amendment to Section 15 eventually becomes law, Nigeria’s motto would be changed to ‘Unity and Faith, Equality, Peace and Progress’.
The Forum further called for deletion of Section 29 (4) (b), which confers adulthood status on a married under-18 woman.
The Governors explained: “Section 29 (4) (a) and (b) contradicts each other. While (a) says ‘full age means the age of 18 years and above’, (b) says ‘any woman who is married shall be deemed to be full of age.’ This reinforces child marriage which negates the Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989 and the Child’s Rights Act 2003, which outlaws child marriage.”
The governors also want the States to be in charge of mineral resources within their respective territories.
Consequently, they have proposed an amendment to Section 44 (3) that vests the exploitation of mineral oils and natural gas in the Federal Government.
More news later…