Senate begins final discussions on amendment of 1999 constitution

The Joint Committees in the House of Representatives and the Senate, as well as State Houses of Assembly have commenced final discussions on the amendment of the 1999 constitution in Lagos.

The Governor of Lagos State, Akinwumi Ambode, who declared the joint working retreat of the federal lawmakers open, said there was need to fix the 1999 constitution before the 2019 election.

He also asked the legislators to look into the interest of the states and the federating units.

Ambode cited issues to be considered by the joint committee to include devolution of powers, Land Use Act, state policing, a review of the revenue allocation formula and according Lagos State a special status.

The governor said this was necessary in the country’s quest to fully realise its potentialities in all sectors of the economy. He wondered why states should be precluded from performing several important constitutional responsibilities.

“Why does the Federal Government hold legislative and executive powers on matters of local concern which over-stretch its administrative and supervisory abilities?

“Why should the Land Use Act, NYSC Act, Code of Conduct Act form part of the Constitution?

“Should we not have a sharing formula that ensures that states and local government councils are empowered to discharge their constitutional responsibilities?

“We need to be truthful and frank about fiscal federalism.

“Should the constitution not confer power on State Houses of Assembly to establish state police, with clear jurisdiction and well-articulated protocols for the regulation of its relationship with the federal police?” Ambode queried.

The governor described operation of a Land Registry by the federal government in Lagos as an aberration and said the proposed Stamp Duty Bill would cripple internally generated revenue due to the states.

“The Bill is presently before the National Assembly, and it is a grave threat to the principles of fiscal federalism.

“As representatives of the true beneficiaries of the Act, as it presently stands, there is need to put an urgent end to its further coordination by the National Assembly, which also has the noble tradition that once a matter is before the court, all activities on the matter will be suspended,” he said.

According to him, the State Government had approached the Supreme Court on the matter.

Ambode commended the ongoing process by the legislature to review the constitution.

Earlier, the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, said that the 8th National Assembly will ensure the new constitution was fast-tracked through isolation of the amended bills to allow speedy passage and assent by the President.

He expressed optimism that at the end of the retreat, working solution would have been proffered to majority of the issues that would be raised.

“Our belief is that this exercise will be concluded before the end of the year,” Ekweremadu said.

The Federal Lawmakers will spend the next few days deliberating on the various areas of focus.

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