South-south geopolitical zone has demanded decentralisation of power, resource control and creation of additional states in the region at the ongoing public hearing on the amendment of the 1999 Constitution.
The hearing was organised for Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Cross Rivers states by the Senate Ad-hoc Committee on Amendment of the Constitution, chaired by Senator George Sekibo.
Many stakeholders from various ethnic nationalities including the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria and the Ikwerre People’s Congress (IPC) trooped to the Port Harcourt venue of the programme on Thursday to submit their memoranda.
The host governor, Nyesom Wike, who declared the hearing open emphasised the urgent need for the amendments to produce a people’s constitution that would guarantee devolution of powers, fiscal federalism, creation of state police and strengthening of the electoral system
He said the amendments must allow the states to create and sustain local government councils and ensure the reduction of the cost of governance at both federal and state levels.
But the governor, who was represented by his Deputy, Ipalibo Banigo said a better constitution could only be possible if the ongoing exercise was approached and carried out with sincerity of purpose.
Wike said: “Although this is the third time the National Assembly is embarking on this exercise without successfully producing a constitution that will satisfy the generally of Nigerians, the Rivers State Government nevertheless welcomes the exercise.
“A better constitution can only be possible if the exercise is approached and carried out with sincerity of purpose and the commitment to correct the fundamental challenges that have caused deep cracks to the foundation of our country and threatening to tear our dear nation into pieces.
“It is only the blind that may not see that Nigeria is headed for a dangerous precipice unless something drastic and urgent is done to correct the identified flaws in our constitution and the nature of the Federal system that has been foisted on this country.
“What Nigerians need is a constitution that approximates the collective aspirations 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 wellbeing and enable their children to aspire to actualise their potential for any office without discrimination.
“No one is deceived that the present constitution alienates minority societies, justifies the provocative expropriation of the Peoples resources and gives greater resources to a gluttonous Federal Government to the detriment of the state.
“There is no way ordinary Nigerians can strive and prosper under a constitution that overburdens a nebulous Federal government with too many socio-economic tasks and responsibilities beyond its capacity and competence.
“Rivers State believes in one progressive Nigeria. We believe in the unity and indivisibility of this country and therefore will not support any move by any person or groups to dismember and divide this country.”
Wike while earlier receiving members of the Committee in a courtesy call at the Government House, called for an upward review of the 13 per cent derivation to 50 per cent.
The Rivers governor also called for the creation of additional state in the Southeast geopolitical zone to correct the current imbalance in the six geopolitical zones.
He said: “There is no way the Southeast should continue to have only five states. It is very unfair. Since other regions have six states, Southeast should be made to have six states.”
Emphasising River’s position further, the Attorney-General of Rivers and Commissioner for Justice, Prof. Zacchaeus Adangor, condemned what he described as a center-dominated federalism practiced in the country and called for the transfer of many matters in the exclusive list to the concurrent list.
He specifically said the state would want items number five, 10, 19, 28, 32, 37, 39, 40, 44, 45, 48, 51, 58, 60, 61 and 62 in the exclusive list to be transferred to the concurrent list to alter the present balance of power.
He said there must be judicial autonomy to avoid the present unitary judicial system where the National Judicial Council (NJC), an agency of the Federal Government recommends judges for governors’ appointment.