True federalism, state police and devolution of power were some of the issues raised by stakeholders at the ongoing Lagos Zonal two-day public hearing on the Nigeria 1999 Constitution Review holding at Lagos Marriott Hotel, Ikeja.
The stakeholders also demanded for re-inclusion of Magistrates in the constitution and the review of their retirement age from 60 to 65.
They also called for a declaration to make the Higher National Diploma (HND) equivalent to the university degree; need to ensure gender equality, as well as revenue allocation.
Reading the welcome address of the Deputy Senate President and Chairman of the Constitution Review Committee, Sen. Ovie Omo-Agege, the Senator representing Lagos Central, Sen. Oluremi Tinubu, said that the zonal hearings were coming before the national hearing because the senate decided to adopt a bottom-top approach by first listening to Nigerians at the geo-political level.
Tinubu said: “A constitution review represents a critical phase in our development and advancement as a nation. At the commencement of this ninth Senate, we had set for ourselves a legislative agenda as a basis on which we are to be assessed.
“Sitting prominently in that agenda is the need to address, by way of constitutional amendments, topical issues like judicial and electoral reforms, local government autonomy, and devolution of powers.
“If we get those items through constitutional processes of alteration successfully, then our constitutional democracy will be set on the right pedestal and, ultimately, Nigeria will take its pride of place among the enviable constitutional democracies in the world.
“The success of the review process will be dependent on your beneficent support and partnership. This exercise is your exercise and I implore you all to embrace and own it.”
In his comments, Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Rt (Hon) Mudashiru Obasa, represented by the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Wasiu Eshinlokun Sanni, pointed out the need for Lagos to get a special status, advocating 30 per cent derivation on natural resources for the domiciling states.
Obasa added that the creation of state police would improve security at the grassroots.
Also, in his presentation, the Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General of Lagos State, Mr. Moyosore Onigbanjo, suggested an amendment of the constitution in line with federal principles.
`He said: “The constitution we operate now is unitary; but we seek amendment of this document so it would operate true federalism. The exclusive legislative list used to have just nine items, but it increased to 68 items.
“The centre keeps grabbing power that should otherwise be exercised by states, and we are saying we should go back to the system whereby the state’s list has more items because they are closer to the people and so their powers should not be taken away.
“We also believe that states should have the exclusive powers to create local governments and not seek federal approval. The states know the number of local governments that will suffice and render quality service to its people, so it should be given the powers to do so.
“The policy which also apportions 52.68 per cent of revenue collected in the country to the federation account is not fair, equitable and just. We are proposing a radical change where the Federal Government gets 34 per cent, states 42 per cent and local government 23 per cent.
“The principle of derivations should also apply to every revenue-generating natural resource in states, and not apply to only petroleum. Any state that has the resources where revenue is derived must be entitled to the derivation principle. This must cut across all resources generating revenue for government.”
Onigbanjo proposed that the Value Added Tax (VAT) Act be repealed by the National Assembly, adding that it prevents states from utilising the sales Act to generate revenue and that it has caused confusion and a lot of court cases.
“We also propose that appointment and promotion of judges should lie with the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) of states and not the National Judicial Council (NJC).”, said Onigbanjo.
Others who presented papers are; Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), and Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN)