Nigeria News

Constitution Review: Regional Interests Dominate Voting at Public Sessions

Nigeria ConstitutionPolitical and sectional economic interests, rather than a consideration for the public good, appear to have influenced voting pattern at the Peoples Public Sessions on the review of the 1999 Constitution, an analysis of the document indicate.

The Peoples Public Session facilitated by the House of Representatives Ad hoc Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution commenced on November 10, 2012, and was conducted across the 360 federal constituencies.

An analysis of the report presented yesterday to the Speaker of the House, shows that votes on contentious issues such as fiscal federalism, derivation, desirability of state police and the State Independent Electoral Commission were cast mostly along geo-political lines.

For instance, whereas the South-south states which are, essentially, oil-producing states voted overwhelmingly "yes" on Items 35 and 36, the reverse was the case in the North-east, North-west and North-central zones. Item 35 states: "Should Nigeria implement the practice of federalism that allows states to control up to 50 percent of their resources and pay the remainder to the federation?" Northern leaders had always voiced their opposition to any arrangement that may culminate in oil=producing states receiving an increased share in revenue allocation.

With regard to Item 36, the question was: "Should the derivation component of revenue allocation be increased to at least 20 percent?" This proposal was however rejected with 125 constituencies voting "yes", 224 voting "no" and 11 constituencies' ballots undecided. Item 35 was similarly rejected. One hundred and twenty-three constituencies voted "yes" while 236 voted "no". There were five undecided votes.

Item 16, which considered whether Section 197(1)(b) should "be amended to abolish the State Independent Electoral Commission in order that all election are conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission" and Item 19, which considered the necessity of amending Section 214(1) "to enable the establishment of a state police" received some favourable response mostly from opposition party-controlled states. Constituencies in Edo and Oyo states, however, voted against  these two provisions.

A similar pattern is seen with regard to questions concerning whether the constitution should be amended so that the power to create local government areas would rest on states. It was a "yes" verdict in states that had created new council areas in addition to those sanctioned by the constitution.

Lagos constituencies however returned a surprising verdict on Item 13 that considered whether the constitution should "be amended to deny revenue allocation to unelected local government councils". Fifteen constituencies voted "yes" while seven voted "no" and one was undecided. Lagos is one of few states that had created additional council areas.

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