As the agitation for the restructuring of the country continues to grow, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Honorable Yakubu Dogara on Tuesday said that only National Assembly has the power to restructure the country, saying that, in carrying out the exercise, the House would go with the majority opinion.
This is coming just as the House resolved to immediately set up a strong committee to liaise with all stakeholders across the Six geopolitical zones for practical solutions to robust the unity of Nigeria.
To this end, the House also resolved to immediately revisit the issue of devolution of powers in the interest of the unity of Nigeria.
These came to fore during the resumption speech read by the Speaker and motion sponsored by the Majority Leader, Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila.
Raising a poser on the issue of restructuring while addressing members on House resumption, the Speaker queried, “Do we have a legislative response to the issues that have been thrown up?
“Is the National Assembly involved in the debate? Can restructuring take place outside the existing legal order? Indeed all the arguments about restructuring are at the end of the day, legislative issues. It may be necessary for due course for the National Assembly to have a second look at the issues that have been thrown up.
“The National Assembly as a representative and product of the people cannot act contrary to the wishes and aspirations of its constituents. We need to sift all the ‘noise’ and find out what exactly a majority of our people actually want? This is a responsibility we cannot outsource.
“Going forward, it is my view that we need to revisit some aspects of the voting on Constitution Alteration. Luckily we still have the legislative window of conferencing with the Senate, where we have differences”, the Speaker stated.
The Speaker also raised question on the spate of strikes by various workers unions that engulfed the country in recent weeks, saying that, “One common noticeable denominator is that all the strikes were premised on matters over which the unions have previously discussed with government and on which deliberation were either inconclusive or which resolutions reached were observed in breach”.
He, however, commended “the Executive and Labour unions for reaching an understanding and for Labour in particular for employing lawful processes in pushing their demands and the suspension of the strikes in order to give another chance for negotiations”.
To this end, he directed all House Committees with “oversight responsibility for the agencies involved in these negotiations to urgently take appropriate legislative steps to aid full, final and permanent resolution of the issues for the sake of industrial peace and harmony”.
On the controversial Non Government Organization, NGO Regulation Bill, the Speaker said that, “Public criticism of the content of the Bill is a welcome development”, stressing that, that was the reason why every Bill “is subjected to Public Hearing so that the inputs of stakeholders can be obtained to ensure public buy-in”.
According to him, “all Nigerians and other corporate persons including non-Nigerians, are stakeholders and have a right to support or oppose a Bill. However when opinions are targeted at disparaging the institution of the legislature then it becomes imperative to interrogate the motives driving such, especially when this emanates from those who should know.
“Everyone should understand that the principal objective of the NGO Regulation Bill is to inject transparency, accountability and prevent the subversion of national security from both within and without.
“No one can nor indeed should gag the operations of NGOs in Nigeria, but just as they aspire for this freedom, it must be stated that freedom does not come without responsibility as there is no such thing as freedom to be irresponsible.
“There are also desperate attempts to instigate religious bodies and cultural Organizations to oppose the Bill by spreading the falsehood that they are the target of this bill. For the avoidance of doubt, let me state once again that Churches, Mosques, Esussu, Market Women Associations, as well as Local Quasi Financial Institutions, are not NGOs and thus the bill has nothing to do with their operations.
“The legislative process cannot be short-circuited. The National Assembly cannot be intimidated into abandoning its sacred legislative duties of providing a platform for Nigerians to agree or disagree on any proposed legislative measure. This openness and transparency is what the NGOs have always canvassed and promoted and they should, therefore, embrace this opportunity to interrogate the issues with open arms”, he stated.
On the motion raised by the House Leader and passed by the House entitled, “motion on Unity of Nigeria”, he said that ” there have been different agitations across the Nigeria which have led to divergent views on the suitability of redefining the structures upon which the unity of Nigeria rests on. These agitations have resulted into proscription of groups, loss of lives and judicial pronouncements.
“Events of the last few weeks brought Nigeria close to precipice but for the determination of Nigerians in their various show of commitment to the peace and unity of the country. Hence the urgent need for the intervention of the House of Representatives.
“Imperative that the members of the House of Representatives who hold brief for their teeming constituents must drop partisan politics, ethnic and religious interests and speak in one voice to save our country from disintegration.
“Assured that the House stands for the co-dependence of the regions of this country”, he maintained.