Constitutional Amendment: OKOWA ADVOCATES DEVOLUTION OF POWERS TO STATES, COUNCILS

L-R: Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, Rt. Hon. Ahmed Idris Wase, Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives and Hon. Ndudi Elumelu, Minority Leader House of Representatives, during a courtesy call by Members of House of Representatives sub-Committee on the review of 1999 Constitution on the Delta Governor in Government House, Asaba, Thursday June 3, 2021

Delta Governor, Sen. (Dr) Ifeanyi Okowa, on Thursday advocated for devolution of powers to states and local governments to stop overburdening the Federal Government with many responsibilities.

Okowa made the call when he received on a courtesy visit, House of Representatives Sub-Committee on review of the 1999 Constitution led by Deputy Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Ahmed Wase, at Government House, Asaba.

According to him, the Federal Government is overburdened with many responsibilities in the exclusive list, making it encumbered and inefficient.

He stated that states and local governments were closer to the people and required more funds to execute life-changing projects that would be beneficial to the people.

“There’s a need for devolution of power. We believe that the exclusive list is too burdensome for the Federal government to handle.

“It’s not about this administration; it’s about all the administrations at the national level. When you take too much to yourself, you find it difficult to be as efficient as you would have been ordinarily.

“The sub-national governments are closer to their people and in the best position to reach out to the needs of the people. So, we think that there’s a need to look at the exclusive list and to make adjustments, which will devolve more powers to the state.

“This will also follow a re-allocation of resources in order to make the sub-national government to be more impactful than they are at the moment.

“When we concentrate too much power at the national level, it creates a lot of challenges; there’s no doubt about that,” he said.

Okowa called for amendment of Section 162 on public revenue, fiscal federalism and revenue allocations, adding that there was need to look at that aspect very closely.

He said that there hadn’t been any review since 1999 even when the Constitution provided for a review every five years.

“In the past several years, that include all administrations from 1999 to date, we have not had a review of the revenue allocation formula. It ought not to be so, because that is not what the law provides for.

“But what has made it difficult to have a review of the allocation formula is the fact that of the provision of the Constitution in section 162 Sub-Section 2, which provides that Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission, will need first to make proposals to Mr President, who will in turn send the proposal to the National Assembly.

“If we go back to history lane, you will agree with me that the RMAFC has on more than one occasion, sent their proposals to the presidency and at no time has it ever been laid before the National Assembly.

“Therefore, at no time has the National Assembly had the opportunity of debating such proposals. So to cure that, we think that that section giving part to lay their proposal to the president first should be amended.

“Let the revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission make their proposals directly to the National Assembly. If you lay something before me and I am not convinced as a person that it will favour me in the National Assembly, I will not lay it before them.

“For justice and fairness, the revenue allocation commission should lay its proposal directly to the National Assembly,” he stated.

The governor also said that oil-producing states were not fairly treated because of the ecological and environmental degradation they suffered as a result of oil exploration and production.

“We also believe that the oil-producing states are not fairly treated on the issue of derivation. We know that the provision in the Constitution is that derivations shall be at least 13 per cent, but we are stuck at that 13 per cent.

“From all our workings, we do know that the states that are oil-producing do not receive up to 13 per cent. Why we think that we ought to receive more is that I wish you can be opportuned to be in the creeks, you will understand what we are facing here.

“Forty per cent of Delta State is covered with water and I know it is a lot more in a state like Bayelsa. There’s one of my LGAs called Burutu. You cannot get to that place by road.

“I thought we could build bridges to get to the place by road. I asked for the estimate to build bridges, I was told it would be about 20 bridges that would cost about N48 billion, and that was in 2016.

“So, the best way forward is truly to increase the revenue allocation by way of derivation. Those who ask what we are doing with the 13 per cent do not have an idea of the way Nigeria is,” Okowa said.

He called for the amendment of sections 214 to 216 of the 1999 Constitution to pave way for the creation of state police, saying “there’s the need for state police which even the governors have agreed on.

“We are not saying that the Federal Police is inefficient, but we believe that it will be very difficult for them to have enough personnel with a good command structure that would be functional enough to handle the level of insecurity in our land today.

“So, Section 214 down to Section 216 need to be amended. We are not asking for a scrap of the Federal Police. Nigeria will not be the first to have a functional state and federal police working together to check insecurity,” the governor stated.

Earlier, Wase had said that the Committee members were in the state for ongoing review of the 1999 Constitution and called on stakeholders to come with submissions that would make the exercise a huge success.

He lauded Governor Okowa for his contributions to national development and urged him not to relent in transforming Delta State in terms of development.

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