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Constitution Review: South-West Governors Propose Return To Regional Structure

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The South-west Governors Forum has proposed the conversion of the six geopolitical zones into federating units.

The governors made the proposal in a document presented to members of the national assembly from the south-west, as part of the review of the 1999 constitution, THISDAY reports.

The document dated July 5, 2021, is titled ‘Proposals for the Review of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (As Amended): Presentation by South-West Governors’ Forum’.

The governors proposed an amendment to sections 3(1) and (3) of the constitution.

Section 3(1) of the 1999 constitutions states that there shall be 36 states in Nigeria but the governors proposed that the section be amended as a federation consisting of six geopolitical zones constituted from the states.

At independence in 1960, Nigeria had three regions — northern, western, and eastern.

However, states were created out of the regions and the six geopolitical zones were delineated during the regime of Sani Abacha, the late head of state, in 1993.

“We propose that Section 3(1) be amended as a federation consisting of six geopolitical zones constituted from the states. The federating units or regions are divided into the following geopolitical zones: North-West Zone, North-Eastern Zone, Middle – Belt Zone, South-East Zone, South-South Zone, South-West Zone, and the Federal Capital Territory,” the proposal reads.

“Section 3(6) be amended to provide for a number of local governments or such autonomous administrative units to be created by the respective federating units or states, the criteria of which shall include population, taxable capacity, ethnoreligious or other cultural and social affinities.”

“Section 7 of the constitution be amended to include an additional (sub)section prohibiting the dissolution of elected local government councils.

“This will be in compliance with the Supreme Court decisions in ALGON v. Oyo State Government; AG Plateau State & Others v. Goyol & Others; Governor, Ekiti State v. Olubunmo & Others.”

The governors also proposed that sections 8 (5) and (6) be removed so that local government creation will be the exclusive duty of state governors.

“Section 8(5) and (6) should be expunged. Section 8 (1) and (2) provides for the procedures for the creation of state while Section 8(3), (4), (5) and (6) provides for the procedure for creation of local governments,” the forum added.

“However, Section 8(5) and (6) should be expunged to make local government creation the exclusive duty of the state government.”

The governors also sought the removal of section 29(4)(b), which confers adulthood status on a married under-18 woman.

“Section 29(4)(a) and (b) contradict each other. While (a) says ‘full age means the age of 18 years and above, (b) says ‘any woman who is married shall be deemed to be full of age’. This reinforces child marriage which negates the Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989 and the Child’s Rights Act 2003, which outlaws child marriage.”

The governors also want the states to be in charge of mineral resources within their territories.

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BIG STORY

Reps Pass Electoral Bill Amidst Protest, Adopt E-Transmission Of Results Where Practicable

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The House of Representatives has passed the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, maintaining the controversial Clause 52(2) as presented.

The clause allows the Independent National Electoral Commission to determine when, where and how voting and transmission of results will be done.

Clause 52(2) reads, “Voting at an election and transmission of result under this bill shall be in accordance with the procedure determined by the commission.”

The house adopted electronic and manual transmission of election results.

The contentious issue in the legislation is the transmission of election results electronically.

The senate passed the bill on Thursday but approved that the “Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) must certify that national coverage is adequate and secure while the national assembly must approve before the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) can transmit election results”.

However, the lower chamber approved that “the Commission may transmit results of the election through electronic means where and when practicable”.

The bill was passed after the minority caucus staged a walkout.

Earlier when the clause-by-clause consideration of the bill was done, the house skipped clause 52 to be revisited after all other clauses had been considered.

After the clauses of the bill were considered, Ndudi Elumelu, minority leader of the house, raised a point of order that clause 52 of the bill which stipulates the method of transmission of result be considered.

But Idris Wase, deputy speaker who presided over the sitting, said the clause can only be reconsidered if a motion of rescission on it is moved.

Elumelu argued that there was no need for rescission since the clause was not ruled on.

However, Wase said the decision on clause 52 had already been taken.

At this point, the minority caucus protested and walked out of the chamber.

TheCable had reported how chaos erupted at the green chamber during the clause-by-clause consideration of the bill.

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POLITICS

I’m A Private Person, I Rarely Talk, I Quit Politics In 2019 —- What Lauretta Onochie Told Senate Panel During Screening

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Before she was rejected by the Senate on Wednesday, Lauretta Onochie told its committee on INEC that she was a private person and rarely talked.

This is besides her earlier statement where she said she quit politics in 2019 and that she is no longer partisan, a claim which turned out to be false.

All of these ‘declarations’ that Ms Onochie made were in response to petitions written against her. The Senate panel had presented the petitions and asked her to respond to them during the screening exercise.

Ms Onochie, the personal assistant to the president on New Media, was being screened for her appointment as a national commissioner for the Independent National Electoral Commission – having been appointed over eight months ago by President Muhammadu Buhari to represent Delta State, where she hails from.

Nigerians had asked the president to withdraw her nomination on grounds that she is partisan and it would be unconstitutional for her to be appointed into such an office.

Although her nomination was rejected by the Senate, Ms Onochie made some brow-raising comments during her screening exercise

The report
The committee, in its report, said several petitions against Ms Onochie were submitted on grounds of violation of federal character principle, partisanship, being a card-carrying member of the APC, and using her social media accounts fake news campaign strategies – all of which she was asked to respond to.

In her defense, Ms Onochie debunked the claims against her.

According to the report, while she admitted to being a one-time registered and card-carrying member of the APC and member of the “Buhari Support Organisation”, she said she is presently neither a registered nor card-carrying member of the party since she did not register as an APC Member during the last APC re-validation exercise.

In response to her social media activities, “she stated that she is a private individual who rarely talks about herself and ceased all Television and Radio appearances since President Buhari’s second term election.”

On her partisanship, “she categorically denied being sympathetic to any political party and stopped all activities since the year 2019.”

She also gave the assurance that “if confirmed, there will be no biased bone in her body’ and acclaimed herself as ‘Madam Due Process.”

Despite the numerous petitions, however, the Senate panel only deemed it necessary to reject Ms Onochie on grounds of breach of federal character principle.

“In the case of Ms Onochie’s…the Committee, bound by the provisions of Section 14(3) of the 1999 Constitution on Federal Character Principle… the Senate may wish to recall that in 2016, the Senate based on the recommendation of its INEC Committee confirmed Barr. May Agbamuche-Mbu from Delta State as a National Commissioner in INEC, who is still serving.

“…Confirming the nomination of Ms. Lauretta Onochie from the same Delta State will be a violation of the Federal Character Principle. Therefore, based on the provisions of Section 14(3) of the Constitution…and in order for the Committee and the Senate to achieve fairness to other states and political zones in the county, the Committee is unable to recommend Ms. Lauretta Onochie for confirmation as a National Electoral Commissioner for INEC but would rather recommend to the Senate to request that the President makes another nomination,” the report read.

Many have hailed the Senate for rejecting her nomination, describing it as a win for democracy.

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BIG STORY

We Studied Mood of Nigerians Before Rejecting Onochie As INEC Commissioner —- Senate Panel

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The senate committee on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says it studied the mood of citizens to reject the nomination of Lauretta Onochie, presidential aide, as a commissioner of the electoral body.

In a plenary session on Tuesday, Kabiru Gaya, chairman of the committee, said they would not recommend the confirmation of Onochie because May Agbamuche, a commissioner from Delta state, is still serving at the commission and she hails from the same state as Onochie.

Subsequently, the presidential aide was rejected by senators when her confirmation was put to vote.

Onochie was nominated for the job by President Muhammadu Buhari in October 2020.

Her nomination sparked outrage over concerns that she is a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC), but the presidential aide said she resigned her membership of the ruling party in 2019.

Speaking with reporters, Gaya said because Agbamuche is still serving, his committee was unable to confirm her.

The chairman said: “We studied the mood of Nigerians. We could not approve the appointment of Onochie because she is from the same state as an INEC commissioner from Delta State, Mrs Agbamuche-Mbu, whose tenure may expire by December this year.

“Agbamuche-Mbu is still serving in INEC till December this year. That’s why we cannot clear another candidate from the state.

“President Buhari actually specified her (Agbamuche) state, which is Delta, in the letter.

“Also, during her confirmation by the 8th Senate, I was there when two senators from Delta, Messrs Ovie Omo-Agege and James Manager, stood up to congratulate the Senate for confirming her.

“We also got records from the past senate screening that Agbamuche-Mbu was a nominee from Delta state.”

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