The ruling All Progressives Party (APC) consistently clamored for a restructuring of the country during the campaigns in the buildup to the last polls. However its actions since winning the presidency and the majority in both houses of the national assembly have been hostile to the doctrine of restructuring. Things got to a head last week when a bill for devolution of powers to the states was struck down in both the Senate and House of Representatives. Since then Nigerians have criticised the lawmakers for their votes.
Now, leadership of the two houses have promised to reconsider the issue. First, was the senate president, Bukola Saraki, who explained that many senators struck down the bill due to suspicions actuated by recent hate speeches as well as inadequate consultations. He however said it could be reviewed.
Following suit, the Majority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, has described the defeat of the bill as a legislative mistake. He cited the fact that too many powers to be devolved were lumped into one single bill, leading to confusion among many members.
The bill entitled Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, (Fourth Alteration) Bill, No. 3, 2017 (Devolution of Powers), was defeated 48 to 46 votes in the senate and 210 to 71 votes in the House. It sought to alter the Second Schedule, Part I & II to move certain items to the Concurrent Legislative List to give more legislative powers to states. It also delineated the extent to which the federal legislature and state assemblies could legislate on the items that had been moved to the Concurrent Legislative List.
“Many of us will be asking for the issue of devolution of powers to be revisited upon resumption in September. It’s either an oversight or mistake for several items to have been lumped under the devolution of powers bill, a situation that led to the defeat of the bill,” Gbajabiamila said. “There were about nine items, including railways, pensions, arbitration, stamp duties, parks and others under the subhead and members should have voted on each rather than vote in one fell swoop.
“A member may have agreed to certain items for devolution to states and not to others. The way we voted one would never know how to pass judgment on each item,” he recounted.
He added: “I believe each item should stand or fall on its own merit. It is important to note that devolution of powers is baby steps and the simplest form of reconstruction not a surgical dismemberment of our country. We must feel the pulse of the nation in moments like this.”