By Ifeanyi Olannye
The people of South-South zone are demanding for amendment of the 1999 constitution, resource control, fiscal federalism, full autonomy, devolution of power, creation of state police and gender equality.
This indication was unveiled when the Senate committee, led by Sen. James Manager, hosted the people of Delta, Edo and Bayelsa states at a hearing on constitution amendment, on Wednesday in Asaba.
The Senate committee members are Senators James Manager and Peter Nwaobushi from Delta; Seriake Dickson, Clopas Moses and Degi-Eremielyo W.D from Bayelsa and Mathew Orohighide and Francis Alihiemeha from Edo.
The people of Niger Delta demanded that the constitution be amended to enable each of the federating states generate and manage their resources.
They demanded that royalty should be paid to the centre as a true Federal system of government.
On the devolution of power, they said that with the prevailing economic and security challenges, it was timely to review and amend the 1999 constitution to meet the present realities for states to have their own police.
They also said that their request and demand had been articulated, documented and submitted to the Senate committee to enable it effect the needed change.
In his remarks, before declaring the hearing open, Gov. Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta said, among the contentious issues of the proposal review, are fiscal federation, devolution of power, state police, and local government creation.
Okowa, represented by the Speaker, Delta State House of Assembly, Mr Sheriff Oborevwori, said that Delta government and its people are convinced that Nigeria should continue as a federation.
“After carefully considering all the salient attributes of a federal system as well as the historical antecedents relating to federalism as practiced in Nigeria, the Delta government and its people are convinced that Nigeria should continue as a federation but with a proper federal structure,” Okowa said.
The governor proposed fiscal federation for revenue accountability and discipline, state police to improve security, devolution of power and the review of the 13 per cent derivation formula to 50 per cent.
He charged the committee to ensure that the recommendations are considered to reflect the yearnings and aspirations of Nigerians.
The positions of the Edo and Bayelsa governments and various associations and groups are aligned to these demands.
The representatives of Bayelsa government demand full resource control, creation of four additional states in the region and amendment of the electoral laws.
In their submission, Edo representatives demanded, among others, the increase in women participation in politics and gender equality and balancing.
In their separate submissions, the Ijaw, Urhobo, Ndokwa and other ethnic extractions took turns to make their proposals.
Some of them asked for the creation of state, gender balancing and a constitution that would ensure equity, fairness and justice irrespective of tribe, language or colour.
In their submissions, the representative of the traditional rulers demanded that their roles be put back in the constitution, and one traditional ruler in every state be a member of senate.
On her part, Dr Joyce Ogweze, who led a group of Women under the aegis of United Nations Nigeria Women in politics, called for adequate representation of women in politics.
Ogweze said that women must be all inclusive, adding that the 1999 constitution as amended has more male representation then women.
According to her, the group has submitted a memoranda to address all the grey areas that put women under, hoping that the amendment will right the wrongs and ensure gender neutrality.
She demanded that the 35 per cent women representation in all elections in the country must be adhered to.
Earlier in his welcome address, Manager said that the committee had adopted a bottom top approach to underscore the critical importance for the review of the 1999 constitution.
He noted that the amendment had provided the opportunity for Nigerians to make inputs towards having a constitution that would ensure fairness, equity and transparent and inclusiveness.
According to him, the review is timely, due to the clamour by the people and there is no better way to address the agitations than a constitutional review.
He pledged that the committee will work on all the memoranda and present them before the house.
He urged all groups, both home and abroad, to support the amendment and participate in the exercise. (NAN)