By Abdulwahed Omar
We recall that a public session was to hold last Thursday, 31st January 2013 which was abruptly postponed by the Honourable Speaker of the House after members of the public had waited for about two hours for the session to commence.
While we hope that the National Assembly is not yielding to pressure from some quarters, particularly the Governors Forum who has been widely reported to be against some popular proposals on critical sections of the constitution most Nigerians advocated should be included in the new constitution, we reiterate our position that the new constitution provides for full local government autonomy as expected in a federation.
The Local Governments are closer to the mass of our people and its only when they are fully independent that the Nigerian people can enjoy the benefits of democracy.
Rather than continue to tie the local governments to the whims and caprices of state governments, the constitution should ensure funds meant for local governments go directly to them and all funds and other resources generated by the local governments should be managed by the local governments and not the state governments.
This is one way we can deepen democracy in Nigeria and ensure a working federal system that will benefit the Nigerian people.
The Nigerian people were united on this during the public sessions held last year in all the 360 constituencies where the Peoples’ Public Sessions were held by the House of Representatives in collaboration with labour and civil society groups in the country.
The Nigerian people were also united that labour and industrial relations matters must remain in the exclusive list as it is in the 1999 constitution and must not be tampered with as it is in the interest of industrial peace and the principles of tripartism which promotes transparency, fairness, and result oriented collective bargaining.
We warn, that the National Assembly should not allow itself to be used to impose tenure elongation for any political office, including the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Office of Governor etc, as Nigerians have consistently opposed this since it was fraudulently introduced to public discourse and legislative attention during the Obasanjo administration. We remain opposed to it and will resist any attempt to smuggle it into the report because Nigerians have consistently been opposed to it.
We took interest in the proceedings of the People’s Public Sessions because we believed the leadership of the House who promised the Nigerian people that our shared views and presentations would not be supplanted with views and interests of a few politicians who wish that the resources and political direction of the country remain their exclusive preserve.
The National Assembly, particularly the House of Representatives should not allow itself to be held hostage by any political group or interest to mutilate the views and collective interests of the Nigerian people in the final report of the sessions held nationwide on the constitution amendment.
The National Assembly should know that their commitment is to the Nigerian people as a whole and not the self interests of a few people or groups. This attitude of subjugating our collective interests have not been helpful in the delivery of good governance and anyone advocating for the sustenance of retrogressive and anti people provisions in the constitution must be regarded and treated as an enemy of the Nigerian people.
The leadership of the House should be firm in its determination to promote democratic ideals and good governance, which the 7th House of Representatives have been able to demonstrate so far.
We therefore demand that the house make the report of the Peoples’ Public Sessions held nationwide public immediately.