By Gbenga Oke
The National Assembly, yesterday, said Nigeria would be restructured.
Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, who briefed reporters at a retreat in Lagos for the Senate and House of Representatives Committee on the Rewiew of the 1999 Constitution, said some of the contentious issues would be reviewed to meet the yearnings of the people.
Ekweremadu said the 1999 constitution needed reforms to enhance the development of the country, saying railway would no longer be in the exclusive list.
He said: “We have broken all the issues into specific bills. Between yesterday and today we have looked at about 23 separate bills with separate issues. The idea is to ensure that by the time we vote, each of them succeed or fail on its own when we conclude the work and send it to the house to approve.
“ We will collate and ensure that the provisions of the constitution have been fulfilled regarding the alteration and we will send it to the president for his assent. And the president will decide which one to assent or not to assent.
“The implication, therefore, is that if he assents to some, then those ones become altered parts of the constitution. And the one he refuses to give assent, then we might decide whether to override the veto. So, we want each of them to have a separate life on its own. And this is based on our own experience in the last exercise where everything was in one single bill and when the president withheld his assent, all of them collapsed.
“This is just an improvement on what we did last time. It is something we innovated based on our experience in the last exercise.
“Now, we have gone through some specific issues like the time timeframe within which a governor or president will be able to assent to a bill. If you look at our constitution, I think Section 58, if you pass a bill, you need to send it to the president for his assent and he has to assent to it within 30 days. “
Ekweremadu explained that it was imperative for the Federal Government to shed some of its powers.
His words: “We also tried to withdraw some powers from the exclusive list to the concurrent list. You know we have been talking about the restructuring of Nigeria, one of the components of restructuring is that they are saying that there is too much power in the hands of the federal government and we need to strip some of them from the federal government.
“What we have done is to look at the nitty gritty issues where some of the items which they actually needed will be removed from the exclusive list to the concurrent list where the federal and the states can make laws regarding some of those items.
“And where there is conflict, the laws of the national assembly will prevail. So, things like railways will have to be moved to the concurrent list, the idea is that state can build railways within their states and then a couple of states can even decide to build railways across their states. The federal government can also be building railways across the country and make policy around it.”
He noted that the country would continue to have minimum standards for wages in both the public and private sectors.
“There should be minimum wage for both the public sector and private sector, that is to say that if it is N5000 don’t pay any person less than N5000 but it can be increased, that is to say if Lagos has more money it can pay beyond the minimum wage. All those who don’t have money cannot pay below the minimum wage no matter how poor they are. So, in that way, we have a minimum standards for workers in Nigeria.
“We also looked at the removal of the Joint local government account. The challenge there has been how do you take care of the issues of teachers’ salaries because it is from that joint local government state account that primary school teachers’ salaries are paid. So, we wanted to be sure that if we remove the joint local government- state account we will not jeopardise the payment of teacher salaries.
“So that is a very contentious issue and we said we have to do further consultation with the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and other stakeholders before we can take a decision on that to be sure that we don’t create more problems when we are trying to solve and existing problem.
“We believe we have done sufficient work. This is an incremental approach that we have adopted in the amendment of the constitution. So, what we are saying therefore is that after we have finished with this, if we still have more time before election issues come up, otherwise, maybe the next assembly will decide what to do”.