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Constitution review: Lagos participants call for true federalism

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Participants at the ongoing Lagos zonal public hearing on the 1999 constitution review have called for a total amendment of the constitution to reflect true federalism.

Topping the list of issues presented was the need for total devolution of powers whereby the local government system has the greater share and so is empowered to carry out effective administration of the polity since it is closest to the people.

Participants also called for creation of state police, re-inclusion of Magistrates in the constitution, review of the retirement age of Magistrates from 60 to 65.

There were also calls for a declaration to make the Higher National Diploma (HND) equivalent to the university degree; need to ensure gender equality, as well as revenue allocation.

The two-day public hearing, holding at the Lagos Marriott Hotel, Ikeja, started yesterday. It was attended by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu (host), Senator Oluremi Tinubu (Lagos Central and Chairman of Hearing Committee), Olamilekan Adeola (Lagos West), Tokunbo Abiru (Lagos East); Senators Ibikunle Amosun, Tolu Odebiyi (Ogun State); Senators Teslim Folarin and Abdulfatai Buhari (Oyo State), among others.

Governor Sanwo-Olu, who opened the event, noted that the constitutional amendment process would provide Nigerians the opportunity to express their minds on issues they want reflected in the constitution. ‘This is what true democracy is all about – the exercise of the sovereign will of the people. The voices and wishes of the people must always be heard loud and clear, regarding how they are being governed and how they wish to be governed,’ he said.

The governor, who also said it would be impossible to reflect every expressed wish in the revised constitution, urged the people adopt the spirit of give-and-take, ‘with a willingness to mutually compromise and avoid unnecessary tension and division along the way’.

He added: “For us in Lagos State, the issues of state police and fiscal federalism top the priority list for us. Equally fundamental is the issue of a special economic status for Lagos, considering our place in the national economy and the special burdens we bear by virtue of our large population and limited land mass. I believe the need for this special status has been sufficiently articulated and justified. It suffices for me at this point to restate that this request is by no means a selfish one, but one that is actually in the interest of every Nigerian and of Nigeria as a nation. The progress and prosperity of Nigeria is inextricably linked to the progress and prosperity of Lagos State. A special status for Lagos State therefore must be a concern not only for the people of Lagos State alone, but for all Nigerians.”

Deputy Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly Wasiu Eshinlokun Sanni, who represented the Speaker Mudashiru Obasa, also reiterated the need for Lagos to get a special status. He advocated 30 per cent derivation on natural resources for the domiciling states, as well as the criminalisation of undue interference in activities of the legislature by the executive.

Sanni added that it was also expedient that state police be created to improve security at the grassroots.

Lagos State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice Moyosore Onigbanjo advocated an amendment of the unitary constitution to a federal one, among other prayers.

He said: “The constitution we operate now is unitary; but we seek amendment of this document so it would operate true federalism. The exclusive legislative list used to have just nine items, but it increased to 68 items. The centre keeps grabbing power that should otherwise be exercised by states, and we are saying we should go back to the system whereby the state’s list has more items because they are closer to the people and so their powers should not be taken away.

“We also believe that states should have the exclusive powers to create local governments and not seek federal approval. The states know the number of local governments that will suffice and render quality service to its people, so it should be given the powers to do so.

“The policy which also apportions 52.68 per cent of revenue collected in the country to the federation account is not fair, equitable and just. We are proposing a radical change where the Federal Government gets 34 per cent, states 42 per cent and local government 23 per cent.

“The principle of derivations should also apply to every revenue-generating natural resource in states, and not apply to only petroleum. Any state that has the resources where revenue is derived must be entitled to the derivation principle. This must cut across all resources generating revenue for government.

“We also propose that the Value Added Tax (VAT) act be repealed by the National Assembly because it prevents states from utilising the sales act to generate revenue and this has caused confusion and a lot of court cases. We also propose that appointment and promotion of judges should lie with the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) of states and not the National Judicial Council (NJC).”

State Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Rev. Stephen Adegbite queried the establishment and functionality of sharia courts since the constitution said there would be no state religion. He hinted that CAN might be forced to vie for Canon courts in the spirit of equity and justice.

Chairman of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) Comrade Ayuba Wabba insisted that labour and the national minimum wage be retained on the exclusive legislative list. He argued that since Nigeria has domesticated 26 of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), which governs labour matters, ‘it would be anomalous, incongruous and contemptible of global standards and order to even contemplate removing labour from the Exclusive Legislative List’.

He said: “Any contemplation to remove the national minimum wage from the exclusive legislative list to the concurrent legislative list would only expose Nigeria to international ridicule and opprobrium.

“Our prayers are that the National Assembly should retain the national minimum wage on the exclusive list as currently listed in the 1999 constitution, and also retain the general administration of pension as currently captured in Section 173 of the 1999 constitution.

“We also pray that the National Assembly should favourably consider our demands for the full realisation of local government autonomy, legislative autonomy and autonomy for the judiciary arm of government.”

Senator Tinubu, who read the welcome of the Deputy Senate President Ovie Omo-Agege, said the zonal hearings were coming before the national hearing because the senate decided to adopt a bottom-top approach by first listening to Nigerians at the geo-political level.

She said: “A constitution review represents a critical phase in our development and advancement as a nation. At the commencement of this ninth Senate, we had set for ourselves a legislative agenda as a basis on which we are to be assessed. Sitting prominently in that agenda is the need to address, by way of constitutional amendments, topical issues like judicial and electoral reforms, local government autonomy, and devolution of powers. If we get those items through constitutional processes of alteration successfully, then our constitutional democracy will be set on the right pedestal and, ultimately, Nigeria will take its pride of place among the enviable constitutional democracies in the world.

“The success of the review process will be dependent on your beneficent support and partnership. This exercise is your exercise and I implore you all to embrace and own it.”

Issues to be addressed in the hearing would bother on increased participation of women and vulnerable groups in governance, local government administration and autonomy, state police, fiscal federalism and revenue allocation, judicial reforms, electoral reforms, among others.

 

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We’ll not ban Almajiri qur’anic education, but reform it — Gov. Tambuwal

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Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State has said the state government was targeting the remodelling of the Qur’anic education system and not banning it.

Tambuwal stated this on Saturday at the closing of a two-day workshop for the adaptation of the Indonesian Pondok system into the Almajiri-Islamiyya educational system in the state.

He expressed government’s determination to ensure that the initiative was implemented to the letter, stressing that any recognisable success of the system would upgrade and improve the state’s educational system.

He said: “We are not aiming to ban the Almajiri qur’anic education system as some people have urged the Sokoto State Government to emulate other states.

“We are striving to provide reasonable solutions to the challenges and with the present initiative the time has come.”

Tambuwal assured of full implementation of the suggestions made by resource persons and the design of a programme that would surely be a solution to the educational challenges, especially bridging the gap of out of school children.

In his remarks, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, urged the Federal Government and its agencies, including the Universal Basic Education Commission, to consider making financial provisions to the Almajiri qur’anic educational system.

Abubakar noted that when the implementation of the initiative begins, the out of school children figure will drop as well as curtail those roaming the streets.

The Sultan urged others states to emulate Sokoto state on the initiative, in recognition of its importance and suitability to Nigerian’s system of education.

The Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on National Social Investment Programmes, Maryam Uwais, expressed delight at the initiative as it was in line with the President’s efforts at reducing poverty and empowering Nigerians.

Uwais said: “The huge numbers of marginalised youths and children, who have no education, school dropouts who have no skills, have contributed to the dismal outcomes of security challenges.

“The challenges also include females who faced incidence of gender based violence, along with cases of early marriages arising from lack of education, which leads to diminished opportunities.”

She noted that the Pandok system focuses on character development and addressing socioeconomic challenges that children faced, as well as improving educational levels which were all aligned with Sustainable Development Goals.

Uwais added that her office was working towards empowering between 30 to 50 youths in all the local government councils, to supervise and monitor others on valuable skills to be acquired, through various initiatives.

Earlier, the Executive Director, Sokoto State Arabic and Islamic Education Board, Alhaji Umar Altine, said based on the study conducted, the Pandok system of education in Indonesia were owned and managed by individuals or communities, regulated and assisted by the federal ministry of religious affairs.

Altine said the major sources of sustainability were Endowments (Waqf) and Alumni, noting that based on advocacy and sensitisation by the board, six Qur’anic schools had adopted the model.

In her presentation, UNICEF Education Specialist, Sokoto Field Office, Dr. Safiyya Tahir, said that no fewer than 1.2 million children were out of school in Sokoto State, noting that early children development centres were mostly owned by private schools, with only a small percentage owned by public schools.

Tahir said the Pandok system would be relevant to the culture of Sokoto people because they shared similarities with the Indonesians as many families prepared their children for enrolment in religious schools in early life.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that several resource persons made presentations at the occasion, including Dr. Bala Muhammad of the Mass Communication Department, Bayero University, Kano, and Prof. Abdullahi Sule-Kano of the Political Science Department, BUK.

Others were: Prof. Maryam Koko of the Centre for Entrepreneurship Development, Usmanu Danfodio University, Sokoto; Prof. Suleiman Khalil, Sociology Department in UDUS; Prof. Bashir Galadanci; and Prof. Muhammad Junaid.

The Eagle Online

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Resident Doctors Vote to Continue Indefinite Strike

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Striking resident doctors in the country have resolved to sustain their ongoing industrial action until their demands are met by the federal government.

The strike by members of the National Association Resident Doctors (NARD) has entered its seventh week, with their parent body, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), also threatening to embark on solidarity strike if the dispute is not resolved by next weekend.

The resident doctors are demanding payment of arrears of salaries of their members on GIFMIS platform as well as approval of new hazard allowance for the health sector, among other demands.

Rising from its Annual General Meeting (AGM) that ended yesterday at the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University Teaching Hospital (ATBUTH), Bauchi State, NARD said that it had unanimously resolved by vote to continue the total and indefinite strike action.

A new national leadership also emerged at the meeting with Dr Dare Godiya Ishaya as the new president of NARD.

NARD said that: “After critical appraisal of the performances of both federal and state governments on all the issues that led to the ongoing strike as stated above, the AGM unanimously resolved by vote to continue the total and indefinite strike action until our minimum demands are met”.

In a communiqué jointly signed by NARD President, Dr. Dare Godiya Ishaya; Secretary General, Dr. Suleiman Abiodun Ismai; and National Publicity Secretary, Dr. Alfa Yusuf, the doctors said that federal government should ensure that their demands are urgently met before normalcy would return to the health sector

The resident doctors said they are demanding the payment of the Medical Residency Training allowance within 72 hours since the money meant for it is available and verification of the list for payment has been completed.

They also demanded payment of the arrears of salaries of their members on GIFMIS platform within 72 hours while the migration process continues.

Other demands of the Resident doctors include: “Withdrawal of the case against us in court in the interest of peace; and payment of our withheld August and September salaries”.

NARD said that federal government should prevail on various state governments to urgently “pay arrears of salaries and allowances owed our members in the state tertiary health institutions as stated above”.

In the communiqué, NARD said they were committed to the smooth running of the health sector, but can only do so when their welfare is given the desired attention.

“We, therefore, call on all well-meaning Nigerians to prevail on the government to set aside all technicalities as directed by President Muhammadu Buhari and resolve the aforementioned demands in the interest of the masses and our members who are currently suffering because of the ongoing strike action,” it said.

Earlier during the AGM, the doctors bemoaned the delay in payment of death-in-service insurance benefit to the next-of-kin of the fallen heroes despite their sacrifices to the country.

They expressed concerns over the conditions of their members under different state governments’ employs, especially Abia, Imo, Ekiti and Ondo states, where their members are being owed 20 months, six months, four months and four months’ salary arrears, respectively.

They meeting also observed with serious concerns the poor response of most state governments in domesticating the Medical Residency Training Act of 2017 while commending states like Delta and Benue for adopting the law.

In particular, NARD expressed appreciation to the governor of Delta State, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, who has paid its members the 2021 MRTF during the ongoing strike.

The meeting lamented the acute manpower shortage in most tertiary health institutions and the attendant burnout effects on its members.

The communiqué said that NARD observed with serious concerns that despite several meetings with the presidential committee on salaries and other top government stakeholders on the review of hazard allowance for health workers, the hazard allowance still remains a paltry N5,000.

It also noted the non-payment of COVID-19 inducement allowance to some of the members in federal and most of its members in state tertiary institutions.

Onyebuchi Ezigbo, Thisday News

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BREAKING: IPOB orders sit-at-home on October 1, removal of all Nigerian flags from southeast

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The Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, has declared a sit-at-home across the Southeast on October 1.

IPOB said the October 1 sit-at-home is to show its rejection of Nigeria and all the country stands for.

In a statement by its spokesman on Saturday, Emma Powerful, the group also declared the commencement of “operation no Nigerian flag begins in Biafra land from October 1st.”

Powerful said the sit-at-home order was declared to celebrate Ambazonia Independence Anniversary.

The statement reads partly: “IPOB has declared 1st of October 2021 total shutdown in Biafra land as a sign of our rejection of the evil construct called Nigeria and there shall be no movement in Biafra land on this day.

“Also, IPOB has declared from today 25th September 2021 that all Nigerian flag mounted anywhere in Biafra land must be brought down, Banks exceptional, IPOB leadership will communicate to Banks directly and give them reason they must peacefully bring down Nigeria flag in their banking premises before we do it ourselves in our own way.

“Every body must strictly adhere to this directives from IPOB leadership, we want to let the world know you that Biafraland is not Nigeria and shall not be. Don’t say I don’t know, a word is enough for the wise.”

Seun Opejobi, Daily Post

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