For Nigerians who have tongue-lashed the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) for failure to restructure the country, which it promised in its manifesto, Governor John Kayode Fayemi, has risen in stout defence of his party.
And for the governor, who is also the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF), such blame should be exclusively reserved for the National Assembly, which is yet to subject the report of the Governor Nasir el-Rufai committee to scrutiny months after it took delivery of it.
Fayemi, a said the onus is on the National Assembly to take the bull by the horn, as he also explained that Operation Amotekun is intended to protect Nigerians and even foreigners legitimately resident in the South West.
Insisting that it was unfair to say that the APC has reneged on its promise to restructure, he said: “Yes, restructuring is one of the things that we promised in our manifesto and what the party asked the El-Rufai committee to do was to really define what we mean by restructuring. And the Nasir el-Rufai Committee did a brilliant job of that; going round the country, holding zonal meetings, asking questions from a diverse audience and then coming out with a set of recommendations, including even proposed draft bills that define the consensus. However, the job of legislation and reforming the Constitution of Nigeria in order to achieve what we promised Nigerians is the job of the legislature.”
He continued: “I can tell you for a fact that we formally presented the Nasir el-Rufai committee report to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives. And what we presented to them also contained proposed bills, and the reason why we have not come to it from the executive side is that there is a standing committee in the National Assembly dedicated to Constitutional Reform chaired by the Deputy Senate President and the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives. This is a joint committee, a very powerful one that is dedicated to this issue exclusively.
“The National Assembly is not only for the APC, but it is also the National Assembly of Nigeria. So, it is up to them to subject what we have presented in the el-Rufai committee report to scrutiny and even if they like, to allow a public hearing in order to get the best of what Nigerians would like to see in the Constitution.” He added.
On Operation Amotekun the Southwest’s security outfit, which has generated a lot of reactions, Fayemi said the outfit was designed to make Nigeria safe for all.
He said: “The simple intention behind Operation Amotekun is to protect Nigerians and even foreigners legitimately resident in our jurisdiction. We wanted to take measures to complement what the Police and other security institutions, who are clearly overstretched, were already doing. We spoke to the leadership of security institutions and they were well represented in our two summits, one convened directly by the Southwest Governors in June 2019, and the other convened by the Inspector General in August 2019. The idea was very clear, though it might have been misconstrued in other quarters, our idea was simply how do we stop the carnage on our highways, and the virtual take over of our forests that was now preventing farmers from working on the farms, thus impinging on food security and damaging the economy of the country. If farmers are too afraid to go to the farm, the implication is very dire on public safety and food security and for the general wellbeing of the people and we felt as governors, our first duty to those who elected us is to protect and secure them.
Meanwhile, the restructuring of the country may get the attention of the National Assembly this year as it begins another round of alteration of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
Apart from the 2014 National Conference report which contained serious recommendations on how the country could be best restructured, the recommendations of the el-Rufai led committee on restructuring are very handy for use by the Senate.
Also, some prominent APC members are of the view that nothing stops the National Assembly from tapping from the el-Rufai committee report while seeking to alter the Constitution.
A principal, who voiced this confirmation however pleaded not to be mentioned because he was not authorized to speak on the matter.
“Definitely, it is very much in order to extract materials from the report submitted by the el-Rufai committee and any other relevant report. Although I would want to be excused from commenting on this so that the work we are doing would not be destroyed by political sentiments, “ the lawmaker said.
Deputy President of the Senate, Ovie Omo-Agege, who doubles as the Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Review of the Constitution, had equally hinted of the possibility of extracting some materials from the el-Rufai committee.