Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu yesterday said Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso of Kano State is confused for accusing the Constitution Review Committee of a hidden agenda to create a state for the South East.
He asked the governor to withdraw the statement.
Ekweremadu who doubles as Chairman of the Committee said the governor ought to know that no individual can amend the constitution.
He spoke to newsmen in Abuja. He said, “My friend, Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso, has accused me twice in that direction. My first attitude was simply to ignore him and focus on what I am doing because I believe he was mistaken in the accusation. Secondly, I believe two wrongs do not make a right. We are public servants; we cannot be joining words on the pages of newspapers. And as I said, he is my friend. As the late Chief Awolowo said, if we are related, we would always meet. I am going to meet with him some time and we will be able to talk it over one to one.
“But on a serious note, we have to understand how things work. This is a civilian regime, this is a democracy. Creation of state is one that requires every hand to be on the deck; it requires the votes of Senators, House of Representatives members and we also have to take it to the states.
“So, any person who believes that he would sit in one place and decide on any issue, including state creation, does not seem to understand how these things work in the first place.
“I think my friend Kwankwaso seems not to understand clearly how states are being created. For him to send signal that any person could sit in one place and ensure that states are created. That is the way military created their own states. I am surprised that Kwankwaso does not know that things have changed. This is a civilian regime where nobody will stay in one place and then decide the states to be created.
“Everybody, every state will be involved in the creation of states no matter where the states will be created, including Kano State. Kano State will also be involved.
“So, it is unfair to accuse any person, including myself, of having a position on the matter already because mine is to guide the process. The determination of what will happen ultimately is left to the parliamentarians at the national and state levels, not a single person will take that decision.
“I believe he was completely mistaken in that direction. There is no mindset on any issue. And I have made it clear severally that we do not have any position on anything, our position will be dependent on what Nigerians think about any issue.
“I have nothing to lose or gain from any of these things, except in my position as a public servant who has been given an assignment and I have to do that assignment as diligently as possible. So, that is just my commitment on that. Beyond that, I do not think that I have any personal interest to pursue a particular agenda.”
“I consider it as an unfair comment, I should expect him he should have withdrawn that comment by now. But I am sure some day; we will meet and talk things over.”
He said the National Assembly Constitution Review Committee has received 240 memoranda outside 56 dealing with specific demands on state creation.
He also said that the committee has no any hidden agenda.
He expressed confidence that the proposed amendments to the constitution will be ready by July 2013.
He however added that Bakassi Peninsula matter has not been concluded as issues surrounding the ceding of the place night still be addressed by the Constitution Review Committee.
Ekweremadu said: “At the last count, I think we have received about 240 memoranda outside the ones dealing with specific state demands which is about 56. We have as much as possible acknowledged these submissions.
In July, you will recall that we had retreat in Delta where we looked at all these memoranda and tried to summarize these because most of them are dealing with similar issues. We tried to identify issues which these memos are concentrating on and those were the things we considered as the thematic areas.
“So, we brought them out during the national public hearing which ended on Friday so that Nigerians will begin as much as possible to make contributions towards so that not just those who sent memos that are entitled to pick on these things, every Nigerian will have the opportunity to say his or her own mind in respect of these thematic areas or the areas from the memos so far submitted.
“So, we have thrown it to the public and I am happy that for the two days, we had very useful discussions from Nigerians. We intend to take it to the zones so that people who are unable to attend the national public hearing will have the opportunity to say their minds.
“Beyond that, we intend to engage our constituents at the level of constituency. We intend to take our colleagues to their various districts so that they will hold their meetings with their constituents. Every Senator will be involved in this.”
On the deadline to complete the review, he said by July 2013 the assignment would have been completed.”
He hinted that the fate of Nigerians affected by the ceding of Bakassi Peninsula might still be part of the ongoing constitution review.
He said: “The Bakassi thing, like what you say in journalism, is a developing story. I don’t think it is concluded. We have had one aspect of it which is the ICJ judgment which we were unable to review because of time frame and of course the Attorney-General of the Federation said we did not have issue to canvass.
“But there are still options available to Nigeria including but not limited to the issue of plebiscite, if you like, for those people to determine where they would want to stay. And of course, you are also aware of the human rights violation that they are tackling in the Peninsula right now which Nigeria is entitled to petition and get Cameroon to answer for those human rights. So, these are some of the things that are still outstanding. It is also likely that one day that peninsula will still become part of Nigeria.
“I am aware that the money due to that local government every month is sent to Joint Account.”
Ekweremadu said neither him nor the committee has hidden agenda on constitution amendments, especially state creation.
He said the committee is vigorously pursuing the demand for state creation.
He added: “The other aspect which is the issue of state creation. From the memoranda we have got so far and from the contributions of Nigerians at the public hearing so far, I think there is the desire of Nigerians to have state created. And we are representing the people and we are to give meaning to the expression of Nigerians. To that extent, we are going to vigorously pursue the issue of state creation. If it succeeds fine, if it does not succeed, we would have done our job.”
On INEC, Ekweremadu said its independence as guaranteed by the present constitution is sufficient.
He said: “I think the most important thing for us is to ensure the independence of the Election Management Body; we have been able to secure that. You know that the President appoints but you also know that the President cannot remove them himself; it would require the resolution of the Senate.
“So, that is a sufficient check. Besides, the constitution earlier provided that the rules and programmes of the Electoral Commission should be approved by the President but we have removed that from the constitution.
“So, they don’t need to and they will not revert to the President on the day-to-day running of their affairs. That is what the constitution says presently.
“Now, they are also sufficiently independent in terms of their funds, they are on the First Line charge. I think that we have secured sufficient independence for the electoral body and this has been amplified in the manner the 2011 election was conducted.
“I do not think that there is much to look at in terms of further reforms in the electoral process except for us, maybe, to look at the Electoral Act and see if there are some areas we need to strengthen.
“You will recall, we provided for the period in which electoral matters should be dispensed with but somehow we did not consider that sometimes a matter can be sent back to the tribunal for retrial.”