The National Assembly has began the process of amending the 1999 constitution, which will ensure more power devolved to the states.
Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu spoke with journalists at the annual joint retreat of the Senate and House of Representatives Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution which ended in Lagos on Saturday.
He said one of the major reforms is the removal of railways from the exclusive list and transfer to the concurrent list to allow states with the means to provide rail services.
He said: “We have broken all the issues into specific bills. Between yesterday (Friday) and today (Saturday) 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 succeeds or fails on its own. When we conclude the work, we’ll 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 to or not to assent to.
“The implication therefore is that if he assents to some, then those one become part of the constitution. And the one he refuses to assent to, then we might decide whether to override the veto.
“So, we want each of them to have a separate life of 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.”
The Constitution review committee, according to him, also considered the time frame within which the president or state governor has to assent to a bill and the issue of restructuring.
His words: “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 issue. Some items 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 a 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 states can build railways within their territory and then a couple of states can even decide to build railways across their states.
“The federal government can also build railways across the country and make policy around it.”
There will continue to be a minimum wage applicable to 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 can be increased
“If Lagos has more money, it can pay beyond the minimum wage. All those who don’t have money cannot pay below the minimum way no matter how poor they are.
“So, in that way we have a minimum standard for workers in Nigeria.”