Constitution Review: We’ll Consider 2014 Confab Report, Says Senate

Nigerian Constitution
Nigerian Constitution

 As the process of another constitutional review has begun, the Senate, Wednesday, said it would consider recommendations of the 2014 National Conference.

The Upper Chamber, which said the report of the 2014 conference would form the working document of the current view, said the 58-member Constitution Committee would also consider the recommendations of the All Progressives Congress committee report on restructuring headed by Kaduna State governor, Nasir el-Rufai.

Speaking shortly after the inauguration of the Constitution Review Committee, Senator Ovie Omo Agege, Deputy President of the Senate and Chairman of the Committee, APC, Delta Central, said that the committee would also liaise with members of the House of Representatives, State Houses of Assembly as well as collaborate and build consensus with all stakeholders to ensure synergy.

It would be recalled that former President Jonathan had appointed 492 delegates to the National Conference which held for 151 days at the National Judicial Institute, NJI, on March 17, 2014.

The  Conference was chaired by late former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Idris Kutigi, with late former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Idris Kutigi, , with 492 delegates drawn from all sections of the society.

A total of 600 resolutions were passed, while such issues as true federalism, State Police, fiscal autonomy, Mayoral status for Abuja, among others, were adopted.

Speaking further, Senator Omo- Agege said that the committee would also brainstorm with development partners through counsel, workshops, conferences and interactions.

Omo-Agege said: “This committee will consider the recommendations of the 2014 Constitutional Conference and the Governor Nasir el-Rufai-led Committee on restructuring. We would also liaise with our counterparts in the House of Representatives, the State Houses of Assembly and collaborate and build consensus with all stakeholders to ensure synergy. ”Development partners will also play pivotal roles through counsel, workshops, conferences and interactions. The partnership roles of the Executive and Judiciary and their invaluable contributions cannot be overlooked as it will enhance efficient and successful outcomes.”

He said senators will also consider the alteration of the Sixth Schedule to make provision for new items, the establishment of National and State Houses of Assembly, Pre-election Matters Tribunal, Governorship Pre-election Matters Tribunals and Presidential Pre-election Matters Tribunal, including time limits for the disposal of all pre-election matters before the conduct of the general elections.

Omo-Agege said that the committee will consider the need for devolution of power, full local government fiscal autonomy, full autonomy of the judiciary in the area of administration of justice, youth inclusiveness in governance, gender parity or affirmative action.

He said the committee would also consider inputs from stakeholders and different interest groups across the country.

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Omo-Agege said: “Accept my congratulations, Distinguished Colleagues for appointments well deserved as members of this very important committee saddled with the responsibility of amending the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in this 9th Senate. This calls for dedication, patriotism and selfless sacrifice to our fatherland.

“The need for Constitutional amendment lies at the heart of Constitutional theory and practice. Constitutionalism implies that the fundamental rules for the effective exercise of state power and protection of individual rights should be stable and predictable and not subject to easy change or the whims of individuals. This is most central in our noble and continual pursuit of the General Will.  It is for this reason that the drafters of our Constitution deliberately made the process of Constitutional Amendment very pains-taking. Yet, the greater need to improve democratic governance or adjust to the ever-changing political, economic and social realities has made it necessary for our Nation to embark on this journey again.

“These changing times have brought new challenges and today in our country, we are faced with increased insecurity, slow economic growth, rising poverty, and poor political culture, amongst others. These challenges that will define the way Nigerians will live in the 21st century have continued to agitate the minds of our people. It is against this background that the need for constitutional reforms has once again become necessary.

“It is worthy of note that because of the need to incorporate the interests, wishes and aspirations of the people from various ethnic-social and ethnoreligious backgrounds, we shall embark on far-reaching consultations with Nigerians across the six geo-political zones to, aggregate their positions on current issues that require legislative action by way of Constitutional Reforms.

“Over the years our people appear to have been polarised along different fault lines which often make it impossible to reach the much-needed consensus in some critical areas where fundamental changes are required. We must guide against this if we are to succeed. There is thus the need for a constitutional amendment that will be consistent with the agitations and aspirations of our people. This again is the whole essence of the General Will.

“Our task would be to find a consensus through compromise in order to meet the ever-changing needs of our people. We must understand that the fact that behind our diversity are people united by common challenges of insecurity, unemployment, and good hope for a better future, provides us with the opportunity to focus on those issues that unite us. It is only by so doing that we can guarantee success and leave for our children a better, fairer and more just Nigeria than the one we met.

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“As we set out to perform this all-important role that we are called upon to play at this critical stage of our nation’s development, let me appreciate the effort of the President of the Senate is putting together the membership of this Committee. The diligence, hard-work and foresight that were brought to bear are commendable. Mr. President, we appreciate the importance and level of responsibility you attached to the work of this Committee. We will not disappoint you. I also have no doubt in my mind that this Committee will meet the desires and expectations of the Nigerian people. This is because in the end, what unites us is far greater than what divides us.”

Inaugurating the committee, President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan, urged the members to consult with public organisations and the civil society such as the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, as the vehicle for elections, civil society groups, the academia, media, and indeed, the citizenry.

Lawan said: “This level was to ensure we continued with the ninth national assembly’s fast pace of work. We have reflected this in the reversal of our improper Budget circle, and in the swift consideration and passage of other crucial bills.

“We are now resolved to re-examine the constitution, consistent with our legislative agenda and in tandem with the yearnings of our people. You will agree with me that reviewing the constitution is an arduous task. It requires painstaking consultation, dialogues and debates.

“We expect consultations with public organisations and civil society. These include the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), as the vehicle for elections, Civil Society Groups, the academia, the media, and indeed, the citizenry.

“This assignment needs a great deal of time, resources and expert ideas. This is so because constitutional reviews are not everyday exercises. On the few occasions that it becomes necessary, we have the responsibility to ensure that inputs and outputs are not just exhaustive, but should also be wide-ranging and effective.”