By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor, Emma Amazie & Clifford Ndujihe
ABUJA — The Justice Alfa Belgore-led Presidential Committee on Constitution Review has pushed back proposals for a single tenure for the president and governors to President Goodluck Jonathan.
The committee which submitted its report to the President, yesterday, has nevertheless recommended reforms of the local government system, redefinition of states among other proposals to give the states a measure of autonomy in the administration of the local governments.
The committee also recommended the removal of the Land Use Act from the constitution for the purpose of easing land administration.
President Jonathan, who received the report, immediately welcomed the recommendation on the removal of the Land Use Act from the constitution, saying it would give the executive flexibility in policy making.
Mitee writes minority report
Controversy was, however, dogging the report as it emerged that Niger Delta activist, Dr. Ledum Mitee, was himself working on a minority report to be submitted to the president expressing divergence on the majority report which threw away the proposal for a single tenure for executive office holders.
But another committee member told Vanguard yesterday: “It was a worthwhile experience. I looked at all the issues in our terms of reference and made recommendations that will help to un-bundle the problems and look at them one after the other. I hope the recommendations will help to resolve Nigeria’s problems.”
The Belgore-led panel officially styled as the “Committee to Review Outstanding Issues from Recent Constitutional Conferences” was inaugurated on November 17, 2011 with a mandate to identify gaps in the present constitution and propose amendments as adopted by previous constitutional conferences. The committee was, however, limited to making suggestions on issues adopted by consensus by the previous constitutional gatherings.
On single tenure
A member of the committee told Vanguard, yesterday, that the decision not to forward the proposal on single tenure arose from the mandate of the committee which limited it from adopting issues that were divisive in past constitutional conferences.
“It was for this that we did not identify the issue of single tenure. You know that the issue of single tenure was never adopted by consensus in previous gatherings, so we could not pick on it as we did not have a mandate from the people,” a member said on the basis of confidentiality because he was not authorised to speak to the media on it.
“What we have done with this and other related contentious issues is to take it back to the President who will now constitute a larger body to ponder on them or maybe even the National Assembly.”
Removal of Land Use Act
The committee, it was learnt, however, agreed that the Land Use Act should be removed from the constitution but remain as one of the national laws of the federation.
“It was quite easy for us to agree on the issue of the removal of the Land Use Act, given that there has almost been a consensus on it and indeed there have already been moves to remove it,” one committee member said.
The proposals of the committee were accompanied by bills to support the constitution amendments as proposed, it was learnt. The preparation of the bills, it was also learnt, was one of the reasons for the delay in the work of the committee.
Removal of LGs from constitution
The committee, Vanguard learnt, also proposed the removal of the local governments from the constitution. The removal, it was learnt, would be followed up with the redefinition of the states according to geographical coordinates instead of the present system that identifies states according to the local government boundaries.
While giving the states greater latitude in local government administration and the creation of local governments, the committee, nevertheless, proposed strong clauses as deterrents to the poor application of the democratic system in local government administration.
“States can create local governments the way they like under the proposals we have made just like Lagos has done, but the catch is that the distribution of resources from the federation account would no longer be tied to the number of local governments,” one source further revealed.
Strengthening of fundamental rights
The committee, it was learnt, also made proposals to entrench fundamental rights of all citizens and especially children, women and the physically challenged. That is besides the recommendations for speedier dispensation of justice at all levels.
I’m with you on these issues—Jonathan
Receiving the report yesterday, President Jonathan said:“I am one with you on these issues, as I believe that fundamental rights, security of life and property, the protection of the law, and equitable dispensation of justice must be made real as they greatly influence the average citizen’s sense of obligation and patriotic disposition towards the nation.
“I am equally pleased that the committee has paid justified attention to local government administration. I am convinced, given my personal experience at national and sub-national levels of governance in Nigeria, that the greatest asset of our democracy is the commitment of people at the grassroots to the ideals of transparency, accountability and good governance.
“Considering that local governments have the greatest potential for maximum impact on the lives of all citizens, the extent of their efficient development is the true measure of our democracy’s claim to being a government of the people by the people and for the people.
“Similarly, the committee has made robust proposals on the public accountability imperative for officials in the executive and the legislature. As the most visible arms of government, their integrity and functional capacities determine the quality of trust and reality of the social contract in any society. Their success and mutual reinforcement define the hope of our nation, while their excesses and shortcomings subvert the dreams of democratic transformation.
“I welcome the chairman’s assertion that the committee has made profound recommendations to strengthen the legislature at all levels and also to demand conformity with extant national regulations in the conduct of their affairs.”
Members of the panel include Senator Udoma Udo Udoma (Vice-chairman), Chief Ebenezer Babatope, Mr. Ledum Mitee, Dr. Abubakar Saddique, Ms. Comfort Obi, Mr. Peter Esele, Prof. Oladipo Afolabi, Prof. Jerry Gana and Tessy Ikimi.
Others are Mr. G.O.S. Miri, Ambassador Babagana Kingibe, Ambassador Jibrin Chinade, Alhaji Abubakar Mustapha, Prof. Anya O. Anya, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Alhaja Salimot Badru, Hajia Najatu Mohammed, Mr. Ferdinand Agu, Alhaji Wakil Mohammed and Halima Alfa.