By Charles Kumolu, Jonhbosco Agbakwuru, Gbenga Oke & Ikechukwu Nnochiri
President Muhammadu Buhari has constituted a 24-man committee to address perceived defects in Nigeria’s electoral laws and constitution.
Reactions to the constitution of the committee, which is to be headed by a former Senate President, Dr. Ken Nnamani, were, however, mixed as some stakeholders faulted its establishment on the grounds that the National Assembly was better positioned to review the constitution.
The Committee, which members were drawn from Civil Society Organisations, academia, legal profession, traditional institutions, as well as former legislators, would be inaugurated tomorrow by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN.
The AGF, in a statement by his media aide, Mr. Salisu Isah, said the Constitutional/ Electoral Reform Committee was set-up as part of the effort by the Buhari-led administration to rejig the current configuration.
The statement read: ‘’The Committee is expected to review the electoral environment, laws, and experiences from recent elections conducted in Nigeria and make recommendations to strengthen and achieve the conduct of free and fair elections in Nigeria.
‘’The former Senate President, Nnamani, was okayed to head the Committee, with an expectation that he would bring his wealth of experience to bear on the reform process.’’
Dr. Mamman Lawal of Bayero University, Kano, would serve as the secretary, while other members include Dr. Muiz Banire, SAN, Dr. Clement Nwankwo, Chief A.C Ude and Mr. Tahir, the Director, Legal Drafting, Federal Ministry of Justice.
Restructuring of should be paramount—Ezeife
Reacting to the development, a former governor of Anambra State, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, said: “There are basic issues if we want a strong Federal Government. The earlier we restructure the stronger we will be, and if we don’t restructure, or wait for too long, we are attempting disintegration.”
A member of the House of Representatives, who represents Pankshin/Kanke/Kanam Federal Constituency of Plateau State, Mr. Timothy Golu, said: “They should implement the Uwais report and the Constitutional Conference report. They are rich enough. We don’t need any other panel. It will amount to a waste of resources.”
They should channel the money to the implementation of the budget. The reports on the ground are rich.”
Another member of the House of Representatives, Mr. Samuel Onuigbo who represents Ikwuano/Umuahia North, South Federal Constituency of Abia State, said: “They should focus on how to ensure that we attain transparent and credible elections. The other aspect is that we have seen so many reports on constitutional reforms and electoral reforms. The most important among them are the wonderful work of Justice Uwais Committee. We are so good in setting up committees and not implementing the report of the panels.”
Our work will end up at the National Assembly— Nnamani
Nnamani, said: “I think my basic assignment will be to ensure that we improve on the electoral institutions in this country just as the name implies. However, the outcome of that panel will still end up at the National Assembly.’’
Govt may not implement outcome—Mohammed
Second Republic lawmaker, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, said: “In principle, I have no problem with this new panel set up by President Buhari. In fact, I am supportive of the panel but most times, reports of such panels could be thrown into the thrash especially with this kind of National Assembly. I have faith in Nnamani, he has experience in government, he is politically savvy and I believe he will come out with a desired result. However, I believe this government lacks the political will, so the recommendation of that panel might be dumped by the wayside.’’
Political parties must be carried along—Okoye
On his part, a former Secretary of Inter-Party Advisory Council of Nigeria,IPAC, Chief Godson Okoye, said: ‘’Have they consulted the political parties over what they want to do? They are doing electoral reforms, who is going to represent the political parties? Things are done in this country the way they will fail. The political parties are important in any reforms they may want to embark on. The leaders of the party are supposed to be consulted and well represented in any committee that would be put together. The government is expected to hold a stakeholders conference where the parties will agree on the way to go. It is when the parties are not forthcoming that the government can theorise. But the parties are there and should be consulted because they know the kind of reforms that are needed in the electoral process. If there are civil society groups on the panel, what about the political parties? ”