Partners for Electoral Reforms (PEF), a Civil Society Organisation (CSO), said ongoing constitutional amendment by the National Assembly was the most non-participatory in Nigeria’s history.
The Chairman of the organisation, Mr Ezenwa Nwagwu, told Newsmen on Tuesday in Abuja that the national assembly could not make such “life-changing’’ decision without the involvement of Nigerians.
“We cannot lump issues that are divisive that tend to tear the country apart without necessary input of citizens.
“Issues around land tenure will not just be legislated upon; there is a need for engagement with citizens to get a buy-in by them.
“This is the most non-participatory constitutional amendment that we have seen in the history of constitutional amendments in the country.
“They just went on a retreat and afterwards, got into a vote of `yes’, and so the big challenge with all of these is that the political work that was necessary to have be done before constitutional amendment was not done.
“So, some of the tendentious issues like devolution of power, land tenure, will continue to be testy, going forward.
“Thus, even though the battle has gone down to the states’ houses of assembly, it might hit the rock in those places and we will go back to another circle,’’ he said.
Nwagwu also decried the discarding of women’s right and gender issues, including their right to choose where they wanted to belong in terms of marriage and other rights that should accrue to them.
He said the legislators did not “take one step around affirmative action’’, adding that that in itself, was an affront on the rights of women to join the rest of the world in enjoying the benefits that women enjoyed.
He said women in Uganda, Rwanda and some other African countries as well as Europe and the America, enjoyed such rights, insisting that it was also important for Nigerian women to also enjoy such.
On age to contest elections, the CSO chairman said that those bottlenecks and limitations should be completely removed so that young people could participate in governance.
“The atomistic nature with which the legislatures also engaged the age limits for elective offices was without rationale. Why won’t we allow 18 years to vote and 18 years to aspire to be voted for?
“What we have seen is the reduction from 40 years to 35 years. What argument sustains non-reduction from 35 to 30?
“I hear that going forward, we might still have to amend the Constitution, but it is important that we do what we have to do when we have the opportunity to do it.
“We cannot continue to shift and postpone and prolong the democratic tenure for the generation coming because they will blackmail us that we actually compromised on something that would have been of benefit to them,’’ he said.
Nwagwu stated that law-making should take into cognisance making laws that would serve for 20 years, 40 years and 50 years, adding that “we cannot be making laws for ourselves all the time’’.
He said that Nigerians may begin to oversight constitutional amendments in such a way that it would always be conclusive and enduring to avoid subjecting the Constitution to regular review due to poor processes.