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Constitution Review: We will consider 2014 confab report — Senate

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Senate
Nigeria Senate

*** Look at recommendations of Kaduna State  Governor Nasir El-Rufai-led Committee on Restructuring

*** As devolution of power, full Local Government fiscal autonomy, full autonomy of the judiciary, youth inclusiveness in governance, gender parity, others top Agenda 

By Henry Umoru 

The Senate said yesterday that as it begins another process of review of the 1999 Constitution, the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference would be seriously considered as the report would form a working document.

Also read: APC crisis: Group commends Buhari over reconstitution of Akande-led reconciliation committee

The Senate has also said that in the course of its assignment, the 58- member Constitution  Committee will also consider the recommendations of Kaduna State  Governor Nasir El-Rufai-led Committee on restructuring. 
 
Speaking yesterday shortly after the inauguration of the  Constitution Review Committee, Deputy President of the Senate and Chairman of the Committee, Senator Ovie Omo Agege, All Progressives Congress, APC, Delta Central said that the Committee would also liaise with members of the House of Representatives, the 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 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 Professor Bolaji Akinyemi as Vice Chairman and Valerie Azinge as Secretary with 492 Delegates drawn from all sections of the Society, just as it came up with 600 resolutions that were passed, with the adoption of true Federalism for Nigeria, State Police, fiscal autonomy, Mayoral status for Abuja, among others as major issues that were adopted.
 
Speaking further, Senator Omo- Agege said that the Committee would also brainstorm with Development Partners where they would play pivotal roles through counsel, workshops, conferences and interactions, adding that the partnership roles of the Executive and Judiciary and their invaluable contributions cannot be overlooked as it will enhance efficient and successful outcomes.
 
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.”
 
The Chairman of the Constitution Review Committee said that the 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. 
He said that the Committee will also 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, adding that it would also consider inputs from stakeholders and different interest groups across the country.
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 ethno-religious 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.
“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 at the end, what unites us is far greater than what divides us.
“In carrying out this national assignment, this Committee will no doubt, 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. We will also 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. This is by no means an exhaustive list. The Committee will also consider inputs from stakeholders and different interest groups across the country.
“Finally, it will suffice to say that an assignment of this magnitude demands diligence and commitment. So, as we embark on this very important legislative assignment, let us use this opportunity to build consensus on constitutional issues that will impact the lives of the people of our great country Nigeria. We must get it right for the good of our people and the unity of our great country. The Nigerian people deserve no less.”
Earlier in his remarks, while inaugurating the Committee, President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan urged members of the Committee to carry out consultations 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, the 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.
 “When this process is foolproof, we can then be rest assured that it will take a longer time before new realities possibly trigger demands for amendments. The senate is mindful of the central role of the constitution, as the Grundnorm of our democracy.
 “The continued success of our democracy is reasonably dependent on a well-thought constitution. Though no constitution can be faultless, mostly because social dynamics are unpredictable, but a good review can increase its functionality, and then decrease social agitations.
 “This will not only ensure national harmony but also guarantee the greater peace and progress of our country.  As statesmen, we surely have another noble task in our hands. And it is also a task that I believe my distinguished colleagues, and indeed, the National Assembly will excel at carrying out.
“In constituting this committee, we needed to ensure a good representation of all parts of the country to project all anxieties. With the Distinguished Deputy Senate President as Chairman and all principal officers, one representation from every state of the federation, and another two sets of senators from the six geopolitical regions as members, the composition of the Committee is surely rock solid.
“Distinguished senators who are not Committee members are also free to contribute.  Though we expect our sister House to make its own composition, I am confident that this will create another opportunity for our dear country.
“We do not just envisage a country where citizens will feel fulfilled, but also one where happiness, peace and prosperity will come with it. We long for a country where our economy will not only be prosperous, but also where the political process will be seamless, and characterized with noble causes of service, patriotism and nationalism.
 “An enhanced constitution is a good starting point, and it is the reason why we call on all stakeholders to be involved. Our contributions, submissions, and viewpoints are the materials the Committee will feed on.
“I, therefore, urge all citizens, groups, and organisations to be involved so together, we shall make our country pride of Africa and a beacon for humanity.”
Recall that the issue of State Police as controversial as it appeared, the 2014 Conference resolved that those who want it should go and have state police, but those who do not want it, the recommendation of the conference was that the present status of the Nigerian police should remain. But from ASP downwards should be indigenes of every state and that on its own is like state police.
 
Delegates also approved the scrapping of joint state and local government accounts; to be replaced with a State Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, adding that the body would be expected to have as members, representatives of local government areas and a chairman nominated by the state governor for confirmation by the state House of Assembly.
 
According to the Conference, Nigeria will now have 54 states as against the present 36 states if the report was implemented. 
 
The report read,  “Alteration of section 3 Section 3 of the principal Act is altered – (a) by replacing the existing subsection (1) with the following as new subsection (1) -”(1) There shall be fifty-four states in Nigeria, that is to say, Aba, Abia, Adada, Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Amana, Anarribra, Anioma, Apa, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Benue, Borno, Cross River, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Edu, Piciti, Enugu, Etiti, Ghari, Gombe, Gurara, Ijebu, Imo, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kainji, Kano, Katagum, Katsina, Kebbi, Kogi, Kwara, Lagos, Nasarawa, New Oyo, Njaba-Anim, Niger, Ogoja, Ogun, Oil Rivers, Ondo, Ose, Osun, Oyo, Plateau, Rivers, Savannah, Sokoto, Taraba, Yobe and Zamfara,” and (b) by deleting subsections) (2) and (6); and ( c) in subsection (3) by replacing the word “third” with the word “second.”
 

The conference had resolved that the Minister of Finance, not the President will now present the annual budget to the National Assembly, even as it threw out a recommendation for a Unicameral legislature and voted that the bi-cameral legislature be maintained.

The report also stated that public schools taken over by various state governments across the country 42 years ago would henceforth be returned to the religious missions which were the original owners.

The conference had also voted in favour of the Modified Presidential System of Government as recommended by the committee. The President elected under the new system shall exercise full responsibility for his government and shall select ministers, not more than 18 of them, from the six geo-political zones of the country, and in the modified presidential system the president shall pick the vice president from the legislature.

The report recommended that there should be the complete abolition of the concept of a plea bargain by accused public functionaries and also agreed for the establishment of special courts, for instance, anti-corruption courts to handle cases involving corrupt practices.

Also in the report, henceforth, anybody arraigned before the court by EFCC, ICPC and by any law enforcement agencies, the accused person is regarded as guilty, unlike the present situation where he is regarded as innocent until the accused is proven not guilty. Now he is regarded as guilty until he proves himself innocent.

Also recall that prior to the adoption of the report August 24, 2014, there were 20 Committees and they were Devolution of Power Committee, Political Restructuring and Forms of Government National Security; Environment; Politics and Governance; Law, Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Reform. Social Welfare; Transportation; Agriculture; Society, Labour and Sports; Public Service; Electoral Matters, Foreign Policy and Diaspora Matters, Land Tenure Matters and National Boundary. Trade and Investment Committee, Energy; Religion; Public Finance and Revenue Generation, Science, Technology and Development Immigration.
 
Recall that the Senate had on Thursday last week constituted a 56 – member Constitution Review Committee to handle all bills, seeking for one alteration or the other in the provisions of the 1999 Constitution.
 
But while inaugurating the Committee yesterday, the membership was increased to 58 following the inclusion of Senators Betty Apiafi, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Rivers and Ifeanyi Ubah, Young Progressives Party, YPP, Anambra South.
 
The Constitution Review Committee is headed by the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ovie Omo Agege, All Progressives Congress, APC, Delta Central.
 
Announcing the Composition of the Committee  in Abuja, President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan who urged members to be very patriotic in their conducts and activities, said,  “what is expected of you is to give Nigerians, constitution that will enhance stability, unity and enabling environment that will afford every Nigerian to actualise his or her dreams without let or hindrance.”
Lawan called on all Nigerians seeking for alteration in any of the provisions of the 1999 constitution to submit their memoranda to the Committee.
 
As earlier announced, the 56 – member Committee consists of eight principal officers who will serve as members of Steering Committee Sub- Committee,  a Senator from each of the 36 States of the Federation and two Senators from each of the six Geo-political zones.
Names of the 56 member Committee are the Senate Leader, Abdullahi Yahaya; Deputy Senate Leader, Professor Robert Ajayi Boroffice;  Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe;  Deputy Minority Leader, Senator Emmanuel Bwacha; Minority Whip, Senator Philip Tanimu Aduda and Deputy Minority Whip, Senator Sahabi Alhaji Yau’.
 
According to the list, membership of the Committee per State are Senators Theodore Orji, PDP Abia Central), Aishatu Dahiru Ahmed,  APC Adamawa Central, Stella Oduah, PDP Anambra North), Albert Bassey Akpan,  PDP Akwa Ibom North-East) and Dauda Jika, APC Bauchi Central.
 
Others are Senators Degi Eremienyo, APC Bayelsa East, Gabriel Suswam, PDP Benue North East), Abubakar Kyari, APC Borno North, Gershom Bassey, PDP Cross River South, James Manager,  PDP Delta South,  Sam Egwu, PDP Ebonyi North, Matthew Urhoghide, PDP Edo South and Bamidele Opeyemi,  APC Ekiti Central.
 
Also representing States in the Committee are the former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, PDP Enugu West,  Danjuma Goje, APC Gombe Central,  Rochas Okorocha,  APC Imo West,  Muhammad Sabo,  APC Jigawa South West,  Uba Sani, APC Kaduna Central,  Kabiru Gaya, APC Kano South and Ahmed Baba Kaita,  APC Katsina North
 
Others are Senators Mohammed Adamu Aleiro, APC Kebbi Central, Smart Adeyemi, APC Kogi West,  Sadiq Umar, APC Kwara North,  Oluremi Tinubu,  APC Lagos Central, Abdullahi Adamu, APC Nasarawa West), Sani Musa, APC Niger East, Ibikunle Amosun,  APC Ogun Central,  Nicholas Tofowomo, PDP Ondo South,  Bashiru Ajibola, APC Osun Central Teslim Folarin,  APC Oyo Central.
 
Also on the list representing their States are Senators Dimka Hezekiah Ayuba, APC Plateau Central, George Sekibo, PDP Rivers East , Aliyu Wammako, APC Sokoto North), Yusuf Abubakar Yusuf ( APC Taraba Central), Ibrahim Gaidam,  APC Yobe East and Mohammed Hassan Gusau,   PDP Zamfara Central.
For the Six Geo-Political Zones are Senators Bala Ibn Na’Allah,  APC Kebbi South and Ibrahim Shekarau,  APC Kano Central for the North West 
For the North East, Geopolitical zone is Senators Kashim Shettima, APC Borno Central and Lawal Gumau, APC Bauchi South.
Senators Lilian Ekwunife,  PDP Anambra Central and Chukwuka Utazi,  PDP Enugu North are representing the South-East Geopolitical zone on the committee.
For South-South geo-political zone on the Committee,  the representatives are Senators Eyinkenyi Etim, PDP Akwa Ibom South and Rose Oko,  PDP Cross River North while Senators Abdulfatahi Buhari, APC Oyo North and Biodun Olujimi, PDP Ekiti South are for South-West geo-political zone.
 
For the North Central geo-political zone are Senators Umar Tanko Almakura, APC Nasarawa North and Yakubu Oseni, APC Kogi Central.
However, by far, the Committee will tap from the wealth of experience from the Immediate past Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu as he is the most experienced hand on the Committee.
Ekweremadu who holds a doctorate degree in Constitutional Law, piloted the first successful amendment to the 1999 Constitution in 2010 after previous amendments by his predecessors failed, chaired the Committee for a consecutive 12 years in the 6th, 7th, and 8th Senate during which critical amendments we’re effected to bring about far-reaching electoral, financial autonomy for National Assembly, State Assemblies, and State Judiciary, among several others.

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