By Emma Amaize
The Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, an umbrella body for traditional rulers, leaders and stakeholders of the coastal states of the Niger Delta, has asked the Senate Constitution Review Committee to search no further as the answer to the problems it wants to resolve are contained in the Report of the 2014 National Constitutional Conference.
The regional group urged the Senate Committee to start by picking up the Report of the Conference and studying the recommendations for adoption of relevant sections.
.It was, however, specific that the Committee should restore the principle of derivation and fiscal federalism.
The President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, had, at Thursday’s plenary, announced a 56-man Steering and Constitution Review Committee.
The Publicity Secretary of the group, Hon Ken Robinson, told Sunday Vanguard: “PANDEF considers the move by the National Assembly to review the Constitution as commendable if it is well-intended.”
According to PANDEF, if the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and indeed the 9th National Assembly is serious about this constitution review process, then there would be no need to reinvent the wheel.
The Constitution Review Committee should start by looking at the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference, which are far-reaching, and provide answers to most of the challenges that we are confronted with as a nation.
“They should study and adopt relevant sections of that report. And guided by it and the 1963 Constitution, it should not take the National Assembly more than six months, of course, with the cooperation of the State Houses of Assembly, to give to Nigerians a constitution that would truly be a Constitution of the people of Nigeria,” said PANDEF.
“The Senator Ovie Omo-Agege Senate Committee is said to be made up of one senator from each state and two from each geopolitical zone, it is therefore imperative that all Nigerians of goodwill in the various constituencies of the country, must firmly demand from their representatives, commitments to uphold their wishes and aspirations in this process.”
“Nigeria is at a critical point and the 1999 Constitution (as amended) has been widely repudiated, with many Nigerians calling for a fundamental restructuring of the country, politically and economically.”
“The present structure of Nigeria has become grossly defective and inappropriate for a heterogeneous society like ours. It does not provide the enabling environment for growth and progress among the component states, and spawns unhealthy competition among the various ethnic nationalities and tribes in the country.”
According to him, a constitutional review based on good intentions could be the easiest and tacit path to restructuring. “We, therefore, cautiously welcome the decision of the Senate to further review the constitution of the Federation, and hopes to make collective presentations to the committee, in tandem with other regional bodies, on our positions on restructuring and other burning matters in line with the generally accepted recommendations of the 2014 National Conference”, he said.
“We would further engage our representatives in the National Assembly and the State Houses of Assembly to ensure that necessary fundamental changes are effected to the Constitution. We hope the process won’t be a mere merry-go-round or wasteful jamboree designed to distract Nigerians from the daunting security and socio-economic issues and to buy time for politicians as we move towards 2023.”
“Definitely, something has to be done to strengthen the nation’s security system, whether it is the introduction of state police, community policing or whatever. The way things are going, we may not have a nation to call our own, if nothing is urgently done to save the nation from the menace of insecurity.”
“And call it resource control or whatever, the significant point to note is that the Niger Delta people’s desire to become major beneficiaries of the securities and services of the resources nature had richly endowed their land, is right and just. It is, therefore, expected in a fair sense, that the Senate constitution review would restore the principle of derivation and true fiscal federalism, to give better consideration to resource-producing states.”
“You may wish to recall that the derivation principle, which first came up in 1946 at the Phillipson Commission, was intended to make regions with natural resources benefit from their God-given endowment based on contribution. Today, the situation is that those who contribute little or nothing get plenty; paradoxically, those who contribute so much, get so little.”
“And the members of the constitution review committee and the National Assembly must realize that they owe the people, whom they are said to be representing, the responsibility not only to listen but to act in accordance with their wishes and aspirations.”