By Tordue Salem, Abuja
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, yesterday advised against the continuing protest against the already disbanded Special Armed Robbery Squad, SARS.
The Speaker gave the warning Thursday, at the inauguration of the 1999 Constitution Review Committee in the House .
He also called for reforms in all statutes of the country.
“The work of drafting the constitution of a free republic is never finished. As our country continues to grow, adapting to new realities and overcoming challenges, the laws that govern us must also change.
” It is in a bid to achieve for ourselves and our children, a more perfect nation, that we gather every so often to review the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. First to identify those areas where the laws of our land have not lived up to expectation, and then to act expeditiously and conscientiously to fix whatever gaps may exist and address any concerns that may arise.
” We are commencing this constitutional review process at a time of great and ongoing upheaval in our country. New challenges emerge daily from every corner. Some of these challenges are of our own making, and others, we could not have foreseen or been prepared for. Whichever may be the case, the Nigerian people look up to us as government to proffer solutions that work, to do the heavy lifting of writing new constitution, one better suited to our current aspirations and reflecting our vision of the future.
“Two months ago, the House of Representatives presented an updated version of our Legislative Agenda to the public. We included therein an implementation framework that outlines in painstaking detail the legislative interventions we propose, with timelines for delivery attached to each of them. One thing that is made abundantly clear during the preparation of that document is that the answer to many of our development questions lies in the pages of a new Nigerian constitution.
“When you ask me what the state of our nation is, the honest answer is this: we are in a fight for the very survival of our country and the continuation of the Nigerian project. Recent global developments have exposed all our systemic weaknesses so that we can no longer pretend to ourselves that things are on an even keel and slow progress is enough to get us to where we ought to be yet are still so far away from.
“This 9thHouse of Representatives has since committed to the cause of reform. Our commitment must neither waver nor wane on the matter of thoughtful and fair overhaul of our nation’s constitution. The reality of our current circumstances, and the now certain knowledge that only us can save ourselves imposes on us an obligation to act with greater determination and all the urgency this moment calls for.
“Honourable colleagues, the ongoing evolution of our nation’s democracy requires of us that we continually review and update the rules of our engagement. Every election season exposes significant gaps in the process that if left unaddressed, threaten our democracy. Electoral reforms are not a party-political issue, they are a matter of loyalty to an ideal that is greater than the party to which one belongs to, or the personal ambitions we may each hold. Electoral reforms are a matter of our nation’s future, and the process of setting out systems and protocols for managing how we choose our leaders and representatives begins with the Constitution. We must keep this in mind as we begin this process.
“Over the last week, thousands of our nation’s young people have been on streets day and night protesting the inhumane and brutal abuses of human rights by the Nigeria Police Force, particularly the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). In addition to whatever other changes that may be caused by these protests, they have exposed the stinking underbelly of our nation’s policing system so that we now understand better why our federal police is often unable to effectively respond to the localised manifestations of insecurity across the different parts of our country. The simple truth is that we have a police that doesn’t have the trust of the people, and a policing system that doesn’t make for productive partnerships between the police and the communities they serve. However, for those of us who are out there, we must be careful not to lose the plot. The Inspector General of Police has heard you and he has spoken. The House has spoken, even before now, and continues to speak. The President has been unequivocal and spoke clearly. It is now time to sit back and see what happens.
“I believe the Hand of God is on this Nation. I also believe that where you find the Hand of God, evil forces will kick. The point has been made, and Government in all its layers has responded. Let us sit back and see if Government does what it has committed to do. Which I have all assurances, and as your Speaker I pass these assurances on to you”, he stated.
The Speaker, also called for new ideas, to revamp the system and make the country better.
He advised that new methods be adopted in tackling the seemingly intractable problem of insecurity in the country.
“Overcoming our overwhelming national security challenges now requires of us all that we be willing to accept new approaches and consider novel ideas. Neither the security institutions nor political leaders can afford to hold on too tightly to a status quo whose frustrating limitations are painfully evident, whilst reflexively rejecting innovations that may improve our fortunes if properly implemented”, he stated.
He advised the Committee on Constitution Review, to be open to as many public views on the Constitution, as possible.
” Mr Chairman, Honourable members of this Committee, I do not envy the enormous amount of work you have in front of you. However, I know you have an abundant capacity to execute this important assignment and deliver on our joint commitments to the Nigerian people. I encourage you during this assignment to seek out and listen to as many voices as possible. Engage with as many interest groups as posisble, reject misinformation, document the stories of our people, consider their expectations. Let the work you do demonstrate that this House of Representatives is fully capable of reflecting the most urgent concerns of the Nigerian people and acting in their best interests. I am confident that you will act judiciously and produce for the consideration of the House of Representatives, a quality report we can implement expeditiously”.