Crisis of Confidence Hits House Constitution Review Panel

03 Feb 2013

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Emeka Ihedioha and Aminu Tambuwal

Political stakeholders and members of the public had waited patiently from about 10 in the morning for the presentation of the final report. But the report on constituency-based constitution review conducted by the House of Representatives has been caught in a web of intrigues, stalling its presentation, writes Jaiyeola Andrews

House of Representatives members had travelled to their various constituencies a few months ago to confer with their constituents on what they would want reviewed or amended in the constitution. Dubbed People’s Pubic Sessions on the Review of the 1999 Constitution, it was a novel arrangement in the constitution amendment process, one not envisaged by the constitution but nonetheless applauded and embraced by the people and civil society groups. At the various constituencies, the people frankly bared their minds on what they wanted in the constitution. The lawmakers returned to Abuja, forwarded their findings to the House Constitution Review Committee headed by Deputy Speaker Emeka Ihedioha, which later went to work to collate the findings and draw up its report.

It is that report that was slated for presentation last Wednesday at Conference Hall 231 of the House. After about two hours of waiting, House Speaker Aminu Waziri Tambuwal emerged from a meeting with the principal officers of the chamber to announce the event had been cancelled indefinitely. Why? Tambuwal said there was the need to put certain things right and engage in more consultations. He said the event was cancelled because “there were hitches here and there”. Tambuwal said: “I would like to say that as leaders, we will continue to engage ourselves and in the process of doing that what ought to be done or needs is done very well, especially here in the House of Representatives where this process has been acclaimed to be transparent thus far.

“We will as such want a situation whereby at this stage there should be no issue that has to do with the total collated results of what needs to be presented to the public today.

“As leadership, we have reviewed the process so far and realised that we cannot go ahead with this programme today. Just like any other things associated with humans, there are hitches here and there-that is normal.”

THISDAY learnt that the problem is the Ihedioha committee was accused of not carrying out all members of the committee along in putting together the final report. It was also alleged that some critical stakeholders like the Nigerian Union of Journalists and some civil society organisations were also not given opportunity to assess the final report.

But those who should know said the cancellation of the submission of the final report might not be unconnected with the crisis of confidence rocking the committee and this in turn is fuelled by some other extraneous factors. Some have put everything down to intrigues by some House members acting at the behest of their governors to stall the programme.

The governors, it should be borne in mind, remain opposed to some issues coming up for amendment, chief among which is autonomy for local councils. Again, during the public sessions across the country, the people were sharply divided in their demands. Whereas states in the South were asking for things like true federalism, state police, creation of additional states, autonomy for local councils, etc in the new constitution, their counterparts in the North were asking for review of derivation formula, increased allocation to states, central police, etc. These differences may have been carried over to the work of the committee, causing the crisis. It is also feared that the strident demand for more states in the South, which has allegedly found favour in the committee report, may have also rankled some House members particularly those from the North.

But in the final analysis, some have said the House should desist from throwing away the baby with the bath water. The House must find a common ground on these demands and reconcile its differences to pave way for a final report. The idea of People’s Public Sessions, as said before, is novel and this should be preserved as part of the constitution amendment process going forward. Also, some donor agencies contributed to fund the public sessions and their donations should not be allowed to go down the drain.

Tags: Politics, Nigeria, Featured, Constitution Review

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