Senate President , David Mark
By Victor Efeizomor in Asaba
The Senate Committee on Constitution Review Friday began a retreat in Asaba, Delta State, with the creation of new states, fiscal federalism, devolution of power, review of local government administration and judicial reforms dominating amendment proposals to be reviewed at the retreat.
President of the Senate, David Mark who declared the retreat open said the Constitution Review Committee had received 108 memorandums from different segment of the Nigerian public since it commenced work.
Mark said: "the impressive response underscores the deep desire of our people to be governed in accordance with democratic norms," adding that the "National Assembly would not foist a fait accompli on Nigerians, under the guise of constitution review."
However, the Senate President said the ongoing amendment of the 1999 constitution by the National Assembly may not bring to an end terrorism and the orgy of violence that has been unleashed in some parts of the country.
He said the amendment of the constitution alone without attitudinal change will not guarantee democracy and peace.
"Constitution amendment is not an end to running democratic system successfully. The leaders and the led must show democratic impulses. It’s the cultural basis of the democratic projects," said Mark.
Mark said the Senate would work with all stakeholders to accomplish the task of giving the country a constitution not dictated by the minority.
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Constitution Review and Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu in his remarks said: "Although, the task ahead of the committee is enormous, the committee will be open to impute, through memoranda and contributions at public forums."
He also stated that the committee was partnering with state houses of assemblies as well as the Governors Forum to ensure that it gets rich imputes to make the task achievable.
Just last week, President Goodluck Jonathan received the report of the Presidential Committee on the Review of Outstanding Issues from Recent Constitutional Conferences led by former Chief Justice Alfa Belgore, saying it "signals a seminal defining moment in Nigeria's quest for the consolidation and entrenchment of democratic ideals in our nation's political and governance processes."
He said that even though the present constitution had served the nation well, "the general consensus is that it requires review and amendment in view of gaps that have become evident in the attempt to operate it over the last 13 years."
The committee, which was inaugurated on November 17, 2011, reached unanimous agreements on changes in key areas of the constitution, including provisions to strengthen fundamental rights as well as legal protection for all citizens, especially children, women and the physically-challenged; security of life and property, the protection of the law, speedy and fairer administration of justice and local council administration.
In addition, the committee recommended the strengthening of the legislature at all levels and also to demand conformity with extant national regulations in the conduct of their affairs and the granting of the Executive more flexibility in policy-making, like the removal of the Land Use Act from the Constitution but retaining it as a National Law.
Stating that the work of the committee would be an important component in the process of national dialogue for enduring change and transformation, the President added that enforcement of "fundamental rights and equitable dispensation of justice must be made real as they would greatly influence the average citizen's sense of obligation and patriotic disposition towards the nation."
Jonathan thanked the members of the committee for "a job well done especially for the robust proposals on the public accountability imperative for officials in the Executive and the Legislature."
"This report is a great contribution to our efforts to have a constitution that not only reflects our present reality, but also anticipates future challenges. I assure you that the report will receive expeditious consideration," added the President.