By Damilola Oyedele in Abeokuta
The Special Adhoc Committee on the Review of the Constitution has said it was working to ensure that amendments to the 1999 Constitution, reach President Muhammadu Buhari for his assent by March 2017.
The timely conclusion, it said was to ensure that the bills were not subjected to political interpretations, when they were signed towards the end of presidential tenures, where such assent could be misconstrued.
The Chairman of the Committee, Deputy Speaker Yussuff Sulaimon Lasun said this yesterday in his opening address at the Constitution Review Retreat in Abeokuta, Ogun State.
The retreat is themed “The Imperatives of Constitution Review/Amendment in Nation Building.”
Lasun further disclosed that the bills would be transmitted to the President separately, instead of lumping them together, to avoid a situation where the baby was thrown out with the bath water.
The Governor of Ogun State, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, in his address, said several attempts to tinker with the 1999 Constitution had proven abortive.
This, he attributed to the interplay of entrenched interests, mutual distrust among the federating units and the lack of political will on the part of the concerned political actors.
Despite the challenges, the need to amend the constitution had become imperative as several issues in national polity were premised on the perceived imbalance and inadequacies of the constitution, Amosun said.
“More importantly, it is my belief that the proposed review of the 1999 Constitution will provide a golden opportunity to resolve, once for all, those contentious issues like the Derivation Formula, Revenue Allocation, fiscal federation, State Creation, Resource Control, Local Government creation by States, State Police, the perceived long-standing marginalisation of the ethnic minorities and a few regions of the country etc,” the Governor added.
While the Eighth assembly would get a chance to write its name in gold if it succeeds in its quest, he however cautioned that all amendments must be done to ensure the indivisibility of Nigeria.
The sentiment was echoed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara who also urged the committee to avoid being guided by parochial, sectional or religious considerations in its assignment.
Represented by the Majority Leader of the House, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, the Speaker said national interest should be the guiding factor for the committee’s activities.
“Your committee is fully empowered to process all the referred bills and where necessary amend, reject or recommend as you may deem fit, for the peace, progress and stability of our nation, Nigeria,” Dogara said.
The Speaker again made a case for Local Government autonomy.
“The issue of Local Government funding, functions, structure and elections should be reformed if we will make progress as a nation. Happily at the last botched Constitution Review exercise, 20 States voted to allow financial and structural autonomy for the LGAS. If we got the buy-in of four more states, it could have been achieved. So we should not give up,” Dogara said.