Deji Elumoye and Chuks Okocha in Abuja
The six-year-old report of the Justice Idris Kutigi-led Constitutional Conference and the report of the Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai-led Committee on Restructuring will form part of the documents to guide the Senate Committee on Constitutional Review in executing its mandate, the Chairman of the committee and Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, has said.
The outcome of the 2014 constitutional conference, which was forwarded to the National Assembly by the then President Goodluck Jonathan was never considered during the Seventh and Eighth Senate.
The Ninth Senate is now ready to examine the report with a view to reviewing the 1999 Constitution (as Amended).
Omo-Agege, at the inauguration of the Senate’s 58-man committee yesterday in Abuja, also said the committee would consider the report of the el-Rufai-led Committee on Restructuring, set up by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2017, which canvassed the need to restructure the country.
In carrying out its assignment, the committee chairman said: “We would also liaise with our counterparts in the House of Representatives, the state Houses of Assembly and collaborate and build consensus with all stakeholders to ensure synergy while development partners will also play pivotal roles through counsel, workshops, conferences and interactions.”
According to him, the partnership roles of the executive and judiciary and their invaluable contributions cannot be over-looked as it will enhance efficient and successful outcome of the committee’s assignment.
Omo-Agege said changing times had brought new challenges “and today in our country, we are faced with increased insecurity, slow economic growth, rising poverty, and a poor political culture, amongst others.
“These challenges that will define the way Nigerians will live in the 21st century have continued to agitate the minds of our people. It is against this background that the need for constitutional reforms has once again become necessary.”
Shedding more light on the terms of reference of his committee, Omo-Agege stated that priority would be placed on the alteration of the Sixth Schedule of the constitution to make provision for new items “like the establishment of National and State Houses of Assembly, Pre-election Matters Tribunal, Governorship Pre-election Matters Tribunals and Presidential Pre-election Matters Tribunal, including time limits for the disposal of all pre-election matters before the conduct of the general elections.”
The committee will also look into the issue of devolution of power and total autonomy for the judiciary in the administration of justice.
“We will also consider the need for devolution of power, full local government fiscal autonomy, full autonomy of the judiciary in the area of administration of justice, youth inclusiveness in governance, gender parity or affirmative action. This is by no means an exhaustive list. The committee will also consider inputs from stakeholders and different interest groups across the country.”
He explained that the committee’s assignment demands diligence and commitment, adding that “as we embark on this very important legislative assignment, let us use this opportunity to build consensus on constitutional issues that will impact the lives of the people of our great country Nigeria. We must get it right for the good of our people and the unity of our great country. The Nigerian people deserve no less.”
In his speech, the Senate President, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, reiterated the resolution of the Senate to re-examine the constitution, consistent with the Ninth Senate legislative agenda and in tandem with the yearnings of the people.
“You will agree with me that reviewing the constitution is an arduous task. It requires painstaking consultations, dialogues and debates. We expect consultations with public organisations and the civil society. These include the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), as the vehicle for elections, civil society groups, the academia, the media, and indeed, the citizenry.
“This assignment needs a great deal of time, resources and expert ideas. This is so because constitutional reviews are not every day exercises. On the few occasions that it becomes necessary, we have the responsibility to ensure that inputs and outputs are not just exhaustive, but should also be wide ranging and effective”, he explained.