By Deji Elumoye
Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, has declared that the Senate would not succumb to pressure from external forces in its attempt to review the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Omo-Agege, who also doubles as Chairman of the 58-man Senate Committee on Constitution Review, noted yesterday that the committee and indeed the Ninth Senate in the course of their assignment would not give in to pressure from outside the legislative body.
“We have taken an oath to protect the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I can assure you that members of this committee and indeed all of the Senators of this Ninth Senate will do the right thing. We are not going to succumb to any pressure,” he said during a television programme monitored in Abuja.
He assured that members of the committee as Nigerians of great accomplishments in their respective fields and all Senators would continue to live above board in the discharge of their constitutional duties.
“The Nigerian Senate is a chamber made up of statesmen. These are people of accomplishments in their previous endeavours before they came to this place. I don’t think these are people who are going to be susceptible to pressures from external forces. These are people who are here to do the right thing.
“And if you must also know the Steering Committee of this Constitution Review Committee is populated by the entire leadership of the Senate. I am just the Chairman before you talk about the 57 other Senators,” he said.
Omo-Agege also added that his committee would not kill any of the constitution alteration bills before it.
According to him, the Senate would recommend all the bills before it for consideration while the Senate in plenary would determine whether or not such proposals should be transmitted to the state assemblies.
He noted the need for Nigerians to take advantage of the window given by the committee to submit their proposals on or before September 25 on any of the 13 thematic areas to the panel.
The ranking senator disclosed that besides the constitution alteration bills already referred to the panel, more proposals could surface on the floor, arising from memoranda submitted to the committee.
“Any Nigerian who feels strongly about any issue that ought to be addressed in this exercise, has a right within the time stipulated to put their thoughts in writing by way of a memo and submit same to us.
“Upon receipt of that, we will meet as a committee, set up some sub-committees within the main committee that will go to each of the geopolitical zones. There they will reach out and ask people to step forward and speak to the memo that they have already submitted to us.
“Thereafter, we will come back, hold a retreat where we will aggregate the views of the content of the memoranda. And in some cases come up with more bills. This committee will try not to kill any bill. We will rather have all bills go to the floor at plenary and let the Nigerian people, speaking through their elected representatives, make the call as to whether or not those bills should pass. Thereafter, we will go to the various Houses of Assembly to see if those votes can also muster a two-thirds majority of the 36 assemblies.
From there, we receive and transmit the successful bills to Mr. President for assent,” he explained.
According to him, the zonal public hearings would be conducted in line with the COVID-19 protocols.
On state assemblies being rubber stamps of state governors, the Senate Deputy President called on those who have sent in their memoranda to put pressure on state legislators to do the right thing, adding that all the 36 state governors were unanimous that more powers be moved from the Exclusive to Concurrent Legislative List.
“It is our belief that it behooves on the electorate to mount the requisite pressure on their House of Assembly members.
“In any event, we are also going to be liaising very seriously with the Speakers of the various Houses of Assembly. So, before the final vote is taken, we will be able to have a feel of where we are. And if it requires some lobbying of the state governors, so be it.
“I don’t know of any governor in this country today who doesn’t subscribe to the idea that the content of the Exclusive Legislative List is not too cumbersome and there needs to be some shedding of weight. I am sure practically all governors will subscribe to that so we can have some of these powers devolve to the states,” Omo-Agege said.