Chuks Okocha in Abuja
The process of amendments to the 1999 constitution would not entertain any restrictions on areas to be touched, sources in the National Assembly Committee have hinted.
This is because overall, 268 memoranda have so far been received by the National Assembly Committee headed by the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo Agege, including memoranda for restructuring of the nation along the geopolitical zones.
The 2014 conference report organised by the President Goodluck Jonathan administration is also part of the 268 memoranda in the 9th National Assembly constitution review.
Other items listed in the agenda include state creation, review of the revenue distribution, state police and devolution of power from the centre.
These requests for amendments to the 1999 constitution came from several socio-cultural groups and leading members of the National Assembly.
A source from the constitution amendment committee told THISDAY that after the sorting of the various memoranda for review, it was gathered that nothing would be sacrosanct in the process.
The source that was not authorised to speak, however, claimed, “There is no-go-area in the review of the 1999 constitution. It is what the people want they will get. The committee will soon embark on public hearing on the memoranda received.
“What is expected at the stage of the public hearing and lobbying, there is no go area. There are no restrictions. Whatever we do has to be passed by the two-thirds of the Senate and the House of Representatives and also the two-thirds of the states houses of assemblies. There are no-go-areas,” the source said.
Confirming this too, Special Adviser to the Deputy Senate President, who is also the chairman of the National Assembly Committee on the Constitution Review Committee, Dr. Daniel Bwala, said there would be no restriction in the areas of the constitution review.
Bwala, who spoke on the Arise Television Network, said the only way to amend the constitution should be in line with section 4 of the constitution as any other way is unknown to the constitution.
He advised groups that are yet to submit their memoranda to the constitution amendment committee to do so as they would soon embark on public hearing.
In an apparent reference to the National Consultative Front (NcFront) that is playing the review of the 1999 constitution, Bwala said, “The only way to change the constitution is through the National Assembly. Any other way is banditry. The only legal and constitutional platform for constitutional amendment is contained in Section 4 of 1999 constitution. Any other is at best an opinion.”
Bwala, also a consultant to the Senate on the review of the constitution, further said the Senate would soon commence public hearing.
“If this body approaches National Assembly, they could be granted a leave out of time to submit their memoranda. Anything out of this is just an exercise in futility and having fun among themselves,” he said.
Bwala asked those planning to review the constitution as private persons where they derived their authority, explaining that, “any thing aside of this is called legislative banditry or no respect for rule of law. Which constituency are they representing? It is a group of scholars, who want to perform legislative duties through banditry.”
Bwala explained that former Senate President in the 8th National Assembly, Dr. Bukola Saraki failed in the attempt to amend the constitution, because he was at loggerheads with the executive arm of government.
But the NcFront in a statement by its spokesperson, Mallam Abdumajeed B Saa’ad, said it had constituted a team of eminent Nigerians, statesmen and women, who are already studying the Terms of Reference for the review of the 1999 constitution.
Ncfront stated that its team would sit twice per week, from the first week of March 2021 to come up with a draft Constitution for Nigerian Stakeholders by the end of April 2021.
According to the statement, “The draft constitution shall however be put before critical Nigerian Stakeholders and Groups for National debate and Dialogue as from May, 2021 after an Opening Ceremony, which is expected to hold on 1st May, 2021 at a venue to be announced by the Confab Secretariat headed by Dr. Hakeem Baba Ahmed with the Support of our Resource Team led by distinguished Senator Mike Ajegbo.
“In the course of our national consultations, we hope to engage the National Assembly, the Judiciary, the Nigerian Presidency, Selected Governors and Speakers of State Houses of Assembly, the Nigerian Governors’ Forum and Key eminent Elders, Selected Leaders of the Civil Society, Labour, Youths, Women, Persons with Special Needs, Traditional and Religious Leaders of our country, among others
“However, Some of the agenda essential to our mandate are Devolution of Powers to the Federating Units, Citizens Referendum/Plebiscite, Local Policing, System of Government, and Party Democracy, among others
“Furthermore, a comprehensive programme of action, strategic plan and work schedule of our Committee and the Constitutional Dialogue shall be announced soon by the Secretariat to guide our engagements and tasks.
“However, our Committee shall be expected to present to all Nigerians, the final draft of peoples constitution for subsequent National Referendum not later than October 1st, 2021”, NcFront declared.