Senate Begins Move to Review Nigeria’s Constitution, Constitutes 45-member Panel

•60 Reps introduce bills to return to parliamentary government by 2031

Sunday Aborisade and Juliet Akoje in Abuja

The Senate yesterday constituted a 45-member committee to review and amend the 1999 Constitution, with Senate President,  Godswill Akpabio announcing the composition of the committee during the plenary.

Akpabio said the committee will be chaired by the Deputy Senate President,  Barau Jibrin while  the Senate Leader, Opeyemi Bamidele would be the deputy chairman.

The senate president explained that the 1999 constitution needs a review because it contains many issues that need to be “put right.”

He also highlighted the introduction of Artificial Intelligence as a major factor for the need to amend the constitution.

Akpabio said: “There is a need for us to touch some aspects of the constitution to bring them inline with current relatives particularly with the era of artificial intelligence and some of the things we have observed that need to be put right,”  Akpabio said.

The senate president also directed that all Speakers of the State House of Assemblies should be invited to the National Assembly for interaction as part of the constitution amendment process.

“The deputy senate president, you also invite speakers of all state houses of assemblies for interaction with the senate president before we go into the major issues of presenting the different memos” he added.

The senate president explained that lawmakers who constitute the constitution amendment committee were selected from all states and geo-political zones.

He also claimed that members of the committee are from all political parties in the senate.

He said: “It is all political parties and all senatorial districts, all zones are taken care of. We are taking one senator per state because we are talking about the constitution amendment. One senator per state and then we are also taking one senator representing each geo-political zone .

“So, in case you noticed two senators from one state, that would mean that one of them represents the zone, while there’s one senator from that zone representing that state.”

The senate president noted that the constitution amendment committee will be inaugurated next Tuesday and they will commence the review process immediately.

“The committee will be inaugurated on Tuesday, so that they can start functioning immediately.

“All the motions and resolutions pertaining to constitution amendment that have been brought to the senate since last year will now be channelled straight to that committee,” he added.

Apart from Barau and Bamidele,  other members of the constitution amendment committee are: Deputy Senate Leader, Oyelola Ashiru; Whip of the Senate, Ali Ndume; Deputy Whip , Nwebonyi Onyeka; Minority Leader,  Abba Moro; Minority Whip,  Osita Ngwu; Deputy Minority Leader,  Oyewunmi Olalere, and the Minority Whip  Sani Hangar.

Others are Senators Enyinnaya Abaribe, Binus Dauda Yaroe, Bassey Etim Akpan, Ifeanyi Ubah, Abdul Ningi, Seriake Dickson, Agom Jarigbe, Ned Nwoko, Adams Oshiomhole, Danjuma Goje, Osita Izunaso, Abdulhamid Ahmed and Khalid Mustapha.

They also included senators Sani Rufai, Mutari Dandutse, Yahaya Abdullahi, Natasha Akpoti-Uduaghan, Adebule Oluranti, Ugodiya Akwashiki, Sani Musa and Solomon Adeola.

The list also included, Adeniyi Ayodele, Abdulfatai Buhari, Simon Lalong, Aliyu Wamako, Shuaibu Lau, Ahmed Lawan, Sahabi Alhaji Ya’u, Ireti Kingigbe, and Ipalibo Banigo.

The senators who would represent their geopolitical zones are: Adamu Aliero (North-West); Orji Kalu (South-east) Francis Fadahunsi (South-west); Bomai Mohammed (North-west); Barinada Mpigi (South-south) and Umar Sadiq Sulaiman (North-central).

Meanwhile, some 60 members of the House of Representatives have introduced three bills, seeking to alter the 1999 Constitution of the country to transition from the current presidential system to a parliamentary system at all levels.

The bills: Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (Alteration) Bill, 2024, HB.1115, HB.1116 and HB.1117 sponsored by Hon. Kingsley Chinda, the Minority Leader and 59 others passed through first reading at plenary yesterday.

Briefing the press on the general principles of the bills, spokesperson of the sponsors, Hon. Abdussamad Dasuki, said the proposed alterations, when passed, would significantly impact the national political landscape.

Dasuki noted that the proposed legislations sought to replace the president with a prime minister to serve as the head of government and establishing the office of the president as a ceremonial leader with the elective offices chosen from the elected members of the legislature.

“The bill intends to shift the process of electing governors and chairmen of local governments from general election to voting within their respective legislative bodies, and reduce bureaucratic hurdles and fostering closer collaboration between the executive and legislative branches.

“When the parliamentary system of government was practiced in the first republic, it worked for the country as by its nature, the elected representatives that were both in the legislative and executive arms of government were accountable to the people,” he stated.

The lawmaker stressed that the collapse of the First Republic and the long stretch of military rule culminated in the adoption of a new system of government, theoretically fashioned after the presidential system of the United States but in practice imbibed the uttermost attributes of military rule.

“The high cost of governance, leaving fewer resources for crucial areas like infrastructure, education, and healthcare, and consequently hindering the nation’s development progress, and the excessive powers vested in the members of executive are the imperfections of the presidential system of government.

“The bills presented today seek a return to the system of government adopted by our founders, which made governance accountable, responsible and responsive, and ultimately less expensive.

“With the presentation of these bills today, we hope to achieve the following: Ignite, provoke a national conversation about the future of Nigerian governance system. To ensure robust public debates, stakeholder consultations, expert analyses, and a thorough and informed decision-making process.

“To raise awareness about this significant development and encourage constructive dialogue on the potential implications of these proposed constitutional alterations. The future of Nigerian governance rests on informed public engagement, and responsive and responsible leadership,” the proponent said.

Continuing, he added: “Our conviction is that a streamlined executive branch, which replaces the president and vice president with a prime minister and cabinet chosen from the legislature could lead to a smaller central government, reducing salaries and administrative expenses.

“We also hold strongly that shifting the election of governors and local government chairmen from general election to votes within their respective legislative bodies could save billions spent on state and nationwide campaigns.”

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