As N’Assembly Adopts New Strategy for Constitution Review…

With the stage already set for the review of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria by both chambers of the National Assembly, it is certain that the exercise would not be business as usual going by the recent experience in the polity, reports Sunday Aborisade.

The 10th National Assembly already have in place two Ad-hoc Constitution Review Committees. The one in the Red Chamber is headed by the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Jibrin Barau while the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Benjamin Kalu is leading the panel in the Green Chamber.

Both chambers have inaugurated their panels and they had held their inaugural sitting with the Senate taking the lead, penultimate week while the Representatives held their own last Thursday.

Based on the disclosure by the Chairman of the House of Representatives Panel,  the first draft report would be ready in August this year while the final clean copy report would  be ready for the Presidential assent in August, 2025.

At the inaugural sitting of the Senate panel, Barau reeled out the issues of concern which Nigerians would want the nation’s parliament to address through the amendment to the constitution. He also opened the floor for the representatives from each geo-political zone, to speak on the challenges confronting their various regions.

The Deputy Senate President stressed the need for all the lawmakers to be involved in the exercise by getting the views of their constituents so that the 10th National Assembly could succeed in its current assignment by making the review seamless, avoid past mistakes and ensure  peace, order and good governance.

He expressed delight that the panel was blessed with eminent legislators per excellence who have served the Nigerian legislature for decades.

According to him: “We are fortunate to have in the committee, two former presiding officers, one from the Senate and one from the House of Representatives and experienced former governors who are here.”

He was obviously referring to the President of the Ninth Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan and the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Senator Aminu Tambuwal.

Barau said the committee was going to be different from others. He nevertheless, acknowledged that the earlier ones had done their best and were composed of eminent persons.

According to him, the current panel under his leadership, was different hence, it did not attach any ceremony to the inaugural meeting.

He said, “We need to hit the ground running, there is no room for any ceremony, it is pure business and we’re moving straight away to start the entire thing with all the vigour and seriousness that the constitutional amendment deserves.

“So that’s why we said no ceremony as usual and those who wanted a contract for the opening ceremony were told no that, we’re not giving contract for any ceremony.”

He noted that the nomination of senators to the panel was a product of their ranking as legislators generally, their inmense contributions to their various political zones, and special interest groups.

He expressed the hope that their wealth of experience and knowledge of Nigeria would be brought to bear in the work of the Committee.

Barau reminded his colleagues that the adhoc committee would work in synergy with its counterparts in the House of Representatives, and be very strategic in the conduct of its affairs.

According to him: “We will be guided by the laws and rules of legislative business, including precedence where it does not conflict with any known rule, while also being innovative where we can.

“The Committee will strongly consult and engage critical stakeholders in a way that will ensure that bills passed by the National Assembly will be approved by the State Houses of Assembly and assented to by Mr. President.

“The secretariat will submit a work plan and a process map with time-lines to the Steering Committee which will be presented for consideration and approval by members in the next meeting.

“It is important to note that the Committee is not constituted to rewrite the 1999 Constitution but to process proposed amendments to it, and we will strive to conclude this assignment within the next 24 months.

“I enjoin us to be committed to the activities of the Committee because the task ahead is huge as some of the issues already canvassed by some critical stakeholders are quite delicate,” Barau stated.

The Senators who also spoke on behalf of their geopolitical zones pointed out the need for the exercise to address the issue of resource control, State/community policing and the deplorable state of infrastructure, among others.

Speaking on behalf of the South South geo-political zone, Senator Seriake Dickson, harped on devolution of power.

The former governor of Bayelsa State said, “In the Ninth Assembly, we did a lot, particularly in the areas of devolution and federalism and I believe in this 10th Assembly, under your able leadership and our full support, we can still do a lot more to address the areas that were left out.”

In his contribution on behalf of the South East geopolitical zone, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, wanted his colleagues to be conscious of the time fact and the need to put different ideas in separate bills instrad of pumping them together.

He said,  “When we started with constitutional amendments, we used to put everything in one bill, and we found that anytime any President doesn’t assent, the whole thing is thrown away. Now, we have to break them into bits, and that was why in the last constitutional amendment, some were assented to and some were not.

“I think that we should still maintain that so that we don’t have a President who decides that he will not assent because he doesn’t like one aspect and then we lose all the work that is done.”

Senator Mohammed Sani Musa, who spoke on behalf of the North Central region, urged the lawmakers to leverage on their experiences in previous assemblies, in order to do a rewarding job.

He said, “I believe that we have learnt something in the last dispensation in the Ninth Assembly, but I believe that there is something more that we can do because the way we did the last one, we can see that out of almost all the bills, it was not up to half that was assented to.”

Former Deputy Senate Leader, Senator Abdul Ningi, while speaking on behalf of the North East geo-political zone stressed the need to engage the people in order to create synergy.

His words, “We need to create such synergy and understanding so that most Nigerians who will be able to say a word on this aspect will have an opportunity.”

A former governor of Kebbi State who had also served as the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Adamu Aliero, spoke on behalf of the North West geopolitical zone.

He admonished the Committee to steer clear of controversial and divisive issues in carrying out the present exercise.

Aliero said, “This committee is well constituted. Let me advise that we should try as much as possible to avoid going into controversial areas where we can hardly get a consensus. There is no need to waste so much energy and time debating on issues that we can hardly compromise. We should know that constitutional amendment is beyond the National Assembly. Apart from what we do in the Senate and the House of Representatives, we have to carry the state legislature along.

Senator Kamorudeen Olarere spoke on behalf of the South West and urged the committee to build bridges rather that work in isolation.

He said,  “I want to suggest that right from the starting point now, this committee should not act in isolation. Let us carry along the executive, the President, who is going to assent, even as we move on in the preparation of the amendments so that there won’t be factors to begin to argue with at the end of the process.

“As we move on, let us also interface with our State Houses of Assembly over what we are doing so that it will not be strange to them and also have some feedback from them that will help us in the process so that the whole effort here will not be a waste. Our governors are also critical and we need to involve them in the process.”

On his part, the Minority Leader, Senator Abba Moro, stressed the need to carry the women groups along in the exercise.

According to him: “Women are a minority when issues of national integration are involved. One of the primary reasons that we seek to amend the Constitution is the fact that, the Constitution is a live instrument and is the groundnorm that governs the entire society.

“As such, given the dynamism of modernising society, I want to think that we will continue constantly to review the constitution to plug in all the loopholes that might impede national integration, cohesion and development.

“If we must continue to exist as a united community, it means that we must anchor all our actions on the principles of equity, fairness and justice, and that means that we must strive for instance, to provide some level of constitutional safeguards for the protection of minorities from the larger society to protect them from any form of manipulation of their situation for purposes of the majority.

“I think that what women have constantly advocated in the recent past, is the fact that in a male-dominated society, we must try to create a platform that will enable them to favourably compete with their male counterparts. As we move on in amending the Constitution, we must have some amendments that will provide for an inclusive society for our people.”

Similarly in the House of Representatives, the Chairman of the adhoc committee, Kalu, had  explained that in collaboration with the Senate, the National Assembly would work assiduously to meet up with the targeted time for the constitutional amendment.

The Deputy Speaker said  the process of the review would be participatory and inclusive for all the citizens.

He said, “I am pleased to invite the Executive and Judicial bodies, State Governments, Women Groups, Academics, Civil Society Organizations, Labour Unions, Professional bodies, Ethnic Nationalities, Nigerians in the Diaspora, Diplomats and the general public, to submit memoranda or proposals for further alteration(s) of the 1999


Kalu said the reforms in the constitution would centre on all critical areas that will have direct impact on the lives of Nigerians as well as promote good governance.

He listed them to include, “The Federal Structure and Power Devolution; Local Government/Local Government Autonomy; Public Revenue, Fiscal Federation, and Revenue Allocation; Nigerian Police and Nigerian Security Architecture; Comprehensive Judicial Reforms; Electoral Reforms to strengthen INEC to deliver transparent, credible, free and fair elections; Socio-economic and cultural rights as contained in Chapter two of the constitution.”

Others, according to him, are, “Traditional Institutions; Issues of Gender; Strengthening the Independence of oversight institutions and agencies created by the constitution or pursuant to an Act of the National Assembly; Residency and Indigene Provisions; Immunity; The National Assembly; Process of state creation; State access to mining”

Kalu called for submission of Memoranda from different interest groups, Civil Society Organizations, Labour Unions, relevant institutions of government and members of the public to aid the Committee’s work.

The recent inauguration of the Constitution Review Ad-hoc Committees in both the Senate and House of Representatives by their presiding officers, Messrs Godswill Akpabio and Tajudeen Abbas, have generated interest among Nigerians who are desirous of a nation that is truly a federation.

Many are of the opinion that the unitary structure of the country, foisted on the citizens by the military would continue to threaten peaceful co-existence and economic prosperity if certain features are not holistically addressed through a comprehensive review.

As fate would have it, the 2014 report of the well attended national conference and the Oronsaye Report had provided a veritable document that could serve as a working manual for the Senator Jibrin Barau and Hon.Benjamin Kalu-led panels in the nation’s apex legislative institution.

Already, President Bola Tinubu had since commenced the process of implementing the Oronsaye Report. The executive is expected to send bills to the federal parliament for legislative actions that would make the exercise legal.

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