UK Sets Agenda for National Assembly on Constitution Review

•Identifies state police, poverty alleviation, gender inclusiveness

Sunday Aborisade in Abuja

The British Government, yesterday, urged the National Assembly to consider the issue of state police, gender inclusiveness and poverty alleviation as it prepares to further amend the 1999 constitution.

The United Kingdom stated this through the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Dr Richard Montgomery, during a courtesy call on the President of the Senate, Senator Godswill Akpabio.

The British Envoy said he was in the office of the Senate President to understand his vision, and priorities for the 10th National Assembly.

He explained that the United Kingdom has a long standing relationship with Nigeria, hence its government was interested in the affairs of the country.

“The UK and Nigeria have a long standing relationship based on a shared history and we have incredibly strong people to people links between our country.

“We have very significant connections between our democracies and our democratic institutions, whether it’s our parliaments or National Assembly, or it’s the Westminster foundation for democracy, or it is the constant exchange between parliamentarian here and parliamentarian in the UK.

“The reason why I wanted to pay my respects, pay my courtesy call, but also bring my delegation, is that where possible, we would like to understand your vision, your priorities for the 10th National Assembly.

“Before, I table a few issues for interest and possible conversation, I would just like to make a broader statement about the UK Nigeria relationship.

“We have very strong links between our mutual diasporas. There are many British people here, who work in Nigeria and there are many Nigerians that work in the UK.

“Of course, we’re bound together by family, friendships, business, all those people to people links. That is why the UK has a very large diplomatic mission here to facilitate those links.”

Montgomery explained that in the first year of his  tenure as British High Commissioner, which coincided with the first year of a new administration under President Bola Tinubu, there has been a robust relationship between the Britain and Nigeria.

He said, “The first year has seen, I think, a significant elevation in the relationships that are being established between my government and the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“Those relationships have been elevated in a number of quite specific areas of mutual interest and I hope mutual benefit.”

He explained that the UK foreign secretary had the privilege of being the first international notable leader to come and call on Tinubu when he was inaugurated.

He said, “We agreed then that we should talk more about security defence, about investment and trade.

“I’m delighted to say that in February this year, our two governments signed a renewed security defence partnership and we signed an enhanced trade and investment partnership.

“Then in March, we held migration Justice Home affairs talks, which is a regular annual dialogue.

“We have been talking to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs  about global, regional foreign affairs issues that we need to have a constant dialogue on how to share views between our two sovereign powers.

“So, my general statement is that Nigeria and the UK have tried to significantly elevate our engagement and I think that has seen some very important steps forward.

“This (National Assembly) is the seat of Nigeria’s democracy and it is the role of any sensible diplomatic mission to understand the priorities and the debate in your parliament, in your National Assembly.

“I came to understand how you see the Nigeria challenge, the Nigeria progress, the renewed hope agenda, how diplomatic international partners can get behind that.

“Also to understand the debate that you’re having about the big and bold economic reforms that are happening, some of the constitutional review debates that you’re doing.

“Here, if you’ll forgive me, I’m creating a little bit of an agenda for you to either respond on or ignore. I’m sure there are other distinguished senators or principal office holders who may want to weigh in.

“We are watching your debate about issues like state police, issues like promoting better representation for women in politics and in parliament, issues like the palliatives and social safety nets that need to go alongside the difficult economic reforms, but very impressive economic reforms that are being undertaken.

“There may be other constitutional issues that you are debating that it is important for us to understand,” he added.

Akpabio, however, assured the international community that the 10th Senate National Assembly would welcome suggestions and advice while amending the Constitution.

He pledged that the National Assembly would address all the issues involving the current challenges confronting Nigeria in the areas of security, gender inclusiveness and poverty.

“While amending the Constitution and the Electoral Act, efforts would be made to pay special attention to the poor women representation in government.

“We did not do well in the last election regarding women inclusiveness but President Bola Tinubu has made up for the shortfall in his appointments.

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