- •We shall meet yearnings and aspirations of Nigerians — Senate
•Joint NASS c’mte, state assembly, speakers, clerks begin retreat in Abuja
Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Ahmed Idris Wase, Friday, gave an update on key issues that were considered in the course of the 1999 constitutional review.
Wase said the issues ranged from local government administration autonomy, the legislature, judicial reform, state creation, state police, devolution of powers, women and vulnerable groups, strengthening of institutions, good governance, political parties and electoral matters, traditional institution, federal capital territory administration, fundamental human rights and national security.
Speaking at a National Assembly joint committee retreat with the state assembly speakers and clerks on the review of the 1999 constitution, Friday, in Abuja, Wase also said that the House received a total of 178 memoranda and 1,980 recommendations.
He said “After our inauguration as a Committee, and in order to make ourselves an accessible platform for Nigerians, the Committee called for the submission of memoranda from 17th November to 9th December 2020. The general public responded overwhelmingly and a total of One Hundred and Seventy-Eight (178) memoranda with One Thousand, Nine Hundred and Eighty (1,980) specific recommendations were received.
“Between May and June of 2021, the Committee held public hearings across the Country’s Six (6) Geopolitical Zones. During the hearings, some of the issues canvassed by Nigerians were aggregated into thematic areas and Members sponsored bills in line with peoples’ aspirations.
“These thematic areas include issues bothering on Local Government Administration and Autonomy, the Legislature, Judicial Reform, State Creation, State Police, Devolution of Powers, Women and Vulnerable Groups, Strengthening of Institutions, Good Governance, Political Parties and Electoral Matters, Traditional Institution, Federal Capital Territory Administration, Fundamental Human Rights and National Security.”
Wase who is also a co-chairman of the Senate and House joint committee revealed that out of 62 bills that were presented to the House, only 26 were recommended for harmonization with the Senate.
He said there was no preconceived notion in the exercise, urging the members of the committee to give their best to the clarion call.
“During this first batch of the review exercise, the Committee in the House of Representatives considered sixty-two (62) Bills out of which twenty-six (26) Bills were recommended for harmonization with the Senate. Of the 62 bills, eight (8) bills were rejected, twenty-five (25) Bills were retained with modifications and the consideration of 3 bills were deferred.
“We have worked tirelessly to engage, negotiate, debate, lobby, review and persuade in order to reflect the various competing and contrasting aspirations of Nigerians of different leanings and backgrounds. One thing we are sure of is that no one has been left behind. We have aggregated all manners of proposals, sorted them out to meet the constitutional guidelines and criteria and have ultimately harmonized positions after lengthy debates and majority votes on several critical issues.
“We have no preconceived positions on anything. We believe that we must do whatever is necessary to provide a platform for Nigerians to air their views, give their positions and canvass whatever they feel would make our country better, and make governance more efficient and successful.
“We also are cognizant of the fact that we cannot work in isolation if we must achieve concrete results and deliver on the promises we have made to Nigerians. Whatever we have done will still go through the State Houses of Assembly for their own input and vote. Hence the need for this collaborative synergy which will give us the opportunity to engage, consult and harmonize for a smoother, tidier and more efficient Constitutional review
“I urge us all to remember that we act as representatives of Nigerians. As such, as a rule of engagement, may we put Nigeria at the front burner and not our personal interest or sectional interest”, he said.
In his remarks also, the Deputy Senate President and Chairman of the Senate Committee on the constitution review, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege said that the retreat was a group to harness views from every stakeholder.
“As this retreat provides us with an auspicious opportunity to interface, reflect and engage as partners working for the peace, unity and development of our dear country, Nigeria; the requirement of section 9 of the Constitution positions State legislatures as distinct and critical partners in Constitution alteration.
“Surely, and without a doubt, the success of this process largely depends on your support and partnership. Going forward, after the passage of the proposals by the National Assembly in a fortnight, you will be the pillar on which this work will be anchored. That is why it is prudent to meet with you today and update you on the progress we have made after the public hearings that were held in 12 centres across the six geo-political zones of the country, of which you fully participated.
“The proposed amendments in the bills we have shared with you set out institutional and legal reforms, which together with sufficient political will, will help to strengthen institutions of governance, provide for accountability and transparency in governance; and create an independent judicial system that would ensure effective administration of justice in Nigeria.
“The overarching rationale for the amendments contained in these bills are thus predicated on the need to amongst others: strengthen the legislature’s authority to enable it to serve as an effective pillar of checks and balance to the executive; strengthen independent constitutional bodies; create and strengthen a culture of good governance; address the issues of corruption, revenue leakages and unbridled government spending.
“I assure you most sincerely that our work up to this point has been guided strictly by best legislative practise, integrity, open-mindedness, and patriotism.
“Therefore encourage you, irrespective of political leanings and other affiliations to abide by the same standards while making your contributions. I know it is the desire of every Nigerian that this process will bring positive transformations to our country. We should all leverage this retreat to bequeath to our nation a constitution that speaks to the yearnings and aspirations of every Nigerian”, he said.
On his part, the Speaker of the Bauchi State House of Assembly and Chairman Conference of Speakers of State Legislatures of Nigeria, Rt. Hon. Abubakar Suleiman called on the 36 State Houses of Assembly to support the identified amendments in the constitution.
“We have the onerous responsibility of altering the Constitution to meet the needs and yearnings of our people and these we must do to the admiration of the citizens.
“We are being confronted with certain challenges in the country that borders on insecurity, economy, devolution of powers, weak institutions etc. The Conference of Speakers subscribes to the calls that the review of the Constitution is one of the legislative actions at our disposal that could be exploited to address these challenges.
“We, therefore, call on both the distinguished members of the National Assembly and the States Houses of Assembly to take this opportunity of yet another alteration exercise to address many agitated issues such as restructuring, devolution of powers community and State Police, etc, etc.
“Conference of Speakers of State Legislators of Nigeria has been engaged on behalf of the State Houses Assembly, but we want to respectfully call on the National Assembly to endeavour to carry along with other major stakeholders like the Presidency and the Executive Governors at the State level in the ongoing amendment exercise.
“We are particular about the executive arms at both tiers of government due to the previous experience in reluctance or selective considerations for presidential assent by the Presidency and challenges of implementation at the state level.
“This call is born out of genuine concern for the effective accomplishment of the noble goals of the exercise and consideration of our rigorous efforts and scarce resources committed to the exercise”, he said.