BY Ben Agande, Emman Ovuakporie & Inalegwu Shaibu
Abuja — The issue of state creation, federalism and Nigeria’s political structure; devolution of powers; issues with respect to local government and six others were the main memoranda so far received by the House of Representatives Committee on the review of the 1999 constitution.
Chairman of the committee and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, who disclosed this when he briefed House correspondents on the activities of the committee, Monday , in Abuja, however, reiterated that the wishes of the Nigerian people would ultimately prevail on what would be included in the final version of the constitution.Ihedioha, who was flanked by other members of the committee gave other issues that have attracted the attention of Nigerians as the issues of indigeneship and citizenship; electoral reforms; excision of Land Use Act from the Constitution; Justiciability of Chapter 2 of the Constitution; Judicial reforms and National security and police reform.
According to him,”we have received close to 75 submissions since then and expect to receive more. In addition, the House in plenary has referred about 10 bills to the committee after passing second reading.”
He said at the forthcoming public hearing of the committee holding in Port Harcourt on Thursday, eminent Nigerians including former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mohammed Lawal Uwais; Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Attahiru Jega and other eminent scholars and jurists would share their experience with members of the committee.
Ihedioha maintained that “the planned retreat will provide an opportunity for the Committee to listen to experts from various fields, examine and analyse the various issues identified as requiring further amendment and review our strategies for achieving amendments.
“The various meetings and the retreat were aimed at building the capacity of members to understand the process and to achieve a consensus on the way forward in further amending the Constitution.
He promised that the committee will “carry out a participatory and all inclusive Constitution review process that will aim to address the concerns of all Nigerians.
“The Committee will hold further public hearings in the coming months. We intend to consult with all shades of opinions and interests. As the holders-in-trust of the peoples’ mandate, we know that achieving Constitutional change requires peoples’ participation and we will not proceed to amend any section of the Constitution that does not meet the criteria of popular public support.”
“We operate from the basis that Sovereignty resides in the people who have elected us and given us the mandate to initiate the process of Constitution amendment and reforms on their behalf. We intend to exercise that mandate with great responsibility” he said.
The deputy speaker enjoined all Nigerians to fully participate in this process of Constitution amendment. The Committee intends to give all Nigerians the opportunity to express themselves and to fully contribute to the present Constitution amendment efforts. This process will be inclusive and transparent. We call on Nigerians to support us to achieve a Constitution that truly reflects the aspirations of all of us as a people” he said.
Ekweremadu who also spoke yesterday at an interactive session on the activities of the National Institute for Legislative Studies, NILS in Abuja, said the new round of constitution amendment will offer state assemblies another chance to vote for their autonomy.
Ekweremadu then urged state assemblies to take a cue from National Assembly which gained its autonomy following the successful amendment of the 1999 Constitution last year.
He added that the autonomous status of the National Assembly has put it on a first line charge, thereby impacting positively on legislative and oversight activities of the upper chamber.
He lamented that state assemblies do not enjoy such privileges because they are yet to secure their autonomy.
He said, “They (State Assemblies) have another chance in the on-going constitutional review process to vote for their autonomy.”
Ekweremadu also lamented the refusal of the state assemblies to vote in favour of the last amendment that sought to grant them autonomy in the last constitution amendment exercise.
He said, “But unfortunately they (State Houses of Assembly) voted against their autonomy by two votes.”
Commenting on NILS, he noted that it emphasised the need for a bigger and better equipped platform for providing policy, research, training and advisory support to the Nigerian legislature.
According to him, “NILS was, therefore, established by the National Institute for Legislative Studies Act 2011 to consolidate the gains from PARP and with wider scope of operation.”
In her remark, Director General of NILS, Dr. Ladi Hamalai, observed that the aim of the interactive session was to acquaint legislators with the activities of the NILS as well as to receive useful feedback from the parliament on their expectations.
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