All-inclusive Constitution? No, Not From Our Federal Legislators!

Can the present crop of federal legislators in Nigeria provide the country an all-inclusive constitution?

For some of us, we are skeptical, very skeptical. It is sad that since 2019, the National Assembly collectively has not shown any serious pro-people tendency. The lawmakers have been transparently selfish and myopic in their handling of serious national issues.

Perhaps, they need to define what they mean by an ”all-inclusive”. With its zooming population estimated at 230 million, how will the constitution currently being reviewed reflect the genuine desires and aspirations of the Nigerian people when there is so much reluctance by the establishment on restructuring and the wahalacious open grazing menace?

In the developed democracies, COVID-19 palliatives were not hidden in warehouses as was witnessed in Nigeria during the EndSARS uprising. The lawmakers have to spell out how they intend to guarantee the security of the citizenry, unfettered right to worship any god of their choice without being molested as the Fulani jihadisation agenda tend to portray.

The document being reworked cannot be said to ”all-inclusive” if it fails to liberalise the inclusion/accommodation of women and young people in all the governance structures of the country. If truth be told, the Buhari administration since 2015, is the worse form of regime since 1960 that has left out a greater majority of the Nigerian people. To some degree, the current crisis rocking the country can also be traced to the narrow feudalistic mindset of the regime.

In spite of the obvious chasms of the walls of Nigeria, the citizenry is still being assured that the coming Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria will be an all-inclusive document in line with the democratic tenets of developed democracies.

Deputy Senate President, Ovie-Omo Agege, gave the assurance while speaking in Bauchi, on Wednesday, at the opening of the North-East Zonal Sitting on the review of the 1999 Constitution as amended.

The Senate number two man who sits as the Chairman of the Constitution review, said that it had taken a long time to review the Constitution due to the fact that in a democracy, it was not always easy to review the Constitution because it had to undergo a lot of processes that must be in line with democratic settings.

Represented by Senator Abubakar Kyari, he explained that the review process was taking the bottom-to-top approach by engaging the public hearings across the country before the national hearing in order to ensure that Nigerians had their inputs well-captured in the new document.

He assured that all the lapses and holes in the 1999 Constitution as amended will be corrected in order to give every segment of the society a sense of belonging in the scheme of things in the country.

While he appealed to Nigerians to make logical submissions in their memoranda, Governor Bala Mohammed Abdulkadir of Bauchi State in his speech, advocated for the creation of more states and local government areas in the country so that there would be more even development across the country.

The governor also called for constitutional recognition and roles for the traditional institutions in the country because, according to him, the institution had a vital role in the well-being of the country.

He said that, “there should be fairness and equity in the distribution of the country’s resources. We in Bauchi need additional local government areas, there are states smaller in landmass and population to Bauchi but are getting more allocations because they have more local government areas than us.”

Adding, the governor said, “there’s the need for devolution of power because much power is concentrated more at the centre. We need to have a way out of the problems militating against our unity and progress, we need to move ahead in terms of development.”

Bala Mohammed also said that the present three tiers of government, Federal, states and Local councils, should be retained in the new Constitution but states should be allowed to control the natural resources in their various states and remit to the Federal its own share.

Chairman, Conference of Speakers of State Legislatures of Nigeria, Abubakar Y Suleiman, in his goodwill message commended the move to amend the Constitution, which, he said, had more of military inputs in a democratic dispensation.

He assured that all the 36 state Houses of Assembly were waiting to see how the process will go, declaring that as soon as it got to the stage of concurrence, the states’ assemblies would not hesitate to do the needful.

Suleiman urged that every agitation that was genuine for peace and peaceful coexistence in the country should be accommodated in the new Constitution for good and effective governance saying that, “It will be our pride to have  the 2021 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria rather than what it is now, 21 years after the return to a democratic dispensation in the country.”

In the mean time, 20 Enugu based civil society organisations, led by Parent- Child Intervention Centre (PCIC) are calling on the lawmakers, to adopt and pass a bill for an Act to further alter the provisions of the 1999 Constitution to provide for gender diversity in legislative leadership and Executive positions, among other related matters.

This is contained in a Memorandum Submitted to the Senator Ike Ekweremadu led South-East Senate Constitutional Review Committee on Wednesday, in Enugu by PCIC Executive Director, Ambassador Peggy Chukwuemeka.

Making the presentation to the Committee, she said: “We must begin by commending the Senate for this opportunity to promote the constitutional reform issues dear to us and the people within our state.

According to her, “We look up to members of the Senate as our representatives to ensure that the issues we are raising are adopted.  Women constitute about half of Nigeria’s population but occupy only about one in every ten elective and appointive positions in Nigeria.

Chukwuemeka, noted that ” omen in Nigeria face many challenges to entering and remaining engaged in politics.

She further pointed out that “Women’s political representation in Nigeria has steadily declined since 2007, and risks declining further without support and action from political leaders.

“Parent-Child Intervention Centre and 20 other CSOs in Enugu State are calling on the Senate in particular and the National Assembly in general to improve the political and socio-economic rights of women.

The civic groups, had in the Memorandum, attached seven draft bills which they are calling on the Nigeria’s Federal lawmakers to consider and passed into law.

“As our representatives, we call on you to adopt and pass the seven draft bills attached to this memorandum.

At the moment, founder of Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti, Afe Babalola, is of the  view that amending the 1999 constitution, as proposed, is a waste of time. In a statement on Wednesday, he expressed doubts that amending the constitution will not be enough to fully address the nation’s problems.

The senior advocate of Nigeria states that the only constitution that could be worked on to make a difference  is the 1963 constitution, pointing out that the major cause of the country’s current problems is the 1999 constitution foisted on Nigeria by the military.

In the alternative, Babalola is calling for the convocation of a national conference to accommodate all opinions on how to move the country forward.

“Alternatively, since amendment in law includes substitution for an existing document, why is it that the national assembly cannot call for a Public Hearing on the substitution of the 1999 constitution for the 1963 constitution which was made with the consent of the people?” he said.

“Against the background of the massive demand by Nigerians at home and abroad for a true Federal constitution made by the people and for the people, the national assembly is calling for Public Hearing in the country’s six Geo-political Zones for people’s inputs on any issue of interest to enable it amend the 1999 constitution, but I have reservations on this.

“To me, the proposed amendment to the 1999 constitution by the national assembly: whichever way you look at it, is a futile exercise.

“It is common knowledge that the 1999 constitution was made by the military which in its wisdom, claimed that it was made by the people.

“The truth is that there is no way the national assembly can amend the 1999 constitution to cure inherent defects in the 1999 constitution. First, you cannot cure fraud. Second, it is impossible, by way of amendment, to take away the military system of government under the 1999 constitution or the power and control of public funds by the President.

“Or can we, by way of amendment, change the judicial powers of the President under the 1999 constitution? The fact remains that you cannot amend a Coconut tree which has no branches to become an Iroko tree which has branches.

“It is a well-known fact that everything about the 1999 constitution is wound round the Presidential system of government.

“We all know that previous sessions of national assembly made laws to convene a national conference. I, therefore, advise that the current national assembly should call for a national conference to discuss and make a new, true Federal constitution which will provide for a Parliamentary system of government.”

 

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