Constitutional review: It’s time to unite, shape Nigeria through legislations -Akpabio

…local govt autonomy, judiciary, electoral matters, state police, gender, human right issues priority areas

…Akwa Ibom govt, State Speakers back State Police, resource control, decentralisation of power

President of the Senate, Senator Godswill Akpabio, Friday, said that the 10th National Assembly will produce a constitution that will take into cognisance the collective aspirations of Nigerians, shape, unite and accelerate the development of the country.

Akpabio gave the assurance while delivering his remarks at the beginning of a 2 Day retreat of the House of Representatives committee on the review of the 1999 constitution of Nigeria organized by Policy and Legal Advocacy Center (PLAC) and United Kingdom International Development in Ikot Expene, Akwa Ibom State.

The Senate President urged the federal lawmakers to be thorough in the ongoing review of the constitution, stressing that every bill and proposal must receive the needed consideration.

The assurance came on a day the deputy speaker of the House of Representatives and Chairman, Committee on Constitutional Review, Rt. Hon. Benjamin Okezie Kalu revealed that a total of 305 proposals from Nigerians and 112 bills on various national issues are before the Committee of the House for consideration in the ongoing review of the 1999 Constitution.

This is as the 36 Speakers of State Houses of Assembly and the government of Akwa Ibom State respectively declared their support for the establishment of state police, resource control, decentralization of power amongst other national issues.

Applauding the work of the House committee, Akpabio said that time has come for Nigerians to take their destiny into their hands.

He said: “I believe that at the end of the day, the senate and the House of Representatives will create a blueprint that guides us towards a more united and prosperous Nigeria. This journey has just begun in this retreat. So, ladies and gentlemen, the challenges before us are significant, but so are the opportunities.
This opportunity is to ensure that the bills, all bills we consider and comprehend are fair, reflective of the aspiration of the Nigerian people.

We must take into account the diverse perspectives and experiences that make up our great nation. By doing so, we lay a solid foundation for a constitution that truly represents the hope and dreams of every single Nigerian alive.

“Distinguished brothers and sisters, now is the time for us to take our destiny in our hands. Change will not occur if we passively wait for someone else or for another institution or for a different time to undertake this venture with all the power to bring about a change ourselves and change the purpose, trajectory of our new country. We are the ones our country had been waiting for. We are the embodiment of the change our country needs.

“Let us rise up to this duty and answer our country’s call, particularly at a time when we have a vice” president as a legislator and a president as a legislator and even the wife of the president as a legislator. This is the right time for us to shape the future of our country through legislation”.

In his address, the deputy speaker, Kalu highlighted the areas of top priority in the review process.

The areas, he said included local govt autonomy, judiciary, electoral matters, state police, gender, human right issues and others.

Kalu said that the thematic areas have been shared amongst the experts to handle.

Recall that the committee has held a series of public engagements from its pre-inaugural meeting to the unveiling of sub-committees on workplan development; the inauguration of the Committee; the call for memoranda; appointment and inauguration of Consultants; retreat of the secretariat and consultants of the House; a joint committee secretariat and consultants of both the Senate and the House, incidentally setting a timeline to achieve the first set of amendment by December 2025.

Giving the details of the thematic areas, Kalu said that the consultants are expected to dig deep into the thematic areas.

According to him, local government matters are given to Professor Nuhu M. Jamo, the judiciary assigned to Barr. Mike M. Osuman (SAN); electoral matters to Hon. (Dr.) Samson Osagie; State Policing given to Dr. Usman Ibrahim to handle; gender issues given to Prof. Anthonia T. Simbine; human right issues given to Chief Chris Uche (SAN) while other special matters are assigned to Professor Yusuf M. Yusuf to handle.

The Deputy Speaker further explained that the amendment of the Constitution is imperative to conform to the wishes of Nigerians and to also meet up with the present economic realities.

He said: “In keeping faith with the timeline it set for itself to achieve the first set of amendment by December 2025, the Committee has undertaken the following activities: pre-inaugural meeting; sub-committees on workplan development; inauguration of the Committee; call for memoranda
appointment and inauguration of Consultants; retreat of the Secretariat and Consultants of the House
joint Committee Secretariat and Consultants of both the Senate and the House

“Today, the Committee will now be presented with the outcome of the review of the bills and memos received.

“Furthermore, the Constitutional amendments are instrumental in achieving better economic outcome by modernizing legal frameworks, enhancing institutional capacity, better enhancing Nigeria economic potentials, addressing emerging economic challenges and facilitating inclusive development. Constitutional amendment have become imperative for a couple of reasons including the need to adapt to changing economic realities; to strengthen property rights and the rule of law; to promote economic freedom and fear competition; to foster fiscal responsibilities and budgetary discipline; to enhance governance and accountability; to empower subnational government and; to facilitate for structural reforms.

“In line with our policy of full consultation with all segments of the people and the Nigerian Society, the Committee will immediately begin meeting with identified sectors and work with the following thematic areas: Local government matters, Prof. Nuhu M. Jamo; Judiciary, Barr. Mike M. Osuman (SAN); Electoral Matters, Hon. (Dr.) Samson Osagie; State Policing, Dr. Usman Ibrahim; Gender issues, Prof. Anthonia T. Simbine; other special matters, Prof. Yusuf M. Yusuf; and Human rights, Chris Uche (SAN).

“Our consultations will extend to the Judiciary, election stakeholders, women groups, traditional rulers and civil society organizations among others, and presently we have received 305 proposals from Nigerians and 112 bills sponsored by Members are at various stages of consideration in the House. These memos have been analysed by the Committee Consultants and a report will be presented to the Members during the course of this deliberations.

“We will also engage the citizens from across Nigeria’s six geo-political zones and will cap our consultations with a National Public hearing in Abuja before the end of 2024”.

In his remarks at the retreat, the Governor of Akwa Ibom state, Pastor Umo Eno represented by the deputy governor, Senator Akon Eyakenyi gave his support for the establishment of state police, asking the committee to also consider devolution of powers amongst others.

“The issue of devolution of powers from the center to sub nationals to make Nigeria a proper federation has been a recurrent decimal since the promulgation of decree 34 of 1966 by the military, which sets the nation on the path of a unitary federalism. The result was an overburdened center and over dependent federating units, thus making it impossible for sub nationals to look inwards for development in a manner peculiar to their natural endowment and circumstances.

“Thankfully, recent efforts at constitutional amendments have removed some of these bottlenecks.
However, a lot remains to be done, especially in the areas of security and revenue allocation.

“At this point in our history, vis-a-vis the seemingly intractable security problems across the nation, I doubt if we can still debate the necessity or otherwise of state police. Experience has shown that a centralized security architecture cannot effectively tackle localized crimes. The creation of state police does not mean the abolition of federal police. Presently, the synergy between the state minister of internal Security and Waterways and security agencies is yielding enormous benefits in the state. This particular issue of national importance is, to my mind, a labor test for your committee in particular and the 10th assembly as a whole on revenue allocation. It is an incontrovertible fact that all Nigerians live in the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory. The responsibilities of states are huge and they definitely need more money to meet their obligations.

“More so, in the spirit of federalism, the constitution should make provisions for states to benefit more from natural resources obtained within their territories. I believe a constitution which truly exposes the principles of federalism will help to de escalate tension in the country, resolve some of our most serious challenges, and bears a prosperous nation”, he said.

Also speaking, the chairman of the Conference of Speakers of State Legislatures of Nigeria and Oyo State House of Assembly Speaker, Rt. Hon. Adebo Ogundoyin said that the conference is more interested in state police, local government autonomy, resource control and revenue allocation, devolution of powers to the states amongst others.

He said: “There are fundamental National issues that must be reviewed and considered for constitutional amendments, issues such as state police, local government autonomy, resource control and revenue allocation, centralization of powers in the center or devolution of powers to state amongst other pressing matters.

“I strongly believe the leadership of the National Assembly and Speakers at the States Assembly will collaborate to ensure the passage of some of these critical issues in the on-going Sixth Alteration of the Nigeria Constitution especially when critical issues such as security are considered. Let me say for the record that the conference of speakers of state legislators strongly supports the establishment State Police and other amendments that promotes Federalism.

“As Chairman, Conference of Speakers of State Legislatures of Nigeria, in this task of Constitutional review process, I want to believe my roles will be multi-dimensional in engaging my colleagues at State levels, the leadership of National Assembly, Governors’ forum and other critical stakeholders in stimulating discussions on some of the identified grey areas moving forward as a Nation”, he said.

The retreat which is the first for the House Committee is expected to receive the reports of experts/consultants of the committee on appraisal of previous constitution amendment bills, especially those either not passed by the previous national/state Assemblies or were not given presidential assent.

It will also stimulate discussions and place the bills and memoranda received in the public domain, as well as develop new areas of discourse.

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