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Amended Constitution Ready By December –Ekweremadu


Ayodele Afolabi, Abuja

BALTIMORE, MD (AFRICAN EXAMINER) – The Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu has assured Nigerians on conclusion of the current constitution review exercise by December 2016 to insulate the process from partisan politics and other narrow interests.

Ekweremadu who also chairs the Senate Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution gave the assurance on Friday at the opening of the retreat of the Senate Committee on Review of the 1999 Constitution in Lagos.

He maintained that “no constitution anywhere in the world was cast in iron, for constitutions are made for the good of the citizens, not citizens for the constitution, hence the tradition to retouch or overhaul or even change a constitution entirely to reflect new imperatives and serve the nation better”.

He regretted the non-assent to the Fourth Constitution (Alteration) Bill, but assured that the amendments contained in the Fourth Alteration Bill were not lost as the document would form the formwork of the current exercise.

According to the Senator, major proposals that scaled through, haven received the approvals of the National Assembly and at least 24 State Assemblies included the removal of presidential assent to Constitution Amendment Bills, prescription of a 30-day time limit for presidential assent to bills or return passed by the National Assembly failing which they would automatically become laws, separation of the Office of the Minister of Justice from the Office of the Attorney-General to promote justice and anti-corruption war financial autonomy for State Assemblies,  and streamlining of legislative lists and devolution of more Powers from the Exclusive List to the Concurrent List.

Others were setting of timeline for the conclusion of pre-election matters and creation of Office of the Accountant-General of the Federal Government different from the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation to promote accountability, transparency, and good governance.

He blamed the presidential veto of the Bill and the “dragging” of the National Assembly to the Supreme Court by the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation to prevent the federal legislature from overriding the presidential veto for the failure of the Fourth Alteration to become part of the nation’s constitution.

“So, it can be clearly seen that the inability of the Fourth Alteration to become part of our constitution was not in any way the fault of the National Assembly”, he said.

He, however, said the National Assembly had also learnt its lessons.

His words: “Unfortunate as the events were, we also have some lessons and experience to draw from them; first is the need to always conclude constitution amendment processes far ahead of election season to reduce the contamination of an otherwise patriotic exercise by personal, political, and other narrow considerations”.

Ekweremadu explained that the special attention to be given to the ill-fated Fourth Alteration Bill would was “certainly without prejudice to other issues, such as diaspora voting and decentralized policing, which Nigerians, through their memoranda to the Committee, feel strongly about”.

“I want to reassure Nigerians that this exercise will be driven by the principles of inclusiveness, popular participation, and transparency; we owe no other allegiance or have any other agenda, except that which we owe to the Federal Republic of Nigeria to make our country work better for us and for posterity; and we welcome suggestions that will help move our country forward” he added.

He also reminded members of the Senate Committee on the Review of the Constitution that the retreat had two broad objectives, namely, “to engage in a diagnosis of our current constitution, pointing out errors, weaknesses, and also to chart a path toward national rejuvenation by offering proposals and suggestions that will make our constitution better”.

He urged them to embark on the task with the level of dedication; commitment and patriotism that made previous review efforts possible.

He stressed: “No doubt, we represent different constituencies, but the challenges facing our people are virtually the same. Nigerians expect us to work to their advantage. Opposing ideas and divergent viewpoints are indeed inevitable, but they are essential and can enrich the quality of our debates and final recommendations if we approach the process with open minds, good faith and national interest as our lodestar”.

The President of the Senate, Senator Bukola Saraki, who inaugurated the Committee, said that since independence, Nigerians had sought to develop for themselves a workable constitution.

He noted that although constitution amendment had always been a challenging exercise, the National Assembly was equal to the task of giving Nigerians a constitution that would make the country better.

He charged the committee to look at areas that reasonable consensus had been achieved in the last constitution review exercise.

Saraki said expressed the hope that the country would have had a further reviewed constitution before or at the beginning of 2017.

The Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, who was represented by the Commissioner for Justice and Attorney-General of the State, Mr. Adeniyi Kazeem, described the Nigerian Constitution was the guiding principle for good governance.

The Governor charged the participants to use the opportunity of the retreat to work out ways and means to engender transparency and accountability in the country and viable federalism.

The retreat is being attended by some members of the House of Representatives Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution led by its Chairman and the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Yusuf Lasun and the Speakers of the 36 State Assemblies.


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