Constitution Amendment: National Assembly Beams Searchlight On 2014 Confab Report

SUNDAY ABORISADE examines plans by the National Assembly to ensure true federalism in Nigeria by adopting recommendations of the 2014 Constitutional Conference and the All Progressives Congress Committee on True Federalism to set an agenda for a comprehensive constitution review.

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Obviously aware of the concerns being raised by various sections of the country over the glaring imbalance in the nation’s social, political and economic structures as they affect resource control and lopsided appointments, the National Assembly may have taken a step towards addressing issues affecting the growth and development of Nigeria with the ongoing review of the 1999 Constitution.

The ad hoc committee set up to carry out the constitution review in the Senate, led by the Deputy President, Ovie Omo-Agege, last week inaugurated some sub-committees to set the agenda for the panel.

The sub-committees that are of much interest to many Nigerians are the ones saddled with the responsibilities of reviewing the reports of the 2014 National Conference and that of the Governor Nasir El-Rufai-led All Progressives Congress Committee on True Federalism.

Both reports recommended restructuring, fiscal federalism, devolution of power, creation of an additional state in the South-East geopolitical zone, and the establishment of state police, among others.

The decision of the lawmakers to consider the 2014 confab report is coming at a time when the country is facing a myriad of problems.

Omo-Agege named Senator Gershom Bassey as the chairman of the sub-committee to review the El-Rufai committee’s report on restructuring.

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Other members of the sub-committee are Senators Biodun Olujimi, Teslim Folarin, Sam Egwu, Lilian Ekwunife, Matthew Urhogide, Betty Apiafi, Yahaya Oloriegbe, Musa Sani, Saidu Alkali, Abubakar Kyari, Ibrahim Gobir and Ibrahim Shekarau.

Omo-Agege said their mandate was to review the El-Rufai report on restructuring, the observations and recommendations therein and make suggestions to the main committee as appropriate.

The Deputy Senate President added that the sub-committee that would work on the 2014 confab report would have as its chairman, Senator Kashim Shettima.

He said Senators Ajibola Basiru, Olubunmi Adetunmbi, Stella Oduah, Orji Kalu, Francis Alimikhena, Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo, Abdullahi Adamu, Hezekiah Dimka, Dauda Jika, Aishat Dahiru, Bala Ibn N’Allah and Ibrahim Hadejia would serve as members.

Omo-Agege explained that they would review the report of the 2014 confab, the observations and recommendations therein and advise the main committee as appropriate.

He mandated the sub-committees to study the two documents, the recommendations contained in them and advise the panels appropriately.

Omo-Agege said all the 58 senators, who are members of the ad hoc committee, would work together as a team despite serving in various sub-committees.

He expressed the hope that the recommendations contained in the two main reports would go a long way in assisting the main committee to achieve a successful review of the constitution.

Asked whether suggestions could come from other members of the main committee apart from the senators already drafted in the two subcommittees, Omo-Agege said views and suggestions of other members were welcomed.

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He stated:-

“We are 58 in number. It is not as if those serving in the El-Rufai restructuring sub- committee or those working on the 2014 confab will limit themselves only to those issues.

“They are free to contribute in other aspects of the amendment exercise.

“Anybody with observations regarding the two reports is also free to send their views to those who are serving there.”

A member of the committee, who is also a lawyer, Senator Chukwuka Utazi, in an interview with our correspondent, said the reports would be useful for the sub-committees handling them to set agenda for the main panel.

He said:-

“The review of the 2014 confab and APC restructuring reports is still a proposal because we have not taken any final decision on their recommendations yet.

“The Chairman of the Senate ad hoc Committee on Constitution Amendment merely laid out plans and strategies that will lead to the effective implementation of the task ahead of us.

“When we settle down to review the constitution as it concerns those issues that are very important to the country like restructuring, devolution of power and others, we will look at all these things.

“The sub-committees will prepare the ground for us. They will prepare the agenda for the main committee and they will articulate all the issues arising from their review of the two crucial reports.”

An Abuja-based legal practitioner, Ibrahim Alkali, however, cautioned the Omo-Agege-led panel to be careful in using the 2014 confab and the APC restructuring reports as the template for amending the nation’s constitution.

He told our correspondent in an interview that most Nigerians from the northern part of the country were usually sceptical when the issue of restructuring takes the front burner in national discourse.

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Alkali said:-

“Our people from the northern part of Nigeria believe that our southern brothers and sisters are advocating secession whenever they bring up the issue of restructuring.

“I will advise that rather than hammering on restructuring, we should avoid the use of the word and concentrate on how to achieve true federalism with the states empowered to have more items on the exclusives legislative list to aid their rapid development.

“I believe that the Federal Government is controlling too many resources. Some powers should be given to the states to have their own police and provide jobs for their people.”

Before the Senate took the step, many socio-political groups in the South, including the Pan Niger Delta Forum had called on the Federal Government to revisit the 2014 national conference and use the recommendations to move Nigeria forward.

The spokesman for the group, Ken Robinson in an interview with The PUNCH, said,‘‘PANDEF has been saying long before now that the country is divided more than ever before along the lines of ethnicity and religion, where the current leadership promotes some sections of the country above other sections of the country, making it look as if some Nigerians are superior to others.

The Senate spokesperson, Dr. Ajibola Basiru, who is also a member of the panel to review the 2014 confab report, described the development as a right step towards ensuring a perfect cojnstitution for the country.

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He urged the chairman of the main ad hoc committee to direct the Secretariat to make the abridged versions of both reports to members for easy consideration.

Omo-Agege said the consultants, made up of legal experts and senior advocates of Nigeria, would work with the committees in the discharge of their duties.

Senator Adamu Aliero, in an interview with our correspondent, welcomed the idea .

He said:-

“The involvement of consultants will make our job easier. The consultants are well known to us and we can work effectively together.

It’s still doubtful if the move by the National Assembly is to truly address the yearning for restructuring or a deceptive measures to calm the nerves of those calling for restructuring.

The Secretary-General of the Campaign for Democracy, Ifeanyi Odili said:-

“It is good if the National Assembly can use the national confab report for the template to review the 1999 and the APC position paper on restructuring.

“It will go a long way to move the nation away from its present state of abyss. it is even over due, because the situation of the country has called for urgent restructuring.

“Nigeria has reached a stage that urgent institutionalization of resource control is inevitable, indisputable, that any right thinking Nigeria, particularly from the southern part of Nigeria should start its agitation.

“Failure which the nation will continue to experience insecurity, youth restiveness, kidnapping and all sorts of anti human behavior. Besides, since after our national independence, some sections of this country have been cheated and run down.

“In terms of power, commerce, industry, military, police and para military, the nation of the north have far benefited than the Nations of the south.

“This needs immediate attention if we must live as one indivisible nation, else, restructuring is inevitable.

“However, as a staunch supporter of true federalism that will usher in resource control, I have my obvious and critical observation for the present crops of. politicians.

“If we take a critical look at our politicians, it would be readily concluded that the teething problem facing us as people from diverse culture and nationalities are not the result of institution but poor and corrupt tendencies of our leaders at every level of governance. If we are to allow these politicians to control your resources, its effect shall be very disastrous.

“When the Federal Government is controlling the state, most of state chief executive have looted and pillaged their states."

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