OrderPaperToday – Vice president Yemi Osinbajo and speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, called for inclusion of diverse views as the constitution review exercise commences.
Both leaders made the call on Thursday at the inauguration of a special ad-hoc committee on constitution review.
The inauguration which was held at the national assembly, gave opportunities for stakeholders to point out some challenges in the constitution and proposed solutions.
Vice President Osinbajo, in his address, advised that the members of the committee should select items they can work with and should not be seen as trying to overhaul the entire constitution in a fell swoop.
Osinbajo, who was represented by the Secretary to the Federal Government, Boss Mustapha, said that the 9th Assembly has continued to prove to be catalysts of positive change for the development of the nation.
He expressed confidence in the leadership of the House and members of the committee, stating that the present administration places high premium on the harmonious working relationship with the legislature.
He accordingly assured of full cooperation of the executive in the constitution amendment process.
The Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, in an opening remark, advised the committee chaired by the deputy speaker, Ahmed Wase, to engage as many voices as possible in the course of its work.
The Speaker said the House is determined to come up with a constitution that addresses most of the current challenges facing the country.
Wase, on his part, pledged that the House would consider the creation of states, state police, true federalism, local government and judicial autonomy in the review of the 1999 constitution.
His words: “Let me start by stating the need and importance of reviewing our extant constitution cannot be overemphasized as a vast majority of Nigerians consider the 1999 constitution a product of military exigency and that the reference to ‘We the people’ in the constitution does not truly represent them. Various political actors have therefore been advocating for a serious review.”
The Deputy Speaker noted that “there have been several attempts to amend the 1999 Constitution, yet the agitations for a much more fundamental amendment has not stopped.
“This is because there are very critical aspects of our Constitution that touch on our continued existence as a strong, indivisible nation. Until these critical areas are resolved, we may continue to face clamor for a new Constitution.
“Therefore, in order to achieve the much needed success by the 9th Assembly, there are pertinent areas that must be looked into. These are burning issues that have been left to burn for so long without giving them the much needed attention”.
The burning issues according to Wase include “the federal structure (true federalism), local government autonomy, state policing, state creation and judicial autonomy.”
In an inaugural lecture titled, ‘Prospects and Challenges before the 9th House of Representatives: Fulfilling Citizens Expectations and Imperatives for the Review of the Nigerian Constitution’ by guest speaker at the event, Professor Dakas Dakas, the committee was advised not to allow parochial interest to affect the amendment of the 1999 constitution.
Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mahmood Yakubu, in his contribution advised that a constitution amendment should be made to effectively penalize electoral offenders in the country.
According to the INEC boss, “that is why we must have an electoral offences tribunal. This has been recommended by several commissions and election observers. It was recommended by the Justice Uwais Commission. I must commend the role of the National Assembly, especially the Deputy President of the Senate for championing the enactment of the Electoral Offences Tribunal.
“We have to also address our electoral process which is manual. It is too expensive and cumbersome. The process of collating result is sometimes chaotic because the law says that you must write results manually and collate them manually right from the polling unit to the ward, from the ward to the local government, then the state and from the state to the national level in the case of the Presidential election. A lot has been achieved abroad with a simple application of technology. So, the encumbrances to the deployment of technology in the transmission of election results should be removed as part of this process”, he added.