By Ikechukwu Okaforadi and Musa Adamu
The Senate has hinted that the report of 2014 Constitutional Conference, Governor Nasir El-rufai led committee on restructuring, local government autonomy, among others, would be its focus on the ongoing constitution review exercise.
The Deputy President of the Senate, Ovie Omo-Agege, who made the declaration during inauguration of the 58-member Senate Committee on constitution review, also included devolution of power, full autonomy for the Judiciary in the area of administration of Justice, as part of areas of focus for the committee.
He said “In carrying out this national assignment, this Committee will no doubt, consider the alteration of the Sixth schedule to make provision for new items, the establishment of National and State Houses of Assembly, Pre-election Matters Tribunal, Governorship Pre-election Matters Tribunals and Presidential Pre-election Matters Tribunal, including time limits for the disposal of all pre-election matters before the conduct of the general elections.
“We will also consider the need for devolution of power, full Local Government fiscal autonomy, full autonomy of the judiciary in the area of administration of justice, youth inclusiveness in governance, gender parity or affirmative action.
“This is by no means an exhaustive list. The Committee will also consider inputs from stakeholders and different interest groups across the country.
“In addition, this committee will consider the recommendations of the 2014 Constitutional Conference and the Governor Nasir el-Rufai-led Committee on restructuring”.
He assured Nigerians that the committee will carry along stakeholders in the polity through required collaborations.
“It is worthy of note that because of the need to incorporate the interests, wishes and aspirations of the people from various ethno-social and ethno-religious backgrounds, we shall embark on far reaching consultations with Nigerians across the six geo-political zones to, aggregate their positions on current issues that require legislative action by way of Constitutional Reforms.
“We would also liaise with our counterparts in the House of Representatives, the State Houses of Assembly and collaborate and build consensus with all stakeholders to ensure synergy.
‘Development Partners will also play pivotal roles through counsel, workshops, conferences and interactions”, he explained.
According to him,”the need for Constitutional amendment lies at the heart of Constitutional theory and practice.
“Constitutionalism implies that the fundamental rules for effective exercise of state power and protection of individual rights should be stable and predictable and not subject to easy change or the whims of individuals.
“These changing times have brought new challenges and today in our country, we are faced with increased insecurity, slow economic growth, rising poverty, and a poor political culture, amongst others.
“These challenges that will define the way Nigerians will live in the 21st century have continued to agitate the minds of our people. It is against this background that the need for constitutional reforms has once again become necessary”.
In his remarks while inaugurating the committee, the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan said the exercise was in line with the 9th Senate Legislative Agenda.
“We are now resolved to re-examine the constitution, consistent with our legislative agenda and in tandem with the yearnings of our people.
“You will agree with me that reviewing the constitution is an arduous task. It requires painstaking consultation, dialogues and debates.
“We expect consultations with public organisations and the civil society. These include the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), as the vehicle for elections, Civil Society Groups, the academia, the Media, and indeed, the citizenry”, he said.