By: Ike Philip Abiagom & Leo NkeakaThe Senate Sub-Committee on review of the 1999 Constitution south-south zone led by its chairman, Senator James Manager,Senator Peter Nwaoboshi and other Senators storm Asaba for the Review of the Constitution and public hearing at Grand Hotel and retorts, Asaba which commenced yesterday 26th may 2020,and the public hearing will end on Thursday, May 27.
The two-day event is expected to hold simultaneously in Abuja and the 36 states at the rate of two centres per geopolitical zone. For North Central, the chosen centres are Jos and Minna; North East: Bauchi and Gombe; North West:Kaduna and Jigawa; South East: Owerri and Enugu; South-South: Asaba and Port Harcourt; and South West: Lagos and Akure.
Further analysis shows that Asaba, the Delta State capital, will serve the following states: Bayelsa, Delta and Edo.
The amendment of the constitution has become imperative in the light of the political tension in the country.
“There is a fierce urgency to the need to make necessary and significant adjustments to the legal framework for governing our country. We have no other option but to make pragmatic choices, rooted in a binding national consensus,on the best structure to secure this country, promote its progress and development and advance the welfare and prosperity of our people.
The mounting of public hearing on the planned review of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) is a welcome development. It is an exercise that Nigerians had waited for for too long. Though it does not meet the expectation of a national constitutional summit for the drafting of a fresh, truly democratic constitution as canvassed by the Southern Governors’ Forum at their meeting in Asaba recently, a piecemeal approach to the review of the document is a way forward.
Eminent and concerned citizens,civil society organisations,labour unions,ethnic nationalities, pressure groups etc, are expected to present memoranda and oral presentation during the public hearing on the 16 items listed by the Omo-Agege
committee. The items as published by the committee include gender equality and women participation in government; the federal structure for governance and power sharing; local government autonomy; revenue allocation; establishment of
state police; justice reform for the judiciary; and electoral reform.
Others are socioeconomic rights as provided for in Chapter 11 of the Constitution; residency and indigeneship; removal of immunity for criminal cases; duration of passage of appropriation bill; state and local government creation;
independence of Accountant- General, Auditor-General and Attorney-General of the federation; and constitutional role
for traditional rulers.
At least, the current effort presents a golden opportunity to Nigerians to contribute to the amendments that will make the constitution more people-friendly and in agreement with the practice of a federal democracy, globally. It is in the light of this that we urge citizens to embrace this opportunity to ventilate their opinion on the character the review
Obviously, some of the 16 public hearing items listed by the committee are of great importance if the proposed amendment would produce a real federal system of democratic governance. Top on the list of the proposals, in our view, is “the federal structure for governance and power sharing.” This is followed closely by “revenue allocation”,
“establishment of state police”, “electoral reform”, “local government autonomy”, “constitutional role for traditional rulers” and “state and local government creation.”
The other items not underscored by us are by no means of lesser value but what we intend by highlighting the seven items is to show clearly the critical issues that citizens have yearned for to evolve a more acceptable Constitution for Nigerians.Nigerians expect, for instance, devolution of power to the federating units, management of revenue resources in each state solely by the state government and remittance of the appropriate sums to the central
government, establishment of state police to contend with security challenges in each state of the federation and electoral reform that would make the nation’s electoral agency truly independent and less susceptible to manipulation by the ruling party.
Defects in the 1999 Constitution partly account for the insecurity that is almost consuming the nation. We, therefore, challenge citizens to rise to effect the desired change by meaningfully contributing to the debate at the public hearing. It is a patriotic duty on the part of eligible citizens to ensure that the call by the Senate to participate
in the two-day debate is heeded. The constitution amendments were inevitable from time to time and in tune with current realities, adding that the public hearing would afford the Committee the opportunity to hear from the people and collate their views for onward processing by the Senate.