Monday, 17 April 2017

Constitution Review: Anxiety As NASS Fails To Meet Deadline

..Holds retreat April 26
..Review to be done piecemeal ABUJA—THERE is palpable anxiety as the National
Assembly has failed to fulfill its promise of
presenting to Nigerians a new constitution which it
said would be ready between February and March
this year. However, the two chambers are expected to hold
a joint retreat on April 26 to put finishing touches
to the ongoing amendment of the 1999
Constitution. Besides, Nigerians should not expect to see a new
constitution in one full swoop as the ad-hoc
committee on constitution amendment has said that
the review would be done piecemeal to avoid the
7th Assembly’s experience, where the amendment
was concluded and former President Goodluck Jonathan refused to assent to it because of some
contentious sections. Recall that at the working session/retreat of the
House Committee on Constitution Review in
Abeokuta, Ogun State, in December last year,
Chairman of the House Ad-hoc Committee on
Constitution Review, Yussuff Lasun, had assured
that a new constitution would be ready between February and March this year. Lasun, who is also Deputy Speaker of the House,
had explained that the decision to conclude the
alteration on time was to give the Presidency
ample time to go through it for assent. SENATE CHAMBER He also said to make the constitution amendment
process more flexible and practicable, the 4th
Alteration Bill had been segmented into 14 bills,
while the House was considering over 30 bills
referred to the committee by the 8th Assembly. He said: “It pleases me to inform you that the
committee has been working tirelessly to ensure
that the Fourth Alteration Bill is given speedy
passage and subsequent assent by the President. “We will round off our work between February
and March 2017, to give the President ample time
to go through the amendment for his assent. “In order to make the amendment process more
flexible and practicable, the 4th Alteration Bill has
been segmented into 14 Bills and we are currently
considering over 30 bills referred to the committee
by the 8th Assembly. “Having considered the reasons the Alteration Bill
in the 7th Assembly was declined by the President,
we have decided that the process should
commence de-novo and fast-tracked to ensure a
timely passage of the bills.” Holds retreat April 26 Vanguard reliably gathered that the alteration will
not be ready by the end of April as the joint
committee of the two chambers is expected to meet
on April 26, the day the National Assembly will
resume plenary after the Easter break. It was further gathered that the House of
Representatives Ad-hoc Committee met about four
days ago with Lasun and the retreat initially slated
for Edo State will no longer hold, although no
reason had been given for the change of venue. Speaking to Vanguard, Chief Press Secretary to
the Deputy Speaker, Wole Oladimeji, explained
that after the retreat on April 26, members will be
expected to go to their constituencies for public
hearing to collate views from their constituents and
it will be submitted to the committee to work on to produce a clean copy. He said: “At the meeting of the Special Ad-hoc
Committee on the review of the 1999 constitution,
the chairman of the committee, Sulaimon Lasun
Yussuff, told members of the committee that they
are almost at the final stage of the exercise and that
they should, therefore, be more serious with the amendment process. “The meeting concluded that a joint retreat with
the Senate Committee on the review would hold
by April 26. After the retreat, members would go
to their various constituencies to collate views of
the public on the exercise. “Therefore, the 4th Alteration Bill and some other
referrals would be concluded for passage as soon
as the report is ready. Both the committee and
consultants are working hard to ensure speedy
passage of the report.” Senate has finished work on review since Dec Also explaining the position of the alteration, the
Special Adviser to the Deputy Senate President,
Uche Anichukwu, said the Senate presented its
own update on the amendment before proceeding
on Easter break, adding that the Senate had since
December finished work on the review. He also said experts hired by the two chambers
had met and harmonised their positions and that
the Senate and House committees will soon meet
for the adoption of the harmonised version. Vanguard further gathered that after the
harmonisation by the committees, it would be sent
to the committee of the whole for final voting on
some of the amendments. Contemporary issues Some contemporary issues for constitutional
review are control over natural and fiscal
resources within the federal structure as balance of
power is said to be too heavily tilted in favour of
the central government. The issue of local government creation and the
constitutional conflict it has generated in the
operations of the 1999 constitution is also another
area that will be given attention. The Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike
Ekweremadu, who is chairman of the Senate Ad-
hoc Committee on the constitution review recently
in a statement issued by his Special Adviser, Media,
said the amendment would be concluded in
earnest to further reform the nation’s electoral system. He also said the alteration would also reposition the
local government system, devolve more powers to
the states, and reform the judicial system. Ekweremadu said experts working with the House
of Representatives and the Senate Committees on
the Constitution amendment project had already
harmonised the positions of the two committees,
ahead of their joint retreat to vote and adopt the
proposals before presenting them to both chambers of the National Assembly for approval
and subsequently to the state assemblies for
ratification.

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