President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed his willingness to assent to the constitution alteration bill should the National Assembly present it to him at the end of the impending constitution amendment exercise. Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo disclosed this in a goodwill message at the inauguration of the House of Representatives’ special adhoc committee on constitution review yesterday at the National Assembly.
“Let me assure you that the executive will give complete cooperation to this committee by giving appropriate suggestions, recommendations and finally assent at the end of the process. “Contrary to the deliberate falsehood being peddled that the country has been wasting resources and that nothing has been achieved in the realm of constitutional alteration, President Muhammadu Buhari evidently remains the president who signed the most constitutional alteration Acts since the advent of constitutional democracy in 1999, including the Not Too Young To Run Bill that reduced the age a person must attain to contest elections and the Acts that granted financial autonomy to the judiciary and the legislature,” he stated.
Osinbajo, who was represented by the Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha, emphasised that Nigeria’s constitution “is a work in progress and it is only by its implementation can we identify its weaknesses and address them.”
He stressed that constitutional alteration is not an exclusive reserve of the National Assembly as “the executive, both at the national and state levels, also play an indispensable role in the process”.
“I urge the committee not to discountenance any constitutional alteration proposal, no matter how idealistic, but to look at ways to galvanise them to improve our economy, create jobs, guarantee our safety and security and abolish corruption,” he advised. According to him, “My presence here underscores the importance this administration attaches to the review of the Constitution to be able to address our societal ills and propel the nation towards greatness.
“Looking at its leadership, membership composition and the expertise at its disposal, it is my firm conviction that the committee will discharge its mandate excellently by liaising with relevant government agencies, civil society organisations, multi-lateral and supranational agencies and bodies to achieve a wholesome amendment to the Nigerian constitution.” Meanwhile, the 2023 presidential election is scheduled to hold on February 18, 2023, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, has disclosed. Yakubu said the nation was 855 days to the next general election.
He advised the lawmakers to amend the electoral act to specify timelines for elections as it is done in other climes, adding that the electoral offences commission has to be looked into too. Speaking further, the INEC chairman said: “There must be a way either by amendment to the electoral act or the constitution to give effect to the Electoral Offences Tribunal. You can’t have a flourishing democracy in which laws are violated with impunity and nothing happens. So there must be a mechanism by which this must be addressed. “Our elections are too manual, too expensive, too cumbersome and too archaic.
The law says we must write the results manually; collate them manually from the unit level to the wards to the local governments, to the state and the national in terms of presidential election. The encumbrance to the deployment of full technology in elections should be removed,” he demanded.
In his welcome address, Deputy Speaker and chairman of the special committee on the review of the 1999 Constitution, Hon. Ahmed Idris Wase, said the House would consider the creation of states, state police, true federalism, local government and judicial autonomy in the review of the 1999 Constitution. He said already, over 15 constitution alteration bills have been referred to the committee touching on these broad thematic areas.
Wase observed that: “Despite the fact that Nigeria prides herself as a ‘federal state’, it is sadly evident that it is far from what federalism entails. “Some have stated that our federal system is more unitary than federalist, especially with the number of items on the exclusive legislative list where the Federal Government regulates even simple items like primary education and agriculture.
Hence, there has been clamour for more devolution of powers from the centre to the states in order to make states more viable and economically sustainable.” On local government, he said: “As a third tier government, all local governments are supposed to be independent. However, we have not seen such independence in a long time.
“Arguably, the framers of the 1999 Constitution created a worrisome situation by giving validity to the existence of 3.162 (6), which prescribes the “State and local government joint account.”
On state police, the deputy speaker said: “While internal security is of paramount importance, the concentration of the power of the police at the central government has created several policing challenges at the states.
“While some have advocated for the creation of state police, others have expressed worry on the possible abuse of such power by state governors. “However, one thing that is clear is the need for us to take a second look at our internal security superstructure in order to make it work for our people and protect their lives and properties.” Speaking on the agitation for state creation, he stated that: “It is pertinent to note that the current 36 states of our federation were created via military decrees. Hence the true wishes and aspirations of the people were never considered in such creations.
“There is need, therefore, to examine the subject of state creation (and the associated constitutional rigours and difficulties surrounding it) in such manner as to reflect the wishes and aspirations of homogenous people in a democratic system.”
Meanwhile, Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabimila has said Nigeria is struggling to survive as a nation because of myriad problems militating against her. “When you ask me what the state of our nation is, the honest answer is this: We are in a fight for the very survival of our country and the continuation of the Nigerian project. “We are commencing this constitutional review process at a time of great and ongoing upheaval in our country. New challenges emerge daily from every corner,” the Speaker said.