- Says exercise wasteful, raises false hopes
*Tasks NASS to focus on tackling worsening insecurity
Onwuka Nzeshi, Abuja
The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has charged the Senate to jettison the proposed fresh review of the 1999 Constitution, describing the periodic amendment of the document as a wasteful exercise which gives Nigerians the impression that the National Assembly is involved in a serious review of the Constitution.
In the alternative, the NEF has advised the National Assembly to direct its energy and mandate towards convincing President Muhammadu Buhari to bring an end to the insurgency in the North East and killings in most parts of North Central, North West and other parts of the country.
The Forum’s declaration followed an announcement by the Senate ad-Hoc Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) to the public to submit Memorandum to assist the “further alteration of the provisions of the Constitution. The announcement gave all Nigerians two weeks only to submit their memoranda on all aspects requiring amendment of the current Constitution.
Director, Publicity and Advocacy of the forum, Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, who made the position of the group known Sunday night, said NEF was convinced that this repetitive initiative of the Senate is of no value and a predictable waste of time, resources and energy of the nation, and should not be supported by Nigerians being alarmed by waste in governance at this difficult time when the economy is facing unprecedented challenges.
The forum observed that since 1999, virtually every National Assembly had spent huge amounts of Nigerian people’s money on jamborees that give them false hope that the three arms of government respect the overwhelming desire of Nigerians for a holistic and genuine review and amendment of the 1999 Constitution. It, however, said that on the contrary, nothing fundamental or of any value has come out of these grand schemes to exploit the collective desire to address Nigeria’s political and economic fundamentals.
“This National Assembly is also following suit, and it should not be encouraged on this path. Nigeria’s future rests largely on its willingness to address major constraints to equity and justice, a functional structure, consistent good governance, security for all citizens, a credible electoral process, growing understanding between and among all groups and an economy that grows and narrows inequalities between and classes and regions.This cannot be achieved by a process that routinizes wasteful expenditure around false hopes.
“The Legislature and executive branches of government have large quantities of reviews, recommendations and reports from past attempts at amending the Constitutions.These represent enough resources for a review if the legislature is serious about this vital national priority. Even this is not likely to produce a genuine effort to address the basic requirements of securing a stable, secure and prosperous Nigeria, because both arms of this administration are unlikely to accept to put through wide-ranging reviews of the Constitution.
“The Forum specifically reminds legislators and other leaders from the North that security of our communities, reduction of crushing poverty and widening distrust among communities should be their priorities
“The Northern Elders Forum recommends the alternative of leaders of thought, elders, groups and professional organisations and representatives of government to freely discuss every element of our co-existence as a country under principles of voluntarism, genuine representation mutual respect and integrity of the process.
“A Nigerian Peoples’ Conference on Review of the Constitution will benefit from past work in this direction in addition to contemporary challenges which the country needs to address in a context that allows free and productive engagements without pre-determined ends.The outcome of this Conference should be submitted to the two arms of government which should provide for a referendum in the Constitution so that Nigerians can directly decide on how they want their nation to be structured and function.The North is willing to discuss other options that will do justice to the current Constitution and the future of our great country.
“The Forum invites attention of particularly northern groups to be wary of being railroaded into making submissions which the legislature will hold up as input, further justifying waste and deceit,” a statement from the group read.
Baba-Ahmed, said no northern group should encourage further waste of public funds which should be channelled into battling killers, kidnappers, poverty and poor governance. The North, he said, wants a major review of the Constitution, but also ready to resist attempts to create wealth for a few while leaving parts of the country to quarrel and blame each other for the state of the nation. According to him, Northerners are willing to discuss current challenges of the region and the state of the country with any group, anywhere, provided there was evidence of sincerity and respect for each other.