NASS sends Constitution Amendment Report to 36 state assemblies
Nigeria on Tuesday took one of the final steps towards amending the 1999 constitution by transmitting the conference report of the proposed review to state Houses of Assembly for concurrence.
For any of such recommendations to sail through for incorporation into the Constitution, it must be endorsed by at least two-third of Nigeria’s 36 states.
The National Assembly transmitted via the chairman of the Conference of State Houses of Assembly, Rt Hon Sam Ikon, who is the speaker of Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly.
Ikon, while receiving the document, said that unlike in the past when they voted against granting state assemblies financial autonomy, they will now take up the second chance and grant themselves financial autonomy.
He said, “We appreciate the efforts of both chambers of the National Assembly in the process of amending the constitution. They have been championing the cause by introducing completely a new dimension involving the people at the grassroots. Organising public hearing was to decentralise the process for people were able to contribute their input freely.
“The transmission of the harmonised version of the bill to state assemblies signifies the beginning of their roles in the process. Constitutionally, the roles requiring state legislatures are to ratify the resolutions of the National Assembly.”
“We can only assure Nigerians that we shall play our roles to produce the constitution that will reflect the needs of the people devoid of fears and influences. We are determined to show our will to support changes that we have found in the course of our democracy. Reference has been made to the issue of financial autonomy to states. Let me plead that we forget the past”.
The Houses of Assembly are simply expected to vote “Yes” or “No” on each clause.
He assured Nigerians that the report would receive accelerated and positive action.
Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Review of the 1999 constitution, who is also the deputy president of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, appealed to the state Houses of Assembly to treat the report before December this year.
He stated that the amendments represent the will of the Nigerian people, adding that the legislature has long recognised that to secure the future of Nigeria in political, social and economic terms, it must invariably review the constitution to meet the aspirations and needs of the diverse people and facilitate national development in an equitable manner.
Ekweremadu also noted that the durability of constitution depends on public support as citizens are less inclined to support a constitution that was made without their input.
“By involving citizens in the constitution review process, the legislature has indeed made a huge stride in rekindling the sense of optimism and inclusivity”, he stated.
He said “It is our conviction that this people-centred amendment will make Nigerians feel vested in their government, encourage and challenge them to remain active and engaged in the political process, raising questions, demanding answers and criticising leaders who fail to perform.
“There is no doubt that broad citizens’ participation, which was the mainstay of the review process, will add value to the democratic process and improve the quality of governance.”
“The amendments set out institutional and legal reforms, which together with sufficient political will, may help to provide for constitutional and other legal guarantees for the practice of true federalism; provide for accountability and transparency in governance; and, create an independent judicial system that would ensure the proper administration of justice in Nigeria.”
“Strengthen the legislature’s authority to enable it to serve as an effective pillar of checks and balance to the executive;Strengthen independent constitutional bodies;Strengthen citizenship as a source of national identity; Create and strengthen a culture of good governance;
“Recognise national diversity as a source of richness and wealth; and Address the issues of corruption, ethnicity, waste of resources, revenue leakages and unbridled government spending.
“Review our legislative list for improved federalism- We hope that there will be a corresponding review of the revenue distribution formula to reflect the redistribution of our legislative list. “
In his remarks, deputy speaker of the House of Representatives and chairman of the House adhoc Committee on Review of the Constitution, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, said the National Assembly did not target anybody or institution in passing the amendment bill of the 1999 Constitution.
According to him, the National Assembly acted in the overall best interest of Nigerians in passing the bill and urged the state legislatures to also act likewise.
“Let me use this opportunity to say that we are not at loggerheads with anybody or institution. Some of the amendments are not intended to little down the powers of any tier of government, or to undermine any tier.
“They simply reflect the views of Nigerians which was expressed at the Peoples Public Sessions, conducted in the 360 Federal Constituencies of Nigeria.
“I dare say that in a Constitutional democracy which we are operating, the voice of the people should count for something. It is easy for some people to sit in the comfort of their offices and homes and pontificate on what they think that Nigerians want. It is a different thing when the view of Nigerians are sought directly as we did.
“As individuals and actors we may differ from the views of the people on grounds of principles of federalism and other reasons. But as democrats, we are bound to respect their views.
“The practice of federalism varies from one country to another and reflects to a large extent the country’s history, traditions, practices and precedents. Nigerians have chosen the type of federalism they want. We should respect it.”