Constitution review: Osinbajo, others task NASS to prioritize fiscal federalism, restructuring, referendum, others

Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo on Thursday underscored the need for Special Ad-hoc Committee on the review and alteration of the 1999 Constitution to prioritize various concerns raised by Nigerians.

Prof. Osinbajo gave the charge at the opening of the stakeholders and members of the general public to its inauguration of the Special Ad-hoc Committee on the 1999 Constitution.

The Vice President who was represented by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Boss Mustapha, reiterated the resolve of the present administration towards addressing various societal ills and propel the nation towards greatness.

He said: “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 organizations, multilateral and supranational agencies and bodies to achieve a wholesome amendment to the Nigerian constitution.

“Let me point out 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.

“This administration places a high premium on a harmonious working relationship with the legislature. We are at the implementation stage of the Communique issued at the end of the recent two-day Executive-Legislature parley presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari which had as its theme, ‘Promoting Effective Executive Legislative Partnership, finding a Middle Ground.

“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.”

While reiterating the present administration support for the constitution review, Prof. Osinbajo maintained that: “it is only by its implementation can we identify its weaknesses and address them.

“I urge the Committee not to discountenance any constitutional alteration proposal, no matter how idealistic but to look at ways to galvanize them to improve our economy, create jobs, guarantee our safety and security and abolish corruption.”

In his personal remarks, the SGF tasked the Special Ad-hoc Committee on the need to “select the items that can be easily undertaken without necessarily creating a stall,” and guide against any issues that are capable of destabilizing the polity.

While stressing the need for the National Assembly to earn public trust, Mr Mustapha noted that the exercise was stalked by the issue of tenure elongation.

In his keynote address, Prof. Dakkas Charles tasked the newly inaugurated constitution review committee to prioritize the issue of restructuring, referendum, devolution of powers, demand for state creation, derivation formula, fiscal federalism, separation of powers, reduction in the cost of governance, adoption of Parliamentary system, unicameral/bicameral legislature, mainstream gender issue in the Constitution, interface between faith and religion, strengthening the local government system and Judiciary arm of government, among others.

He also harped on the need to inspire the confidence of the Nigerian people that this exercise will be transparent, and void of parochial interests, just as he stressed the need to embark on mass mobilization of the citizens for effective participation, as well as endear the support of both traditional and new media, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), political parties, traditional rulers, CSOs, community and Faith-Based Organizations, Conference of Speakers of State Assemblies, among others.

Speaking at the sideline of the inauguration, Deputy Governor of Edo State, Rt. Hon. Philip Shuaibu tasked the Special Ad-hoc Committee not to fall into the mistakes of the past which led to the rejection of the proposed amendments made into the Constitution during successive Assemblies.

He said: “Listening to all the guest speakers, what is paramount is together this thing done on time. So that it doesn’t get close to elections, because when it gets close to elections, insinuations and different counter-accusations might mar the signing of the Constitution like it has done in the past.

“So all I will urge the Committee to do is to get to work immediately, dust all the other documents that have been collated before, check the ones that should be amended and get this thing out on time before the issue of 2023 election come.

“One of the things they should look at is combining amendment, especially like Local Government, the autonomy of House of Assembly, the autonomy of Judiciary. in the past these things are combined, and you have to choose. If you choose one, you leave the rest everything dies.

“This time, some of those things should be separated. Issues of Judiciary should be separated, issue of local government, and when that is done, everybody has the liberty to choose, you don’t force them into agreeing into three items at the same time. So when these things are done, with the zeal I’m seeing, I’m sure this time we would get it right,” Hon. Shuaibu opined.

 

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