Constitution review: Reps to prioritise electoral, judicial local government reforms, education

• UK spends £50m to support Nigerian democracy in 5 years

The leadership of the House of Representatives, on Monday, unveiled plans to prioritise issues bothering on Electoral, Judicial and Local Government reforms during the ongoing Constitutional amendment.

Chairman, Special Ad-hoc Committee on constitution review, Hon Idris Wase gave the assurance during a retreat organised for members of the House Ad-hoc Committee on constitution review.

Hon Wase who observed that the country is passing through serious challenges due to the dysfunctional local Government system being operated, tasked the lawmakers on the need to write their names in gold by ensuring that they do everything possible to give Nigerians a people-oriented Constitution.

He further disclosed that the issue of state creation, as well as women participation, will also be given special attention by the Special Ad-hoc Committee.

“This is about our nation-building. We have the opportunity to write names in gold. Whatever we are going to do here. We should be guided by the fact that Nigeria needs very critical reforms at this very particular moment and time.

“By our own design at the secretariat, we thought we should segment the issues in the country so that we will have them in batches. We are not going to have one batch constitutional review like it is done in the past. As the issues come, we shall be treating them and we have classified the issues.

“As of today, we require electoral reforms. That should be done and this is the right moment to have this one done. Anything short of this particular period, you know how we behave, many misgivings will come in.

“So I expect us to spend our time so that we give in our best and be able to send out the best of what Nigeria will require to improve our electoral system and participation.

“We also have the issue of judicial reform which is very key. We are all aware of the various shortcomings and shortfalls within that sector.

“Local government reform is another very thorny and burning issue, we need to put our heads together to ensure we liberate that particular system for the benefit of Nigerians and I believe it is important.

“If that tier of government is working very fine, a lot of things happening today, be it insecurity, social infrastructure will be addressed. If the structure of local government is functional and made to work in the manner that it used to be before, I think, there would be a serious improvement in that aspect.”

He also unveiled the Special Ad-hoc Committee’s plan to look at issues in the constitution that are supposed to be justiciable. For instance, it is the right of every Nigerian to have an education. But are we really giving the education to our people with the menace we are having in the streets?

“I think it is a matter to look at. Those matters of human rights in the constitution could be improved so that we can give it to our people the way they should be done.

“The issue of State creation, the issue of roles to our traditional rulers, all these are very important issues we should give attention to. By the time we are able to achieve all these, we would be able to write our name in gold.”

On his part, the Lead consultant to the Committee, Prof Dakas said in reviewing the constitution, the House must take cognizance of the participation of Nigerians in the process if they are to owe the final document.

In the bid to ensure citizen participation, he tasked the Special Ad-hoc Committee on the need to harvest the views of Nigerians, while paying special attention to certain constitutional provisions in other not to render the outcome of the exercise nullity.

While warning against rancour among the House and Senate counterparts, Prof Dakas urged the lawmakers to hold a joint public hearing rather than seeing themselves as rivals.

“There is also the need to segment. You will recall that when the constitutional review was wholesome, especially during the Obasanjo regime, everything went down the drain as a result of one issue after all the efforts and resources that went into it.

“That was part of the lesson learnt by the 8th Assembly when the bills were segmented and because they went for presidential assent in batches, it was possible to deal with them on their individual merit. We recommend that this committee proceeds along the same line.

“There is also the need for synergy between this committee and the one of the Senate. This is not a platform for war turf. You are not fighting for supremacy, but moving to further the country project.

“Time is of the essence, hence the need for collaboration so that we don’t have a repeat of what transpired sometimes ago, the issue of who heads the committee, everything went down the drain. In the context of lawmaking, your powers are equal and you need to work together in other to achieve a common goal. So, we are recommending that this process synergizes with the one of the Senate.

“We also need to leverage comparative jurisprudence, while not forgetting that we have some local peculiarities. We need to look at what is obtainable in other developed democracies, what are the lessons that we can learn from those democracies without forgetting our local peculiarities. What are the lessons that we can learn from fellow African countries”.

In his remarks, the Head of Governance Unit at the Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office, Mr Sam Waldock disclosed that the British government has invested about £50 million in supporting democracy in Nigeria in the last five years.

Mr Waldock said the United Kingdom was proud to support democratic development in Nigeria, especially as it relates to electoral reform, adding that it was the expectation of the UK government that the outcome of the review will lead to the fundamental rebuilding of Nigeria’s democracy.

He stressed that as the largest democracy in Africa and a leading member of the Commonwealth, Nigeria’s democracy is important beyond the region and should have a constitution that reflects the wishes and aspirations of the Nigerian people.

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