Jonathan Promises People-based Constitution …Names Dagogo-Jack Power Task Force Chair

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As part of the ongoing constitution amendment process, President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday assured that the report of the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Alfa Belgore Committee on past constitutional conferences would soon be forwarded to the National Assembly alongside the proposed bills.

Speaking at the first Presidential Retreat for Civil Society Organisations and Professional Association as part of the 52nd Independence Anniversary of the country, Jonathan promised to deliver a people-oriented constitution that would ensure development of the country, while the contribution of the people will be considered in the amendment processes.

Arguing that a constitution must originate from the people and bear clear imprint of their contributions, the president said government was engaging the civil society in the constitution review process because of the tremendous knowledge of constitutional review borne out of many years of consistent effort to craft a people’s constitution for the country.

Besides, Jonathan said the essence of the engagement was to galvanize the views of the people through the civil society groups, who he said, were the voice of the people, hence, the engagement should not be seen as a political settlement.

According to him, his government believes in the rule of law, adding that it was in furtherance of his commitment to leave a people-oriented constitution that in November last year, the Presidential Committee on the Review of Outstanding Issues in recent Constitutional Conferences was set up.

The committee’s mandate was to reaffirm or re-assess issues on which there is evidence of national consensus from past constitutional conferences; and to highlight those areas that would require further consultations so that a wider forum could look at them and reach agreements.

Jonathan said, “I assure you that we shall shortly send the report alongside the proposed bills to the National Assembly.”

“I believe that a constitution worthy of our efforts must originate from the people themselves and bear clear imprint of their contributions.

“Constitution-making or review in a democracy should not be an elitist undertaking. It must be processed through a strategic and far reaching consultation with the people. That is the spirit of democracy.

In his remarks, the chairman of the occasion and retired Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Alfa Belgore, described Nigeria’s constitution as the most battered in the world.

He also faulted the modelling of the 1999 Constitution after that of America without considering our peculiar values and traditions.

The presidential system, however, makes the president the chief executive with his ministers not being members of the parliament. In some cases, the ministers contested for parliamentary election and failed.

However, the greatest fault in presidential system is the expense. Apart from unelected ministers, there are so many special assistants. The country seems to be mimicking countries like United States in this arrangement. We seem to be the only country in the Commonwealth of Nations that attempts to copy the United States system.

“The greatest problem with Nigeria is, its constant internal instability in governance.

“The constitution is the mother of all the laws and there is enough for everybody on the ground. There will be no excuse for any Nigerian to be poor.”

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim in his opening remark, described the civil society as the fifth estate of the realm, saying, government decided to bring them together because of the significant role they play which has made them indispensable in the process of social engineering.

The President appointed, Mr Reynolds Dagogo-Jack of National Intergrated Power Project (NIPP) as the Chairman of the reconstituted Presidential Task Force on Power.

The body was hitherto chaired by the former Minister of Power, Prof Barth Nnaji, who resigned his appointment on ground of conflict of interest.

“We have done it this way because, the other time when Nnaji was the Chairman, the secretary was my special adviser; so there was a lot of conflict between two of them because they say two captains cannot drive a ship.

“This time around we just want one captain and others will work with him.’’

Members of the task force include Messrs Rumundakaa Wonodi, Olusola Akinniranye and Abdulganiyu Umar, the managing directors and chief executive officers of Nigeria Bulk Electricity Trading Plc; Transmission Company of Nigeria; and Abuja Electricity Distribution Company respectively.

Others are Mr Paul Umunna and Mr Oladele Amoda, the chief executive officers of Ugheli Power Plc and Eko Electricity Distribution Company respectively, as well as the Managing Director of Niger Delta Power Holding Company, Mr James Olotu.

The MD of the Nigerian Gas Company, Mr Saidu Mohammed and the CEO of Geregu Power Plc, Mr Adeyemi Adenuga, are also members of the task force.

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Power, Dr Dere Awosika, will serve as the Secretary of the task force.

In the same vein, the president has inaugurated the reconstituted, the Presidential Action Committee on Power will be chaired by Jonathan with Vice President Namadi Sambo as Deputy Chairman.

Members of the committee are the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Sen. Anyim Pius Anyim; the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Alhaji Ali Sali; and the Chief of Staff to the President, Mr Mike Oghiadome.

The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Mohammed Adoke; Minister of Finance, Dr, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; and Minister of Labour and Productivity, Mr Emeka Wogu, are members.

Some other members of the committee are Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Diezzani Allison Madueke; Minister of National Planning, Dr Shamsudeen Usman; and the chief economic adviser to the President.

The special adviser to the President on Performance Monitoring and Evaluation; the directors-general of the Bureau of Public Enterprises and Bureau of Public Procurement are also members of the committee.

Others are the group managing director of NNPC and the Chairman of the National Electricity Regulatory Commission.

It would be recalled that the president, on June 21, relieved the former Minister of Defence, Dr Haliru Bello of his appointment.

The President is expected to name replacements for Haliru and Nnaji, who while in office, represented Kebbi and Enugu States in the cabinet respectively.