Since the return of democratic governance in the country, Nigerians have been clamouring for a constitution that will truly reflect the wishes and aspirations of the people. The 1999 constitution which was inherited from the military was charcterised by so many contradictions and sufficiently deficient of democratic ideals. As a result some sections of the Nigerian populace have been calling for sovereign national conference to discuss and decide the essence of their union as a nation.
But the National Assembly has repeatedly disagreed with this school of thought, saying that the legislative arm which is an embodiment of representative democracy is qualified and competent to tackle the issues bothering on the unity and progress of the Nigerian state.
Therefore, an attempt was made by the National Assembly in 2005 to review the Nigerian constitution to address some of the grey areas that were identified by the legislators and the Nigerian public in general. The Constitution Review Committee under the leadership of the then Deputy Senate President, Ibrahim Mantu, having traversed the length and breadth of the country to canvass for people’s opinions and contributions came up with 120 recommendations, including the vexatious issue of tenure elongation for former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Because of the selfish interest of the proponents of tenure elongation for Chief Obasanjo as they failed to ascertain the mould of the Nigerian masses who were yearning for a better and responsive leadership, the National Assembly was tense and polarized to the extent that it was naturally reasonable to throw out the entire bill on the proposed constitution review.
But the need for the constitution to be reviewed came up stronger and received the attention of the last National Assembly. Consequently, a Constitution Review Committee, headed by the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu was set up to address the salient issues. At the end of the exercise there were positive outcomes such as, making primary election mandatory for political parties; the granting of financial autonomy to Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), fixing of specific time-frame for treating of election petitions etc. The amendments of these constitutional provisions actually played significant role in sanitizing the nation’s electoral system to considerable extent in the last two years.
Although there is much to be done in this regard, we must start from somewhere in our quest to build a solid electoral system as a basis for a virile and credible democratic culture.
Again, in a bid to do a thorough job the 7th National Assembly constituted another Constitution Review Committee under leadership of the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekwerenmadu to draw up a bill on proposed amendment of the constitution.
It is interesting to note that the committee has carried out its assignment within the time-frame and Nigerians are waiting for the Senate to commence debate on the bill.
Speaking in Abuja, at a symposium on “The review of the 1999 constitution and its impact on much-needed judicial reforms,” organised by a group known as Rule of Law Foundation, the chairman of the Constitution Review Committee, Senator Ike Ekweremadu gave snippets of some of the recommendations of the committee which include, the separation of the office of the Attorney-General (AG) of the federation from that of Minister of Justice, seven years tenure for Attorney-General; financial autonomy for the AG as funds for the office will be made available from the consolidated revenue fund; conferment of powers on the AG to investigate certain crimes and removal of the Chief Justice of Nigeria and other serving judicial officers as members of the Federal Judicial Service Commission.
The committee’s recommendations also cover the devolution of powers, creation of more states, recognition of six geo-political zones in the constitution, constitutional role for traditional rulers and local government councils as well as the need to expunge the Land Use Act, the National Youth Service Corps Act and the Public Complaints Act from the Constitution.
Others are single term of six years for the president and governors, fiscal federalism, financial autonomy for local government councils, state electoral bodies and assemblies, the immunity clause, Nigeria Police, rotation of executive officers, gender and special groups, mayoral for the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), residency and indigene provisions.
Ekweremadu explained that the constitution would not be subjected to referendum, noting that the constitution specified how it should be amended and that did not include referendum.
He stressed the need for urgent reform of the judiciary.
“With a morally upright and well-reformed judiciary that applies the letters of the law fairly and timely, the systems manipulation, over-heating of our polity, reign of impurity in high and low places, the blatant disrespect for the law and rape of public treasury would abate considerately.
He said that the proposal for judicial reform submitted by former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Mustapher was being considered.
In his key-note address, Justice Musdapher stated that the breakdown of law and order in the North-East might not be unconnected with the fact that people had lost faith in the nation’s laws and the justice delivery system.
He said that there was an urgent need to pass the bill for amendment of certain provisions of the constitution that affected the judiciary.
But one issue that has continued to attract national discourse since the recommendations of the committee became public knowledge is the single tenure for the president and governors. Majority of Nigerians that have criticised this recommendation are of the view that it will increase the rate of corruption in the country.
According to them, for a political office-holder who knows that he has a single term the chances are that he may not be useful to the people who elected him into office. They have argued that the country will be worse off in all facets of its national life as little attention will be paid to developmental needs of the people.
Moreso, the lawmakers who are constitutionally empowered to check the excesses of the chief executive will not muster the courage to initiate impeachment proceedings against them since they are equally interested in the spoils of office.
However, there are other issues that should occupy the minds of Nigerians apart from the single tenure. Devolution of powers and fiscal federalism are some of these issues that should be properly addressed by our elected representatives. A situation where so much powers are concentrated at the centre is not in the interest of the federating units.
The president of the country is so powerful that his action or inaction has a multiplier effect on the destiny of this nation. It is an axiom that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Therefore, it is imperative for the National Assembly to critically examine the need for devolution of powers to strengthen and deepen the nation’s democracy.
Another issue that should be given adequate attention is fiscal federalism. It is not justifiable that the federal government should be receiving over 50% of the monthly allocations from the federation account while the 36 states and 774 local government councils in the country should have something less to attend to their numerous financial obligations. It is obvious that the burden of development lies with the second and third tiers of government that are visibly closer to the people. It is morally sound that the states and local government areas that generate these resources should have greater chunk of the revenue. We cannot continue to run a system where federal institutions and projects are poorly funded, abandoned or in deplorable state in spite of the huge budgetary allocations that are available to the federal government to address these problems.
Mighty glad, Nigeria has experienced over fourteen years of uninterrupted democracy, it is incumbent on the law-makers who are major beneficiaries of democratic governance in Nigeria to rise to the occasion by tackling some of these issues headlong and dispassionately.
Therefore, it is expected that the National Assembly will grab this opportunity with both hands and come up with a constitution that will reflect the wishes and aspirations of greeter majority of Nigeria.
APC: C’River LP Disowns Decampees
The Labour Party (LP) has disowned one Mr. Maurice Ekeng, who claimed to be Chairman of the party in Cross River State, and his purported exco who defected to the All Progressive Congress (APC)
The party, in a press statement made available to newsmen, yesterday, described the action of Ekeng and others as “laughable and unfortunate for an old man who parades himself as an elder of the church”.
The statement signed by Comrade Dr. Ofem Lekam, State Publicity Secretary of the party said, “The attention of the leadership of Labour Party in Cross River State led by Ambassador Ogar Osim as Chairman and Comrade Asuquo Etim as State Secretary has been drawn to publications claiming that the State Chairman and members of his executive have decamped to the All Progressive Congress (APC).
“Mr Ekeng is an impostor who was never made a State Chairman at any Congress. We challenge him to publish the names of his executive, pictures taken in 2021 extra-ordinary NEC meeting in Benin City where the National Chairman, Julius Abure and the Secretary, Alhaji Farouk Ibrahim were elected, as well as that of Home Land Hotel Calabar where the National Leadership represented by the Vice Chairman South South, Prince Reuben Nuka inaugurated the current State Caretaker
“The impostor from all available evidences is a member of APC sponsored to create confusion in a peaceful party of idealists who are making sacrifices in travelling round the nooks and crannies of the state to revive the structures of the party at all level in the state which is already making monumental impact in the state ahead of 2023.
“We want to put it on record that, Labour Party is intact, and is not contemplating merging with All Progressive Congress (APC) and any other political party; rather it is a party to beat come 2023.
“We appeal to the general public to disregard any news making the rounds that the LP Chairman and his executive have decamped, it is the imagination of political jobbers and mischief-makers whose occupation is to sacrifice their integrity and ideology just for peanuts.
“It is also instructive to advise Mr. Bassey Ita serving at APC Secretariat at Marian Road Calabar not to allow the temporary excitement of the moment to cloud his sense of reasoning by accepting people claiming a platform without verification.
“It is pathetic that Mr. Bassey Ita is yet to realize that with Governor Prof. Ben Ayade now as leader of APC CRS, the days of kangaroo administration of APC CRS should have been over by now in Cross River State.”
INEC To Deploy 5,346 Personnel For CVR
INEC said on Monday in Abuja that it would deploy 5,346 personnel to 2,673 registration centres for Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) resuming nationwide on June 28.
Its chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, made the declaration at the presentation of INEC Voter Enrolment Device (IVED) and online registration portal for the exercise at a meeting he held with media executives.
IVED is an Android tablet to be used in place of the existing Data Capturing Machine used for CVR in previous exercises.
Prof. Yakubu said that before now INEC had 1,446 registration centres where it registered 14. 2 million voters between 2017 and 2018.
“Learning from the experience of what happened, we have now almost doubled the number of those centres.
“Our hope is that unlike 14.2 million we registered in the previous exercise, we are targeting a minimum of 20 million registrants this time. It will take the number of registered voters to about 100 million,’’ Yakubu said.
He said that majority of the 5,346 personnel to be deployed would be INEC officials, while ad-hoc staff would be used where the Commission lacked the required number of personnel.
He said that the Commission was working with stakeholders for the security of personnel and equipment to be deployed.
Yakubu disclosed that the design for both the online portal and IVED were done by INEC engineers, taking into consideration Nigeria’s peculiarity, including weather, for its durability.
He said registrants would be able to know where machines for registration are located via the portal.
He also noted that the Commission was working on ensuring that Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) for internally-displaced persons were reproduced for them so as not to be disenfranchised.
Many would have lost their cards while under siege, he said.
Prof. Yakubu also said that PVCs for newly-registered voters would be produced on quarterly basis after the registration, noting that the list of the registrants would be displayed at the registration units for claims and objections.
Presenting the online portal and IVED, INEC’s Director of ICT, Mr Chidi Nwafor, said that the online portal was designed to serve various needs of eligible Nigerians for the registration.
These, according to Nwafor, include new registration, review of registration, and review of personal details or voting centres, PVCs replacement or collection.
“As a new voter, you can pre-register online, or as a registered voter, you can revalidate your voter registration, request to update your information or transfer your voter registration to another polling unit, Nwafor said.
He said that registrants could register their details online before going to the nearest registration centre selected by them for photographs and finger prints capturing to complete the exercise.
Nwafor said that the portal was designed in a way that once an intending voter completed the online registration, an appointment for physical registration would be generated by the portal for the registrant.
He added that any registrant who could not meet up with the appointed date and time could reschedule the appointment via the same portal.
He said that the portal also made provision for people to contact the Commission in the event of challenges during online registration.
He noted that a registrant had 14 days to complete the online pre-registration and a year to complete the whole process.
He advised registered voters to make use of the portal to identify polling units or centres nearest to them.
Nwafor also assured that the Commission was putting adequate security in place to protect the device and the portal against hacks or cybercrime.
He also said that concerns about underage voter registration would be taken care of as those that registered online would still visit the registration centre before the process could be completed.
The media executives in a communiqué issued after the meeting suggested that the CVR be devolved to INEC LGA Council offices based on thorough appraisal of security situations and related factors.
They also recommended that the CVR be gradually devolved to other designated registration centres nationwide after assessments of security situations and other factors relating to safety of personnel and materials.
They tasked relevant stakeholders, especially political parties, traditional institutions, religious leaders and Civil Society Organisations to mobilise all eligible registrants to participate in the CVR.
PDP NWC Harps On Unity Over Anambra Guber Poll
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) National Working Committee (NWC) has called for unity among stakeholders in Anambra state, ahead the June 26 primaries for the state governorship election.
The party’s National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, made the call during the NWC meeting with the party aspirants, leaders and other stakeholders from Anambra, held in Abuja on Monday.
Secondus said the meeting was called to enable the NWC to interact with stakeholders, as elections held off season were always very stormy and tough.
“We are here basically for us to make sure first and foremost that all our leaders and all our aspirants are in unity. It is very important for this trying period and you know the period, we are in,”he said.
Secondus said that unity was key, especially now that the country was passing through challenges including insecurity that must not be taken for granted.
He said the only way to get out of that was to make sure that things were done properly.
“Let there be fairness, equity and justice, which is in deficit in our country; and that is what the PDP stands for.
“We stand for fairness, equity and justice under the rule of law. This is a party that believes that all Nigerians are one. We must live together as brothers and sisters,” he said.
The party chairman said that Anambra was key to the mission of rescuing Nigeria and uniting the country.
“Anambra is the economic key of our country and we must conduct our affairs to show the world that PDP is different and ready to rescue this country.
“That is why we are to interact with leaders of our party, and at the end of this meeting, I think we will go home happy that on Saturday it will be the freest congresses ever that are conducted.
“So, Anambra, we want to advise, we want to call our people, the time to put down ourselves is now.
“This is the time to look at each other. We must not allow both Anambra and our country to fail. We must show that good example.
“You have been leading in several areas, you must lead politically now. Our leaders must be statesmen. They must look beyond an individual and narrow interest.
“It is time for us to look at Nigeria. If we get it wrong, the consequences will be great. It will reflect on other parts of the country,” Secondus said.
Also, PDP National Organising Secretary, Col. Austin Akobundu, said the meeting was customary anytime PDP had major contests.
Akobundu said the meeting was called to ensure everybody was carried along in the primary to ensure peaceful outcome.
“It is for this reason that the NWC directed to meet with all stakeholders in Anambra.
“This is just a cross section of our quality stakeholders in Anambra that were invited to attend this meeting.
“It is simply to rub minds, have an interactive session and discuss ways and means that we can employ to have hitch-free primary with everybody on board.”
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