Senate Begins Constitution Review

Six months after its inauguration, the Senate’s Constitution Review Committee held its inaugural meeting yesterday with a pledge that the draft of the revised 1999 Constitution will be ready in 2021.

However, the House of Representatives said it would soon constitute its constitution review committee.

The 58-member Senate committee, headed by the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, was inaugurated on February 12, 2020, by the Senate President, Dr. Ahmad Lawan.

Speaking at the first meeting of the Ad hoc Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution yesterday in Abuja, Omo-Agege said the committee would work towards presenting its report to the Senate plenary at the end of the first quarter of 2021.

According to him, the assignment is one that must be carried out jointly with the House of Representatives, apart from other stakeholders in the various Houses of Assembly and members of the public.
He added that he’s in touch with his counterpart in the House to work out the modalities for a harmonious working relationship.

He said the secretariat had identified many areas that needed review in the 1999 Constitution from the engagements in the past.
He listed key areas to include “the need to make the constitution more gender-friendly and affirm equal rights to women and girls, the need to strengthen the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Federal Character Commission (FCC) and other oversight agencies, the need to address the challenges of residency and indigeneship.”

Others, he said, are, “the need to address the federal structure of the country to be in tandem with our history and modern realities, the need to revisit socio-economic and cultural rights as entrenched in Chapter 2 of the constitution as fundamental principles of state policy, electoral reforms to make our electoral system credible, free and fair; fiscal federalism and revenue allocation and comprehensive judicial reforms.”

Omo-Agege added that the compilations of all the constitution alteration bills referred to them and gazetted are being collated for consideration.

He said: ”As you all know, we are on recess but the fact that we are here today to deliberate on the assignment of the constitutional review underscores the importance that we attach to this responsibility. The steering committee of the Ad hoc committee comprising all principal officers of the Senate held two meetings on the 26th of February, 2020 and on the 3rd of June 2020, respectively to work out the modalities for carrying out this very important national assignment.’

”Among the major fallout or outcome of the meetings were that the el-Rufai report on restructuring and 2014 Constitutional Conference report were recommended to be part of the committee’s working documents, which have been obtained by the secretariat of the committee for duplication and circulation to members.’

”In pursuant of this, our secretariat has obtained all the bills for the alteration of the constitution referred so far to our counterparts in the House of Representatives and we have transmitted ours to them for further legislative activities. Over the years, the National Assembly had identified a piecemeal approach to the alteration of the 1999 Constitution. This constitution review process presents another opportunity for Nigerians to look at these issues again.”

The House of Representatives is, however, yet to constitute its committee on constitution review.
The House, however, gave an assurance that the committee, which will be chaired by the House Deputy Speaker, Hon Idris Wase, will soon commence work.

The Press Secretary to the deputy speaker, Mr. Mohammed Umar-Puma, told THISDAY that the committee would soon be inaugurated.

“The House and the Senate are always doing the same thing, so anytime soon we will start. There’s no problem; we are just taking our time, we will definitely commence soon,” he said.

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