On a symbolic date of May 27, the Nigeria Senate takes Public Hearings into the amendment of the 1999 constitution to the six geo-political zones, to be hosted by twelve states, in what will potentially be a 2-day floodgate of political fireworks aimed at refining the process of making a more acceptable “peoples” constitution for
On a symbolic date of May 27, the Nigeria Senate takes Public Hearings into the amendment of the 1999 constitution to the six geo-political zones, to be hosted by twelve states, in what will potentially be a 2-day floodgate of political fireworks aimed at refining the process of making a more acceptable “peoples” constitution for Nigeria. Not a few Nigerians are disenchanted with the 1999 constitution oftentimes described and derided as a creation of the military junta with minimal no inputs from the masses of its citizens.
The symbolism of May 27 date, however, is that it serves as a reminder to the enactment of Decree 8 of 1967, signed by the then Head of State General Yakubu Gowon, which created twelve states out of Nigeria from the then existing four regions of North, West, East and Mid-West. The creation of states was unfortunately, one of the last straws that led to the outbreak of the civil war, two months later, precisely in July 1967 and lasted for almost three years. Interestingly on May 27, 2021, states and local government creation is one of issues slated for discussion at the public hearings.
That is not the only significance of the May 27 date; it is also set aside to celebrate children, known as “Children’s Day”. It was established as a holiday for children in 1964. It is a public holiday for Primary and Secondary school children during who are given treats such as an outing or making them to do jobs that adults would normally do. In some situations, primary and secondary school children compete in military parades format for a prize which will be given at the end of the competition. Religious groups in Nigeria also celebrate children’s day in grand style. Many private and public organizations usually put together children’s party for privileged and less privileged children in a bid to give them a sense of belonging.
The zonal hearings may have all the trappings of what to expect when the National Assembly would eventually debate amendments to the 1999 constitution because the country is highly polarised. The hearings will hold for two days starting on Wednesday May 26 and ending on Thursday May 27, 2021.
In an invitation to the public hearing circulated about a fortnight ago, the Chairman of the Senate Committee and Deputy Senate President, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege wrote: “The Chairman and members of the Senate Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution cordially invite the general public, government functionaries, Civil Society/Interest Groups, Professional Bodies and other interested persons to a 2-day Public Hearing on “the proposed Alteraction to the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria holding at two centres in each Geo-political zones”
The invitation listed seventeen (17) areas of the constitution which the public hearings should focus on. These include:
• Gender Equality and Women Participation in government
• The Federal Structure of governance and power sharing
• Local Government autonomy
• Revenue Allocation
• Constitutional provisions for the establishment of State Police
• Judicial reform- adjudication of election and pre-election matters and other justice delivery concerns.
• Electoral reform that will make INEC deliver on transparent, credible, free and fair elections; political parties, independent candidates and election management.
• Socio-economic rights as written in Chapter II of the constitution
• Residency and Indigeneship
• Removal of immunity for criminal cases
• Timelines for assent of Bills and passage of Appropriation Bill
• State and Local government creation
• Strengthening the independence of institutions like office of Accountant General, Auditor General and Attorney General of the Federation
• FCT Administration
• The legislature and legislative bureaucracy
• Constitutional roles for Traditional rulers
• Any other issue that promotes the unity and good governance of the Nigerian nation.
To enable its members’ active participation in the public hearings in their constituencies, the Senate President yesterday announced the suspension of plenary for the entire week. He also said the Senate does not have a predetermined position on any of the issues to be discussed at the zonal hearings.
The Chairman of the Review Committee also named the twelve centres and the Chairmen of the different centres.
The North-central, (Jos centre) will host participants from Plateau, Nasarawa and Benue States, and will be chaired by Senator Abdullahi Adamu. The (Minna Centre) will host participants from Niger, Kwara, Kogi and the FCT. It will be chaired by Senator Abdullahi Aliyu.
The North-east (Bauchi Centre) hosts participants from Bauchi, Yobe and Borno states, with Senator Abubakar Kyari as Chairman while the (Gombe Centre) comprising Gombe, Taraba and Adamawa states will be chaired by Senator Danjuma Goje.
For the North-west, (Kaduna Centre) which covers Kaduna, Kano, Jigawa and Katsina States, the Chairman is Senator Kabiru Gaya. The (Sokoto Centre) covering Sokoto, Kebbi and Zamfara States, will be chaired by Senator Muhammed Aliero.
In the South East, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu is to chair the (Owerri Centre) which covers Imo and Abia States in the South East while the (Enugu Centre) which covers Enugu, Ebonyi and Anambra States, will be chaired by Senator Ike Ekweremadu.
For the South-south, (Asaba Centre), which will host participants from Delta, Edo and Bayelsa States, has as its Chairman, Senator James Manager. The (Port Harcourt Centre), covering Rivers, Cross River and Akwa Ibom States will be chaired by Senator Betty Apiafi.
The South-west zone has the (Lagos Centre) covering Lagos, Oyo and Ogun States) will be chaired by Senator Oluremi Tinubu and the (Akure Centre), which covers Ondo, Osun and Ekiti States will be chaired by Senator Ajayi Boroffice.