By Deji Elumoye
The National Assembly will by June 2021 be ready with the amended 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for onward transmission to the President for his assent.
A programme of action prepared by the 58-man Senate Committee on Constitution Review headed by the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, outlined the activities of the National Assembly Joint committee culminating in the passage of the amendments to the constitution by the two chambers by the middle of 2021.
The programme of action, sighted by THISDAY at the weekend, include the inauguration of the Senate committee by the President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, which took place in February, this year, followed by the committee’s inaugural meeting held six months after in August.
The steering committee of the Senate Constitution Review Committee comprising of all principal officers of the upper legislative chamber met a fortnight ago to agree on the consultants to be engaged to drive the assignment as well as identifying 13 major issues for the present round of constitution amendment.
The committee Chairman, Omo-Agege, thereafter, requested for memoranda from the public, saying the committee as part of the process of further alteration to the provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) has identified state creation, immunity, comprehensive judicial system, National Assembly and residency and indigenes’ provisions as some of the issues in the constitution to be reviewed.
He listed the other provisions of the constitution to be considered by the committee to include gender equality for women and girls, the federal structure and power devolution, local government/ local government autonomy and public revenue, fiscal federalism and revenue allocation.
Other provisions, according to Omo-Agege, are Nigerian Police and Nigerian Security Architecture, electoral reforms to strengthen INEC to deliver transparently credible free and fair elections, socio-economic and cultural rights as contained in Chapter 2 of the Constitution and strengthening the independence of oversight institutions and agencies created by the Constitution or pursuant to an Act of the National Assembly.
He, therefore, called on the general public, executive and judicial bodies, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), professional bodies and other interest groups to submit memoranda or proposals for further alteration(s) of 1999 Constitution [as amended] “on the aforementioned matters and on any other matter that will promote good governance and welfare of all persons in our country on the principles of Freedom, Equality and Justice”.
Next on the programme of the committee this month is the holding of a strategy meeting between the Steering Committee and Consultants/Technical Coordinators while a retreat will also be held for committee members to discuss the way forward on 2014 Confab Report and the El-Rufai Committee on Restructuring Report.
There will also be a retreat for committee members from September to October 2020 to consider Memoranda submitted (with resource persons in attendance) while consultative meeting/public hearing on the issues highlighted in the memoranda submitted will also take place during this period.
Activities lined up for November to December 2020 include working retreat to aggregate public views and inputs on issues and holding a joint committee meeting of both the Senate and House of Representatives while the consultants will also hold retreat harmonisation with the House of Representatives Committee.
Other programmes billed for November to December 2020 include organising a retreat to consider the bills clause-by clause jointly with the House Committee.
Others are gazetting and production of bills for first reading, a listing of bills for first reading and second reading, committee to meet with institutions, CSOs and other stakeholders for their input while committee members are to meet with State Assembly speakers on the content and import of the bills.
From January to February 2021, there will be a meeting of Senate and House consultants with the 21-man Steering Committees to agree on the proposed report, committee members hold a retreat with consultants to consider the report from the engagement with state assembly speakers and clause by clause consideration of the bills.
By March 2021, there will also be a presentation of the committee’s report in plenary for Third Reading, consideration of the report by Senate in plenary and passage, conference committee where necessary and voting on areas of differences where applicable.
The timetable also showed that by March 2021, there will be a compilation of clauses that have met the provisions of Section 9 of the Constitution and transmission to state assemblies leading to the Assembly’s joint committee meeting with the Conference of Speakers of State Assemblies.
By April, the National Assembly is expected to receive return about the constitution review from all the 36 state assemblies and collate same.
The final leg of the constitution review programme is the resolution on the passage of the bill, and onward transmission to Mr. President for assent in June 2021.
A ranking senator who is a member of the committee confirmed to THISDAY that the committee’s exercise would end with the transmission of the bill for presidential assent by June 2021.
The senator who spoke on condition of anonymity said a lot of programmes had been lined up for execution by the committee from now till mid next year and this include joint meetings with House committee, visit zones and states to collate materials for constitution amendment and harmonisation of positions by the two chambers before the president will receive the passed bill by June 2021.