I welcome you all to Yola. I specially commend the Members of the House of Representatives’ Special Committee on Constitution Review for embarking on this patriotic and constitutional duty, at this time when the country is at a near crossroad. Parliaments all over the world, remain the hallmark of democracy and the very legitimate instrument for effecting any reasonable amendment to any part or whole of the provisions of the constitution in a civilized clime. In Nigeria, the exercise of this powers is conferred on the legislature, by the provisions of Sections 4, 8, and 9 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended). What you are doing is therefore within your Constitutional callings as legislators and as the leader of a civilized polity, I want to reassure you that the people of Adamawa State are with you on this and would support any effort the stabilize and chart a good course for Nigeria.
No doubt, these are indeed trying moments for our country. From the structure to the institutions; the nationality to citizenship; everything Nigerian is on trial. And this include the Constitution. Bickering, suspicion, mistrust, and a general lack of confidence in the workability of the Country are setting in as stock in trade in the hands of the merchants of destabilization. While there seems to be so much concerns about the constitution which I also admit can be genuine; personally, I feel that the issue is hyped and unnecessarily over-exaggerated to the point of infamy. More infamous is the way and manner it is being brandished and exploited by the purveyors of disaffection. We must not give in to any attempt to be blackmailed into unconstitutional means of amending or outrightly truncating a legitimate bond of coexistence by a handful few. That is why, I commend the importance of today’s event. If anybody has issue with the constitution, this is the right platform to air such issue and have his/her views captured in the amendments.
I have gone through the concept note for the Public Hearing and studied the thematic areas earmarked for alteration. I might not come here handy with a formal memorandum, but my thoughts around the issues can be shared:
Issue No. 1. For the Public Hearing
Gender Equity/increased participation of Women and Vulnerable Groups in Governance.
Domestication of International and Regional Human Rights Instruments specifically enacted for the promotion and protection of Women’s Rights; such as:
i. Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), 1979. ii. Universal Declaration on Human Rights 1948 iii. Beijing Declaration for Action 1995
The basis for the call for the domestication in Nigerian constitution is that these instruments are not enforceable in the 1999 Constitution.
Issue No. 2 for Public Hearing Local Government
i. It should be provided in the constitution that the Local Governments should be granted autonomy in terms of their administration.
ii. The tenure of office for all Local Governments should be uniform through out the federation
iii. Financial autonomy should be granted in the constitution
Issue No. 5 (7) for Public Hearing Devolution Power
Items listed under this head are items on the exclusive legislative list. For effective management and handling of the items, they should be moved to the concurrent legislative list. The items are:
i. Quarantine (No. 54 in the Exclusive List) ii. Drugs and Poisons (No. 21 in the Exclusive List)
iii. Police (No. 45 in the Exclusive List) to give room for the creation of State Police for States that can afford it.
Issue No.6(a) for Public Hearing
Constitutional Provision for the Establishment of State Police.
We support the creation of State Police
In conclusion, as imperfect as the 1999 Constitution might look like, I feel that it is perhaps an underutilized instrument. Most of the people hyping its inadequacies, have not in the minimum exploited its abundance. How much have we tested the venom of its provisions? How has it failed to address the question of survival, justice and fairness which remain the basic yardstick for measuring the workability of an ideal constitution? The constitution remains a legal document. The extent to which it can serve any purpose has more to do with the operators than the document. Beyond the Constitution and its content, is the fact that we must as citizens be true to ourselves; we must provide justice and fairness to fellow citizens; we must raise above pettiness and concentrate on issues that promote harmony and unity. Anything short, will return us back to this point. A point where we get stuck to blaming a document instead of ourselves. There is indeed no perfect constitution in the world. What is obtained in other climes is a collective resolve of the citizens to allow the available provision to work. This collective resolve is what sadly is lacking and badly needed in Nigeria.
Once more welcome to Yola and I wish everyone a fruitful deliberation.