Constitution Review: CSOs Mount Pressure as FCT Lawmakers Continue ‘Hide and Seek Game’



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By Danlami Nmodu

Some Civil Society Organizations  working on Constitution review in Abuja  have expressed fears over the continuing failure of two lawmakers from the Federal Capital Territory to convene  peoples’ Session  as directed by the House of Representatives.Speaking at a press briefing today, the CSOs said “Given the reluctance of Hon. Zephaniah Jisalo and Hon. Isah Dobi to be forthcoming with their plans for the Peoples Session, we fear that the two lawmakers are working at cross purposes with the aspirations of the House Leadership to bring the process of constitution amendment closer to Nigerians especially those at the grassroots. This suggests a hidden agenda. It is either the two legislators have no desire whatsoever to hold the Peoples Session on Constitution Review in their constituencies or lack the capacity to organize an inclusive public hearing. Further proof is the secrecy surrounding the constituency offices of the three lawmakers representing FCT in Senate and House of Representative. Ordinarily, our letters should have been sent to the Constituency Offices but as a result of the paucity of information on this, our letters had to be sent to the National Assembly. Whatever is the case, there cannot be a Peoples Session in the FCT without the People of the FCT.”

The CSOs  working for a more democratic constitution review process in the FCT include :Nigeria Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs – NSCIA,United Action for Democracy – UAD,Justice Development and Peace Commission – JDPC,Nigeria Chambers of Commerce Industry Mines and Agriculture and Joint National Association of Persons with Disability – JONAPWD.Others are Trade Union Congress – TUC,Nigeria Labour Congress – NLC,Federation of Muslim Women Association of Nigeria – FOMWAN,Community Action for Popular Participation – CAPP,Centre for Social Justice – CSJ,Electoral Reform Network – ERN,Partners for Electoral Reform – ,Original Inhabitants Development Association – OIDA and Alliance for Credible Elections – ACE-NIGERIA

They  recalled that “On Thursday, 18th October, 2012, the Honourable Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives and Chairman of the House Ad hoc Committee on Constitution Review, Rt. Hon. Chukwuemeka Ihedioha, hosted stakeholders in the citizens sector to an interactive session on the Constitutional Review process. At the meeting were members of House of Representative Committee on Constitutional Review, Leaders of Civil Society, Labour Movement, the Media and Special Interest Groups. The crux of the interactive stakeholders’ meeting was to seek the input of the citizens sector to a proposal by the House of Representatives to take the constitution review process to the grassroots through an initiative termed “Peoples’ Session on Constitution Review”. The Peoples’ Session is scheduled to take place in all the 360 Federal Constituencies of Nigeria on 10th November, 2012. Preceding that would be a flag off ceremony on Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 10am, by the Honourable Speaker of the House of Representatives”

But  mum has been the word from FCT lawmakers, a development the CSOs  considered worrisome, given the gravity of the tasks ahead.The CSOs are equally particularly disturbed by the general lack of transparency on  issues as basic as the lawmakers’ constituency offices.That is why among others, they said “We demand that information regarding the Constituency Offices of the three lawmakers representing the FCT in the Senate and the House of Representative should be made public. Such constituency offices should also be made accessible to the Nigerian public. This is only the least expected from lawmakers in a truly participatory democracy.

They also demanded “that the ongoing constitution review process must be done in a most transparent, inclusive, patriotic and participatory manner. We reject any attempt to reduce the process to hide and seek game. Furthermore, the Peoples’ Sessions should not be turned into a slogan for cheap popularity or reduced to political charade. Civil Society Organizations in the FCT will continue to engage in such a manner that ensures that the views of a broad spectrum of FCT residents are well captured and accommodated in the current constitution review process.


Indigenous people in Abuja have been, of late, rallying and demanding for more democracy as well as more constitution provisions to raise the status of Abuja. Sadly, it appears their lawmakers have their different plans. How this hide and seek game will end is certain to elicit intense interest and scrutiny.

Read the full text of today’s press briefing below:

FCT PEOPLES’ SESSION, WHERE, WHEN AND HOW?

A PRESS BRIEFING BY THE COALITION OF CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANIZATIONS IN THE FEDERAL CAPITAL TERRITORY (FCT) WORKING ON CONSTITUTION REVIEW

INTRODUCTION

On Thursday, 18th October, 2012, the Honourable Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives and Chairman of the House Ad hoc Committee on Constitution Review, Rt. Hon. Chukwuemeka Ihedioha, hosted stakeholders in the citizens sector to an interactive session on the Constitutional Review process. At the meeting were members of House of Representative Committee on Constitutional Review, Leaders of Civil Society, Labour Movement, the Media and Special Interest Groups. The crux of the interactive stakeholders’ meeting was to seek the input of the citizens sector to a proposal by the House of Representatives to take the constitution review process to the grassroots through an initiative termed “Peoples’ Session on Constitution Review”. The Peoples’ Session is scheduled to take place in all the 360 Federal Constituencies of Nigeria on 10th November, 2012. Preceding that would be a flag off ceremony on Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 10am, by the Honourable Speaker of the House of Representatives.

CIVIL SOCIETY ENGAGEMENT WITH THE PROCESS SO FAR

Sequel to the Stakeholders meeting, a cross section of civil society organizations in the FCT with interest in the on-going constitution review met on the 29th of October, 2012 to articulate an approach to the Peoples Session Constituency Public Hearing as planned by the leadership of the House of Representative. At that meeting, it was noted that there is need for effective participation of Nigerian citizens and citizen groups in the FCT in the Peoples Session. The meeting also noted the need to work with the two lawmakers representing the two Federal Constituencies in the FCT namely; Honourable Zephaniah Jisalo (AMAC/Bwari Federal Constituency) and Honourable Dobi Isah (Abaji/Gwagwalada/Kuje/Kwali Federal Constituency) to ensure effective participation by FCT residents in the Peoples’ Session. To this effect, Civil Society Organizations at the meeting resolved to write the two lawmakers to furnish them with the venues, time and other necessary logistics for the Peoples’ Session, already scheduled for 10th November, 2012. The lawmakers were to also furnish civil society organizations with the addresses and contact numbers of their constituency offices in order to facilitate smoother engagement during the entire process of constitution review and even beyond.

In line with the resolutions of the meeting, letters were sent to Hon. Zephaniah Jisalo and Hon. Isah Dobi on October, 29, 2012, requesting for the venues, time and details of the proposed Peoples Sessions in their Constituencies. When the lawmakers failed to reply to the letter sent to them, a follow up reminder letter was sent on Monday, 5th November, 2012.  Up till now, the two lawmakers in the FCT have not furnished residents of the Federal Capital Territory with necessary information to facilitate citizens’ participation in the Peoples’ Session on Constitution Review.

OUR FEARS

Given the reluctance of Hon. Zephaniah Jisalo and Hon. Isah Dobi to be forthcoming with their plans for the Peoples Session, we fear that the two lawmakers are working at cross purposes with the aspirations of the House Leadership to bring the process of constitution amendment closer to Nigerians especially those at the grassroots. This suggests a hidden agenda. It is either the two legislators have no desire whatsoever to hold the Peoples Session on Constitution Review in their constituencies or lack the capacity to organize an inclusive public hearing. Further proof is the secrecy surrounding the constituency offices of the three lawmakers representing FCT in Senate and House of Representative. Ordinarily, our letters should have been sent to the Constituency Offices but as a result of the paucity of information on this, our letters had to be sent to the National Assembly. Whatever is the case, there cannot be a Peoples Session in the FCT without the People of the FCT.

OUR DEMANDS

  1. We demand that Hon. Zephaniah Jisalo and Hon. Dobi Isah representing AMAC/Bwari and Abaji/Gwagwalada/Kuje/Kwali Federal Constituencies should make public the venues, time and other necessary information regarding the proposed Peoples Session on Constitution Review.
  1. We demand that the two lawmakers representing the FCT at the National Assembly should involve a broad spectrum of the citizens sector (Civil society, Abuja Original Inhabitants, Media, Professional Associations and other Special Interest Groups) in the planning and conduct of the proposed Peoples’ Session. This would only be in line with the directives of the House Leadership that representatives of the Citizens Sector should work with Honourable members in steering committees on the proposed Peoples’ Session in their different constituencies.
  2. We demand that information regarding the Constituency Offices of the three lawmakers representing the FCT in the Senate and the House of Representative should be made public. Such constituency offices should also be made accessible to the Nigerian public. This is only the least expected from lawmakers in a truly participatory democracy.
  3. We demand that the ongoing constitution review process must be done in a most transparent, inclusive, patriotic and participatory manner. We reject any attempt to reduce the process to hide and seek game. Furthermore, the Peoples’ Sessions should not be turned into a slogan for cheap popularity or reduced to political charade. Civil Society Organizations in the FCT will continue to engage in such a manner that ensures that the views of a broad spectrum of FCT residents are well captured and accommodated in the current constitution review process.

ALTERNATIVE PUBLIC SESSION BY THE FCT CIVIL SOCIETY

Given the place of popular constitution in the democratic process, Civil Society Organizations in the FCT will not hesitate to convoke an alternative and autonomous “Peoples Session” for FCT residents, if the members representing the FCT fail to organize or shabbily conduct the proposed public hearing on constitution review.

Thank you.

Civil Society Organizations in the FCT Working on Constitution Review

Christian Association of Nigeria – CAN

Nigeria Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs – NSCIA

United Action for Democracy – UAD

Justice Development and Peace Commission – JDPC

Nigeria Chambers of Commerce Industry Mines and Agriculture

Joint National Association of Persons with Disability – JONAPWD

Trade Union Congress – TUC

Nigeria Labour Congress – NLC

Federation of Muslim Women Association of Nigeria – FOMWAN

Community Action for Popular Participation – CAPP

Centre for Social Justice – CSJ

Electoral Reform Network – ERN

Partners for Electoral Reform –

Original Inhabitants Development Association – OIDA

Alliance for Credible Elections – ACE-NIGERIA

 


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