Mark Vows to Resist Attempt to Hijack Constitution Review Process



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Nigeria’s Senate President David Mark has vowed that the national assembly would resist any attempt to hijack the constitution review process.He spoke Thursday  at the commencement of the public hearing by the committee on the review

Said Mark:”Let me assure you also that whatever view you espouse here shall ultimately count. In this most solemn of tasks, the National Assembly neither harbours any presumptions, hidden agenda, preconceptions, nor an intention to foist a fait accompli.  It is the ultimate synthesis of the desires of the people of Nigeria, analysed and carefully considered in the context of modern realities, that will prevail.  What the Senate will certainly resist is any attempt by a vocal minority to tyrannically hijack the process and impose its views on the majority.”

He noted that “The clamour for review of the Constitution impelled the sixth Senate to inaugurate a Senate Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution, in May, 2009.  That Committee was the precursor of the present one. The sixth Senate in plenary immediately committed six executive bills proposed for the amendment of the Constitution, to the SCRC.  The Committee pragmatically avoided the wholesale approach, and focused primarily on electoral reforms.  And through the adroit and nimble work of that Committee, and of its counterpart in the House of Representatives, the National Assembly made history in 2010.  It successfully amended the Constitution, and also passed into law the Electoral Act, 2010.

“The general elections of 2011, and the other elections conducted thereafter, became the instant beneficiaries of those legislative efforts.  A realization that impunity can no longer be condoned in our electoral system has been enthroned, even though I concede that our elections are yet to attain an absolute degree of perfection. I believe with time we will reach there.”Mark said.

The senate president also reeled out areas that the committee’s work will cover  thus: ‘A meticulous analysis and distillation by the SCRC of the received memoranda suggest that a broad consensus has emerged indicating that Constitution review should focus on the following areas, for now:Devolution of powers;Fiscal Federalism;The concept of Federating Units;Citizenship and Indigeneship;The system of Local Government administration;Judicial reforms;Tenure of office of the Executive;The Immunity Clause;Constitutional Role for Traditional Rulers;States creation and Rotation of Office of Executive Office Holders.Others include Boundary adjustment;Recognition of the six geopolitical zones in the Constitution;State Police;Mayoral Status for Abuja, FCT;Further fine-tuning of the electoral system;and Extraction of the Land Use Act, NYSC Act and Code of Conduct Act from the Constitution.

 

AN ADDRESS BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE, AND CHAIRMAN OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY, FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, HIS EXCELLENCY, SENATOR (DR) DAVID A. B. MARK, GCON, fnim, ON THE OCCASION OF THE NATIONAL PUBLIC HEARING ON THE REVIEW OF THE 1999 CONSTITUTION, ORGANISED BY THE SENATE COMMITTEE FOR THE REVIEW OF THE 1999 CONSTITUTION ON THURSDAY, 11TH OCTOBER, 2012.

Protocol:

Appreciation and Commendation:

On behalf of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I welcome you most heartily to this occasion of the National Public hearing on the review of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, (as amended).  I thank the Deputy President of the Senate, Distinguished Senator Ike Ekweremadu, CFR, and the Senate Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution (SCRC), which he chairs, for organizing this event and for inviting me.

 

2.            About two and a half months ago, I had the privilege of attending the retreat organized by the Committee in Asaba, Delta State.  During that event, the focus and perspectives of the distinguished members of the Committee were hugely enriched just as I was. From the feedback I received, Nigerians were generally impressed by the zeal and passion with which the Committee confronted the task, and the full participation of every member. I commend your commitment and dedication, and I urge you not to relent or rest on your oars.

 

 

Commencement of the Public Hearings:

 

3.            Distinguished Colleagues, your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, the Committee has wisely decided to add further impetus to the  process of Constitution review by organizing  this occasion and affording Nigerians the opportunity of a National Public hearing. The Committee has also assured me that the National Public hearing will be followed by Zonal Public Hearings to be held simultaneously in the six geopolitical zones, sometime in early November, 2012. I trust that Nigerians will seize the opportunity of these hearings to ventilate their views on how they think they should be governed.

 

 

 

 

Reasons for the Review:

 

4.            Everyone agrees that the 1999 Constitution is far from being a perfect document.  On the Constitution being put into operation on the return of democracy in 1999, its various contradictions and inconsistencies at once became manifest. This has elicited vociferous complaints from a diverse section of Nigerians, and even from the Executive and Judicial branches of government.

 

 

The Effort of the 6th Senate that Led to the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Amendments:

 

5.            The clamour for review of the Constitution impelled the sixth Senate to inaugurate a Senate Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution, in May, 2009.  That Committee was the precursor of the present one. The sixth Senate in plenary immediately committed six executive bills proposed for the amendment of the Constitution, to the SCRC.  The Committee pragmatically avoided the wholesale approach, and focused primarily on electoral reforms.  And through the adroit and nimble work of that Committee, and of its counterpart in the House of Representatives, the National Assembly made history in 2010.  It successfully amended the Constitution, and also passed into law the Electoral Act, 2010.

 

 

Benefits of the Amendment by the 6th Senate:

 

6.            The general elections of 2011, and the other elections conducted thereafter, became the instant beneficiaries of those legislative efforts.  A realization that impunity can no longer be condoned in our electoral system has been enthroned, even though I concede that our elections are yet to attain an absolute degree of perfection. I believe with time we will reach there.

 

 

Current Efforts and Scope of the Proposed Review by the 7th Senate:

 

7.            To underscore that the review of the Constitution is work-in-progress, the Seventh Senate, upon inauguration, set up a fresh Committee to continue the unfinished task of Constitution review.

 

8.            The new Senate Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution (SCRC) embarked upon its task with zest.  And since Constitution review is too serious a business to be left to politicians alone, the SCRC at once called for memoranda from the public.  I am informed by the Chairman that the response was enthusiastic. Memoranda covering the entire gamut of the Constitution have been received from virtually all the spectra of the Nigerian society, including the Executive and the Judiciary. A meticulous analysis and distillation by the SCRC of the received memoranda suggest that a broad consensus has emerged indicating that Constitution review should focus on the following areas, for now:

 

Devolution of powers.

 

Fiscal Federalism.

 

The concept of Federating Units.

 

Citizenship and Indigeneship.

 

The system of Local Government administration.

 

Judicial reforms.

 

Tenure of office of the Executive.

 

The Immunity Clause.

 

Constitutional Role for Traditional Rulers.

 

States creation.

 

Rotation of Office of Executive Office Holders.

 

Boundary adjustment.

 

Recognition of the six geopolitical zones in the Constitution.

 

State Police.

 

Mayoral Status for Abuja, FCT.

 

Further fine-tuning of the electoral system.

 

Extraction of the Land Use Act, NYSC Act and Code of Conduct Act from the Constitution.

9.            I commend the SCRC for distilling these broad issues and for its wisdom in shunning the holistic approach. Ours is a delicately poised heterogeneous society in which interests constantly collide, rendering the formation of a national consensus on borderline issues a precarious enterprise.

 

Response to the National Public Hearing:

10.          Today, the SCRC has invited Nigerians to a public hearing on those identified areas distilled from received memoranda. I am overwhelmed to see, gathered under this roof, an impressive array of citizens, drawn from all walks of life, all eager to make suggestions and contributions to our search for the way forward. Your patriotic and enthusiastic response is evidence once more that our people desire to live in a democratic, united and prosperous Nigeria, governed in accordance with Constitutional norms. Whenever the history of the evolution of constitutionalism in our country is written, your contributions will certainly be accorded a pride of place.

 

The Paramountcy of the Will of the People in the Constitution Amendment Process:

11.          Let me assure you also that whatever view you espouse here shall ultimately count. In this most solemn of tasks, the National Assembly neither harbours any presumptions, hidden agenda, preconceptions, nor an intention to foist a fait accompli.  It is the ultimate synthesis of the desires of the people of Nigeria, analysed and carefully considered in the context of modern realities, that will prevail.  What the Senate will certainly resist is any attempt by a vocal minority to tyrannically hijack the process and impose its views on the majority.

 

The Role of the National Assembly and Certain Sacrosanct Ideals:

12.          In reviewing the 1999 Constitution, the National Assembly will hold certain fundamental ideals sacrosanct, and will also resist any attempt to erode them. Any Constitution worth its salt must guarantee periodic elections, fundamental rights, a system of checks and balances, the principle of separation of powers, a vibrant legislature, a dynamic Executive, an Independent Judiciary, and a free Press.  We will therefore work to deepen these fundamental principles, and to strengthen the institutions which guarantee them.  Legitimacy will be restored to the grundnorm if all these can be accomplished on the basis of the contributions which you will make here today, as well as other contributions generated from Nigerians in the process of Constitution review.

 

Need to Carry Along Critical Stakeholders:

13.          It is true that the 1999 Constitution gives exclusive power to the National Assembly to initiate Constitution review. Historically however, the task of Constitution review has never been an easy one. This is because the provisions of a written Constitution, such as ours, are rigid, and thus unamenable to alteration by ordinary forms of legislation, but only by special procedures. The success of the exercise therefore requires the participation, commitment and co-operation of other key stakeholders who must be carried along. These include the Houses of Assembly of the States, the Federal and State governments, and the general public.

 

Invitation to all Nigerians to Contribute to the National Discourse:

14.          Let me therefore seize this opportunity to extend an invitation to every Nigerian, including those on the extreme fringe, to join the on-going national discourse. Any debate or discourse on the national question can only be done within the ambit of the 1999 Constitution. To do otherwise is to succumb to blackmail, and to surrender the sovereignty which the Constitution itself has so clearly defined.

 

Need for Attitudinal Change:

15.          At the risk of sounding like a broken record, may I re-emphasize one point which I have had occasion to make before, and which I will continue to make.  To guarantee democracy and the vibrancy of our national institutions, to create a dynamic and prosperous country governed by law and not by man, to free our country from its numerous contradictions and convulsions, we must pursue attitudinal change concomitantly with Constitution review.  Constitution review alone guarantees nothing, without renewed civic consciousness.

 

Conclusion:

16.          Distinguished Colleagues, your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, I am confident that you will muster enough wisdom, statesmanship  and patriotism to  make contributions that will strengthen the basis of our coexistence along the lines of greater justice and equity.  I have no doubt that you will discharge this solemn obligation to the best of your ability.  My prayer is that through your contributions, our country will become a better place, a land where no man is oppressed, where peace and justice reign, a strong, stable, dynamic, united, prosperous and democratic Nigeria.

17.          Distinguished Colleagues, your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, I now officially declare this National Public hearing open!

 

Senator (Dr) David A.B. Mark, GCON, fnim

PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE

 

 


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