ABUJA—DEPUTY Senate President and Chairman, Senate Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution, Ike Ekweremadu, yesterday, gave insight on why the proposed National Conference cannot be sovereign as being agitated by some people.
Senator Ekweremadu specifically said that convocation of a Sovereign National Conference without legal and constitutional framework would end up throwing the country into anarchy.
Speaking when the Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee on National Dialogue, Dr Femi Okurounmu, led members of his committee to him on consultation, the Deputy Senate President disclosed that the National Assembly was already working on how the result of the exercise could be used to give Nigeria a new constitution.
According to him, “when we hear people talking about sovereign national conference; there must be a legal framework for it. You don’t wake up when you have a constitutional conference in place and begin to say you want a sovereign national conference to impose the will of some people on everybody without a legal basis for what they are doing. Otherwise, we are calling anarchy.”
He further stated that, “Now that we have looked at the 1999 Constitution from 1999 till now, and we tried to do some amendments, it is therefore possible that based on our experience in the practice and the exercise of the review process, there are changes that are fundamental that must be made to make sure that this country progresses.
“And so, that is where your job comes in. My understanding from what you said is that your committee is to create framework for this exercise, to provide intellectual background to enable those who will have the conversation to do something that is seamless.
“It is not an easy job because it is difficult at this stage to determine the character of representation but that is the business of your committee so. We are not going to worry ourselves about that. We believe that you will deal with that.
“For us at the National Assembly, the most important job in this exercise is to provide the necessary legal framework that will support whatever the outcome of both your own committee and that committee that will come after it.
“We envisaged as I said earlier from works that were done over these years that a day such as this would come. We proposed to our colleagues a possible amendment to section 9 of the Constitution that would provide a legal basis to a possible constitution because today, what we have in our Constitution, the process for amendment, there is no such provision in this constitution that can successfully power a new Constitution.”
Ekweremadu said the country borrowed the example of other countries that have had the kind of experience Nigeria was passing through now such as Zimbabwe, Kenya, Brazil, to bring into the constitution.
He said that when the senate meets with the House for their harmonization, that they would support the initiative, especially now that their work was in progress.
“If that happens, then, most of the views here would have been addressed because if we say we are a country that believes in rule of law, we must do everything in accordance to the law and not the rule of the tongue,” he stated.
He expressed the optimism that the committee and the National Assembly could work together to make the exercise to be fruitful.
Ekweremadu said, “I have no doubt whatsoever that you are eminent citizens of Nigeria, very concerned about the progress of Nigeria and you have shown in the past, your commitment to nation building.
“We in the Senate have no doubt whatsoever that you are going to bring to bear on this particular assignment, your very wide experience and your very well known commitment to issues of Nigeria as one nation.
“So, let me add that we in the National Assembly have been in this business of trying to find some better ways of addressing some of our challenges through some possible amendments, through the business of some constitutional reforms since year 2000.”
The Deputy Senate President who said that the proposed amendment to Section 9 of the Constitution as passed by the senate included the referendum noted that there were challenges culminating in 2010 when the constitution was first amended.
He said, “In fact, immediately after the beginning of this particular assembly. We had the National Assembly joint committee on constitution review and for which you are quite aware of. We had number of challenges culminating in 2010 when we successfully amended the constitution for the first time.
“And we have done it two other times after that and we are now in the fourth phase of that constitutional reform exercise. For us, in doing those exercises, we have come to terms with the reality of the necessity for improvement in our country.
“So, we welcome this decision from the federal government to allow Nigerians to discuss and bring about possible changed that would better the life of all of us.
Speaking earlier, Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee on National Dialogue, Senator Femi Okoroumu, said the committee’s main job was to consult widely with all Nigerians in respect of the proposed National Confereence particularly with a view to what should be on the agenda of the conference.
He also said that the committee would also look at “what should be the size, duration and how membership of the conference should be chosen and what should be the legal basis of the conference and transmission of it’s outcome to Nigerians.
“We have stopped over in Jos and Akure. We are making 13 stops on the whole. As one of the most powerful bodies, we are here to confer with you,” he explained