The National Assembly Tuesday said there was no cause for alarm in the ongoing process to amend the 1999 Constitution, despite the divergence in the reports of the Constitution Review Committees of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
The explanation came amidst the submission of two different reports on the proposed amendments to the constitution. The two chambers differed on issues such as tenure of office and immunity for the President, Vice-President, Governors and deputy governors. They also made varying recommendations on the autonomy of local government councils, state police and other contentious constitutional matters.
There have been speculations that the exercise had failed because of these differences in the positions of the two chambers.
But the parliament Tuesday said the process of altering the provisions of the constitution was still on course and the legislature would deploy its internal mechanisms to reach a middle ground before transmitting a harmonised report to the 36 state Houses of Assembly.
Deputy Senate President and Chairman, Senate Ad hoc Commitee on Constitution Review, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, said the differences in the two reports was normal in the legislature.
“It is normal for versions of Bills passed by one chamber of the National Assembly on a subject matter to differ from that of the other chamber. In any case, what we have now in both the Senate and the House of Representatives are Bills embodying the recommendations of the Constitution Review Committees of both chambers. Neither the report or Bill submitted by the Committee I head or that submitted by the House Committee headed by the Deputy Speaker represents the views of the Senate or House yet.
“The Bills will be debated and voted on, clause by clause, to come up with the positions of each of the two chambers. In the process, maybe some items may be dropped and maybe all the recommendations in the Bills will go through.
“It is after this that both chambers, likely the two Committees will meet in a conference to harmonise our positions before sending it to the state assemblies.
“As I said, the harmonisation would be done after passage of the Bills for Constitution Amendment in both Chambers of the National Assembly. But note, as I earlier said, you can’t say this or that is the position of the Senate or House on any issue at the moment,” Ekweremadu said.
In the House, the position is not different as the lower chamber said there was nothing unusual in the process at the moment.
Deputy Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Hon. Afamefuna Ogene said that the report submitted by the House Ad hoc Committee on Constitution Review was derived from the verdict of the people during the public hearings held in the 360 constituencies of the country.
Ogene explained that the report was meticulous in gathering the views of Nigerians during the hearings and has refrained from the temptation of allowing the personal opinions of members to overshadow the voice of the people at the grassroots.
According to him, it would have been abnormal if both chambers of the National Assembly had worked separately on the constitution and submitted identical reports at the end of the exercise.
“There is no way you could have expected us to have come out with exactly the same position on these issues. If that happened, ab initio, people would have said it was an arranged report. The report of the House is the outcome of our Peoples Public Sessions and that goes to prove its veracity. You will recall that the public sessions were held across all the 360 federal constituencies; even in areas where there were security concerns, the people found a way round the challenge and ensured the people met to deliberate on the issues on the template.
"So largely, what has come out of our own Ad hoc Committee on Constitution Review is a reflection of the voting pattern from that exercise. As much as possible we did not inject our own opinions either as members of the House or as members of the Ad hoc Committee on Constitution Review.
“As for the differences in the reports, you will recall that the Senate held its hearings at the zonal level; so people who attended their sessions may or may not have attended ours but the fact remains that we met different.