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The Senate Constitution Review Committee at a retreat over the weekend considered reports of both the 2014 National Constitution Conference and that of the APC True Federalism Committee alongside other memoranda received in the process of reviewing the nation’s 1999 constitution.
Also to form part of the Committee’s working documents are 60 bills for constitutional amendments sponsored by Senators across party lines introduced on the floor of the Senate, and over two hundred and fifty (250) memoranda have received by the Committee from the public.
This disclosure was contained in the communique issued on Monday after the Senate Constitutional Review Committee, under the chairmanship of the Deputy Senate President, Distinguished Senator Ovie Omo-Agege at a retreat met to review and analyse memoranda received towards the proposed amendment of the Constitution.
According to the communique signed by Dr Otive Igbuzor,, Chief of Staff to Deputy Senate President and Robert Emukpoeruo, SAN, Lead Consultant to the Committee, the retreat was attended by participants, comprising legislators, senior lawyers, academicians and technical consultants to the Senate Constitution Review Committee.
The task of the retreat is to work with the technical consultants and other experts to analyse these memoranda and produce concise recommendations that will translate into bills proposal for the Senate Committee.
It was convened in partnership with National Democratic Institute (NDI) and UN Women, with support of the Government of Sweden and United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
The memoranda received from the public on review of the Committee cover diverse issues including gender equality and affirmative action including inclusiveness of women, youth and persons with a disability, devolution of power to the federating units, local government fiscal autonomy, the unfettered autonomy of the judiciary, derivation, streamlining of criteria for qualification for participation in elective offices at all levels.
Some of the recommendation in the memoranda considered at the retreat cover making constitutional provision for allocation of 35% of political positions reserved for female candidates, and gender inclusiveness in the Constitution.
The Deputy Senate President tasked the technical committee to work towards finalising the constitution review bill for passage in June 2021, because many Nigerians are expectant of the outcome of the exercise.
He stated that the leadership of the National Assembly has decided to complete and give Nigerians a reviewed constitution within this legislative term.
Key presentations were made by experts on increasing participation of women in governance, and recommendations that will support women to seek elective offices at the Local government, state and federal levels.
In her opening remarks to the retreat, the UN Women Country Representative to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Ms Comfort Lamptey noted the low representation of women in public life especially in Nigeria’s political sphere, lamenting that Nigeria ranked 185 in the world on women participation in governance.
Also speaking at the retreat, the Country Director, National Democratic Institute (NDI), Dr Stephen Snook, commended the initiative of the National Assembly to review the Constitution and urged the Committee to pay close attention to issues concerning promoting gender rights especially in the area of equality and women’s rights.
The UN Women and NDI partnered with the office of the Deputy Senate President in convening the retreat.
At the end of the retreat, all the 254 memoranda were analysed and summarized. Key issues in the memoranda include the creation of states and local governments, restructuring the federation by the review of the derivation principles and legislative powers of the federal, state and local governments.