On January 29 and 30, 2021, the Senate Constitutional Review Committee, under the chairmanship of the Deputy Senate President, Distinguished Senator Ovie Omo-Agege held a retreat to review and analyse memoranda received from Nigerians towards the proposed amendment of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.
The retreat was attended by participants, comprising legislators, senior lawyers, academicians and technical consultants to the Senate Constitution Review 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 retreat was declared open by the Deputy Senate President, who recalled that the Senate Ad hoc Committee on the review of the 1999 Constitution was inaugurated in January 2020.
Between then and now, sixty (60) bills for constitutional amendments sponsored by Senators across party lines have been introduced on the floor of the Senate, and over two hundred and fifty (250) memoranda have been received by the Committee from the public.
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.
The retreat also reviewed and analyzed the 2014 National Conference Report, Report of the APC ad-hoc Committee on True Federalism and other previous reports on improving the Constitution of the Federation.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The retreat broke into working groups, each group reviewing in details allocated memoranda from the public. 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.
The retreat at the closing session received the specific recommendations from the working groups, which will be elaborated by the technical committee towards producing the final report and bills for the review of the Constitution.
The retreat participants commended the Deputy Senate President on his sterling leadership of the constitution review process, and commit to supporting the Senate ad-hoc committee to ensure timely revision of the Constitution.
Issued on 30th day of January 2021
Dr Otive Igbuzor,
Chief of Staff to Deputy Senate President
Robert Emukpoeruo, SAN
Lead Consultant to the Senate ad-hoc Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution