Sen. Ike Ekweremadu, Deputy President of Senate and Chairman, Senate Committee on Constitution Review, on Tuesday reiterated the National Assembly's commitment to the norms of democratic process.
Ekweremadu made this known at a National Conference on Advancing the Role of the Media in Constitution Review Process organised by Democratic Governance for Development (DGD) Project in Abuja.
He noted that legislative due process; the principles of transparency, accountability, inclusiveness and popular participation were the driving force of the constitution review processes.
`` Let me reiterate that the National Assembly remains committed to the norms of democratic procedures, including legislative due process and principles of transparency and accountability.
`` We will ensure that our individual members mobilise to every nook and cranny of their constituencies so that as many shades of opinion as possible are adequately taken into account.
``Constituency tours, town hall and village square meeting would be fully exploited to mobilise and guide Nigerians, including those at the grass roots to own the project and take full responsibility of the end product,`` he said.
According to him, the committee will fully involve the media, civil society as well as professional bodies to drive the process.
He stated that the Nigerian media represented one of the most critical stakeholders and key drivers of both the constitution review project and indeed democracy in its entirety.
Speaking on the theme: ``Advancing the role of the Media in the Constitution Review process``, Ekweremadu observed that ``the media have done very well as bastions of Nigerian democracy. ``
``This conference is a veritable platform for the media and stakeholders to review the past efforts of this important sector in the constitution review project learn from mistakes and strategies for the task at hand. ``
He said the committee had articulated an array of priority areas in the current constitution review process which include the devolution of powers, state creation, giving constitutional backing to the six geo-political zone arrangements.
Others are constitutional role for traditional rulers, local government reforms, fiscal federalism, immunity clause, the Nigerian police, gender and special group, mayoral status for the Federal Capital territory and residency and indigene provision.
`` It will interest you to know that these priority areas are mainly derived from submissions by Nigerians in the 6th Assembly because we see the constitution review project as a continuum.
``Others factors that informed these priority areas were emerging realities in the polity as well issues set on the front burner by the media.
Ekweremadu called on the media to be most objective in conveying information and analysis issues on the constitution review process.
`` I urge you to dissect issues on their own merit and avoid any action capable of aggravating our fault lines as a nation.
``Feel free to approach us at any time for more information or clarifications on any matter, you can be rest assured that our doors will always remain open. ``
He urged Nigerians to take advantage of the subsequent public hearing that would be coming up at the national and zonal levels to make inputs into the project.
Earlier, Mr Daouda Toure, the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident representative, noted that durable democracies depended on respect for constitutionalism, rule of law and freedom of press.
Toure said that the media played a crucial role in keeping citizens engaged in the business of governance, adding that ``healthy political process requires pluralism and open communication''.
`` By providing a vibrant and free environment for communication, debate and deliberation, the media helps to establish good governance. ``
He said that the objective of the conference was to mobilise the media on information dissemination and civic education in the constitution review process.
He added that the conference would increase citizen awareness and participation in the constitutional reform process through public and private media as well as promote constitutional recognition for press freedom.
Toure added that civil society organisations and institutions such as the media, the judiciary and political parties were meant to strengthen accountable and democratic governance in line with international best practises. (NAN)