The Presidential Committee on the Review of Outstanding Issues from recent Constitutional Conferences has recommended optimal autonomy and stable local government system for the country.
Chairman of the Committee and former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Alfa Belgore, disclosed this while submitting the committee's report to President Goodluck Jonathan at the State House on Tuesday in Abuja.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the committee, among others, also recommended a unified modern criminal law for federal and states government and a review of the civil and criminal legal procedure.
``We have viewed many parts of the constitution, in particular, we put new visions into creating an optimally independent, incorruptible and stabilising local government system that shall always be administered by democratically elected officials that must be accountable, responsive to local needs, directed, controlled and sanctioned by appropriate laws.
``In our view, this is necessary in order to deepen principles of democracy and sound resource management at the grass roots where it really matters for this country.
``Of special significance is that we also looked at the judiciary vis-a-vis the bar, which is just one. That means there is only one Bar.
``The procedures we inherited from the colonial tines which were originally meant for jury has not helped the speedy dispensation of justice. There is no reason earthly why judgments and hearing in cases must take more than one year.
``The British have done away with these procedures in some of their Acts, while we still insist on them are sacrosanct, which is unfortunate.
That is why we believe that the Chief Justice of Nigeria, must be empowered to set up a Council from time to time to look at the rules of courts both civil and criminal. ’’
NAN recalls that the committee, inaugurated by Jonathan on November 17, 2011, was mandated to prepare a legislative bill that would be sent to the National Assembly for debate and consideration in the proposed Constitutional Review.
The President had underscored the consensus of Nigerians that the 1999 Constitution required a review in view of the gaps that had become evident in its provisions.
Belgore said in carrying out their mandate, the committee critically appraised the recommendations of recent Constitutional Conferences with a view to determining their relevance to current national circumstance.
He said the committee endorsed many of the recommendations and made several innovative additions to strengthen the constitution.
The retired CJN said, if adopted, the review made would deepen democratic ethos, promote good governance and the speed up dispensation of justice.
Belgore said the committee observed that Nigeria, just as Congo and Brazil, would attain greater height if the political atmosphere could stablise for 20 years.
``These countries are greatly endowed with everything-population, landmass and wonderful vegetation, very rich soil, well-watered even in the semi-desert and above all, almost limitless supply of liquid and soil minerals.’’
Specifically, he said if Nigeria could achieve up to 40,000 MW in electric power generation, it would be easy for it to industrialise and generate employment.
He gave the assurance that the current security challenges in the country would be a thing of the past soon.
Receiving the report, Jonathan thanked the committee for the review work and the effort.
He specifically thanked Belgore for forging ahead with the assignment of steering the committee even after the loss of his wife, Hajia Fatima.
The President said the recommendations in the report in the areas of strengthening fundamental rights and legal protection for all citizens, especially children, women and the physically challenged would be considered.
He noted that unfettered autonomy for Local Governments had the greatest potential for maximum impact on the lives of all citizens.
Similarly, Jonathan said that the committee’s proposal on public accountability was imperative for officials in the Executive and the Legislature.
``I equally welcome the recommendations that will grant the Executive more flexibility in policy making, like the removal of the Land Use Act from the Constitution but retaining it as a National Law.
``This Report is a great contribution to our efforts to have a Constitution that not only reflects our present reality, but also anticipates future challenges.
``I assure you that the Report will receive expeditious consideration.’’
The President reiterated his administration’s unshakeable faith in the emergence of a strong, united, and prosperous Nigeria.