By ADEBIYI ADEDAPO and AHURAKA ISAH , Abuja
Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yussuff Sulaimon Lasun, disclosed yesterday that the House will tomorrow commence debate on the recommendations of its special ad-hoc committee on the review of the 1999 constitution ( as amended).
According to Lasun, the debate and voting on the 27-item recommendations will be held between Wednesday and Thursday.
Lasun also stated that the House will within the same period consider the request for an addition of N135.6 billion by virement to the 2017 Budget.
Speaking ahead of the commencement of the 16th Conference of Speakers and Presiding Officers of the Commonwealth (CSPOC) in Abuja, Lasun explained that the conference will not affect normal legislative activities in the House, as he said the conference had granted them the opportunity to shift some of the programmes till afternoon after House plenary.
“Don’t forget that between Wednesday and Thursday as we are voting on the recommendations of the special ad-hoc committee on the amendment of 1999 constitution, we are still going to consider virement too”, he said.
Lasun said, “It is likely that I will come back and preside over the plenary today but because the Speaker is the Chairperson, he is going to sta there. On Wednesday, all programmes at the conference on Wednesday and Thursday will be shifted towards afternoon, that indulgence has been granted to us.
Meanwhile, the legislature has concluded plans to reflect the establishment and core functions of Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) in the constitution.
This is just as a separate Bill which seeks to change the name of the Police from Nigeria Police Force to Nigeria Police to reflect their call mandate of providing civil services is being considered.
Titled, ‘A Bill For An Act to alter the provision of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 to change the name of the police from Nigeria Police Force to Nigerian Police to reflect their core mandate of providing civil services; and for related matters’, the bill seeks to alter sections 34, 35, 39, 214, 215 and 216 of the constitution where the nomenclature Nigerian Police Force exist.
The insertion of new heading DA- Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps is to be inserted after section 213 of the Principal Act, a new heading “AA”.
The section also clearly highlights the core functions of the NSCDC.
The new section 213A provides that (1) “There shall be a Civil Defence Corps for Nigeria which shall be known as the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps. (2) Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the Civil Defence Corps shall be responsible for- (a) the management of natural and man-made disasters, search, rescue and recovery, rehabilitation and reintegration of displaced persons and to help them recover from the immediate effects of hostilities or disasters and provide the conditions necessary for their survival; and (b) the protection of critical national assets which shall not be limited to oil industry infrastructure, railways, solid mineral minefields, telecommunication infrastructure, power infrastructure, hydrological infrastructure, nuclear infrastructure, cattle ranches, but critical national assets as may be strategically declared by an Act of the National Assembly.
“(3) The Civil Defence Corps shall- (a) regulate Private Guard Companies as an industry regulator; (b) register, monitor, supervise, sanction, deregister and determine the operational guidelines of private guard companies all over Nigeria as the nation strives to establish it as a viable tier of security; (c) bear arms to enable it perform all or part of its functions; and (d) train, regulate, supervise, oversee and support the activities of vigilante groups, neighbourhood security organisations or agencies, and any other such groups, agencies or organisations with a paramilitary character enacted by an Act of a State Assembly for the purpose of enhancing the security of any state of the federation”.
Senate Begins Constitution Amendment Today
Meanwhile, following the laying of the constitution review report by the deputy Senate president, Ike Ekweremadu and deputy Speaker Yusuff Lasun at the Senate and House of Representatives respectively last Thursday, the Senate will begin the clause-by-clause consideration of the proposed amendments to the 1999 constitution (as amended).
Ekweremadu and Lasun are the chairman and deputy chairman of the Joint Constitution Amendment Committee of the 8th National Assembly.
The first and last time the 1999 constitution was successfully amended was in 2010 when section 145 was amended, forcing the president to transmit a letter to the Senate while proceeding on vacation, thereby naming his vice as acting president.
This was to remedy defect in the constitution which caused the Red Chamber to invoke ‘’doctrine of necessity’’ when the late President Umaru Musa Yar’adua failed to transmit a letter to the Senate for his then vice president, Goodluck Jonathan, to be named acting president when he (Yar’adua) went on medical vacation.
Section 145 even dictates that if the president goes on vacation and fails to transmit a letter, his vice president automatically becomes acting president after 21 days of the president’s absence, and that his letter will no longer be required.
The second aspect of amendment in 2010 was the removal of all constitutional provisions relating to electoral matters from the constitution. Those items were made to form part of the Electoral Act in order to facilitate its ease of amendment.
However, state assemblies rejected proposals to make local government autonomous, as well as to make state assemblies get first line charge, but the proposal for National Assembly to obtain first line charge from federation account was successful.
Meanwhile, the 2006 and 2015 attempts at constitutional amendment failed for one reason or the other. The 2006 failed as result of the PDP’s proposal to amend the constitution to allow the sitting president to run for three consecutive time or at different times, otherwise called ‘’third term’’. Since this item failed, all other items in the amendment failed because they were lumped together as one bill.
Key areas of consideration in the Constitution Amendment Report, which includes 27 different Bills include a Bill to decongest the Exclusive Legislative List by transferring certain items contained therein to the Concurrent List, thereby enabling the states to make laws in respect of those items; a Bill to alter the Constitution to abrogate the State Joint Local Government Accounts and empower each Local Government Council to maintain its own special account; and a Bill to provide the Independent National Electoral Commission with sufficient time to conduct bye-elections and provide grounds for de-registration of political parties.
Others are a Bill that seeks to alter the Constitution to provide for the timely passage of Bills; a Bill that seeks to alter the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to provide a timeframe within which the President and Governors shall forward to the Senate or the State House of Assembly names of nominees for confirmation as Ministers or Commissioners; and a Bill to alter section 147 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 to provide for the appointment of a Minister from the FCT, Abuja to ensure that FCT is represented in the Executive Council of the Federation.
On Saturday, the Senate also revealed that the Bill to amend the age requirements to run for different offices, which is the objective of the ‘Not Too Young To Run’ campaign, is still and has always been part of the constitution review process.
In a statement by his Media Office on Monday, Senate President Bukola Saraski described the constitution amendment process as the fulfillment of a major commitment the 8th Senate made to Nigerians at the commencement of their tenure in 2015.