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Constitution Review Tops Senate Agenda ...Set To Amend Electoral Act 2010

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ABUJA, SEPTEMBER 13, (THEWILL) – The Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on Tuesday announced that a holistic review of the 1999 Constitution of the country and the amendment of the 2010 Electoral Act would be topmost on its agenda as the lawmakers resume for full legislative session.

Also, President Goodluck Jonathan formerly asked the Senate to confirm Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Dahiru Musdapher, as substantive CJN; and forwarded another ministerial nominee, Darius Dickson Ishaku from Taraba State, for confirmation to replace rejected Obadiah Ando, who was Minister of Water Resources. He dropped the nomination of Professor Mohammed Tabi'u as Resident Electoral Commissioner for Jigawa State; he was replaced by Minkaila Abdullahi.

Welcoming senators at the resumed plenary, President of the Senate, David Mark, declared that constitution amendment remained one of the top priorities of the 7th Senate. "Distinguished colleagues, let me note that constitution amendment remains one of the top priorities of the 7th Senate. Our success in the electoral reforms is now obvious and has been widely acknowledged after the 2011 general election,” he said. “I congratulate members of the 6th National Assembly, once again, for breaking the jinx of constitution amendment in Nigeria. The onus is therefore on us to build on this success. We shall endeavour to produce a workable constitution that will stand the test of time."

However, he assured that the Senate would revisit fundamental issues of state creation, local government system, devolution of powers, revenue allocation, State Police, State Independent National Electoral Commission, uniform minimum wage, joint account and other contentious but important issues. Mark, who posted hypothetical questions to his colleagues, received affirmative responses, suggesting unanimous acquiescence for total constitutional review to complete the process that was achieved in the previous session.

“Should we allow State Police? Will it enhance policing duties and reduce criminality in the country? Is the current revenue formula equitable? Will a change in favour of the States enhance deliverables to the people? Should power distribution be on the Exclusive Legislative List? Shouldn't States that invest in power generation be allowed to distribute? Is it necessary to create new States? Will it bring government nearer to the people and address cries of marginalisation? How effective are local governments? Should they be made to function independent of the states? Is the Joint State/Local Governments account still necessary?” he asked. “We will not run away from any of these issues. I therefore expect that in this session, we will not only deal with them, but also with other issues that will guarantee good governance, peace, justice, and development in our country," he assured.

On the Electoral Act, he hinted that the current Act will likely be reviewed now that the primaries and elections are over and the tribunals are addressing the outcome of elections in accordance with the Electoral Act. “While the 2010 Act laid the foundation for possibly the best election in our democratic history, like any other human product, it is still not perfect. In our quest to continue to improve our electoral processes, we will work with the Independent National Electoral Commission, political parties, and other stakeholders to revisit the 2010 Electoral Act to address the issues arising from its operation ahead of the forthcoming gubernatorial elections in some states and the 2015 general election," he added.

On serial bombings by Islamic fundamentalists group, Boko Haram, Mark, who also led senators to observe a minute silence for the repose of souls of the dead, regretted that “forces of darkness, agents of insecurity and destabilization could engage in such dastardly act to waste innocent lives."

“Distinguished colleagues... Innocent lives have been mindlessly wasted and properties wantonly destroyed through bomb explosions and related acts of violence. Emotions have been ruptured, rivers of tears ripped open, and the land needlessly drenched with the blood of hapless innocent citizens,” he said “Indeed, what we have witnessed is gravely discordant with our cultural and religious values of the sanctity of life and our age-long tradition of being our brothers' keeper. I have no doubt, therefore, that you share my view that this is most deplorable and totally unacceptable. We must address the issue of insecurity squarely, head-on once and for all.”

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, who briefed reporters after the plenary, announced that the Senate would go behind close doors to discuss the security situation since they could not discuss security matters in the plenary. He also confirmed that Senate would constitute the standing committees 'in the next few hours,' suggesting that the committee composition could be unveiled today.