Lagos Kicks Against Constitutional Amendment

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LAGOS, June 21, (TEHWILL) - The people of Lagos have kicked against the on-going amendment of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, noting that the amendment version did not contain recommendations of the Justice Mohammed Uwais Electoral Reform Committee report.

This view was expressed today at a public hearing organized by the Lagos State House of Assembly to garner peoples’ input to the proposed amendment of the 1999 Constitution by the National Assembly, describing the decision of the federal lawmakers as self-serving.

The public hearing which focused on a bill for an act to alter the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 and other matters connected thereto questioned the decision of the National Assembly and its commitment to the national interest of the country.

Such eminent Lagosians as former Lagos State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), Secretary-General of Afenifere, Chief Femi Okurounmu, Senator Olabiyi Durojaiye, prominent legal luminaries, Mr. Dele Adeshina (SAN) and Mr. Bamidele Aturu attended the session.

At the hearing, Okurounmu picked holes in the proposed amendment describing it as ‘self-serving.’

"I was at the public hearing throughout. I can tell you what they proposed is not what the people wanted. Such germane issues as fiscal federalism and exclusive list are not addressed at all and the electoral reform is no reform at all.

"The situation at hand presents another dilemma in the annals of Nigeria. People are kicking against the proposed amendment, yet there is no adequate time to conduct another constitutional amendment process before the tenure of the current administration expires," he said.

Also speaking at the forum, Osinbajo said the position of Uwais report "is in no way reflected in this amendment. The federal legislators have only looked into the Sections that will benefit them. In general response the amendment does not reflect the yearnings and aspirations of Nigerians."

Durojaiye said the amendment "is a trap set for the people of Nigeria if the proposed amendment is ratified as it is. The current Constitution lied against itself when it said ‘we the people of Nigeria ...hereby give ourselves this Constitution.’

"But if the current amendment that does not represent the interest of Nigeria is passed, it will actually mean that we gave ourselves the Constitution," the former lawmaker explained.

At the hearing, Aturu was dismayed at the manner that all the 36 State Assemblies "are organizing a public forum on the proposed amendment simultaneously, an indication that a battle line is drawn between the National Assembly and the State Assemblies."

While making his inputs at the public hearing, he Speaker of the Assembly, Rt. Hon. Adeyemi Ikuforiji said it "is the position of the people of Lagos that we will represent to the National Assembly."

Ikuforiji said: "In my own opinion, this cannot satisfy the yearnings of Lagosians, and a lot more needs to be done for democracy to take root in this country. All the Speakers of the 36 houses of assembly will meet on Friday to discuss their respective positions on the amendment before submitting same to the National Assembly."

However, the general response from participants, which included legal practitioners, former and current lawmakers at federal and State levels, representatives of political parties, and NGOs, was that "the amendment does not meet the yearnings of Nigerians.

41 of the 320 Sections and three out of seven Schedules of the 1999 Constitution were proposed for amendment.