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GEJ Inaugurates Presidential Committee On Review Of Constitution

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SAN FRANCISCO, November 17, (THEWILL) – President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan Thursday inside the Presidential Villa, Abuja, inaugurated the Presidential Committee on the Review of Outstanding Constitutional Issues, charging members of the committee chaired by a former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), retired Justice Mohammed Belgore, to see the “assignment as an important step in our nation’s search for a more enduring union. It links the past to the present.”

Members of the committee as released by the Presidency are

1. Justice Mohammed Belgore - Chairman
2. Sen. Udoma Udo Udoma - Vice Chairman
3. Chief Ebenezer Babatope
4. Mr. Ledum Mitee
5. Dr. Abubakar Saddique
6. Ms. Comfort Obi
7. Mr. Peter Esele
8. Prof. Oladipo Afolabi
9. Prof. Jerry Gana
10. Barr. Tessy Ikimi
11. Mr. G.O.S. Miri
12. Amb. Babagana Kingibe
13. Amb. Jibrin Chinade
14. Alhaji Abubakar Mustapha
15. Prof. Anya O. Anya
16. Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife
17. Alhaja Salimot Badru
18. Hajia Najatu Mohammed
19. Mr. Ferdinand Agu
20. Alhaji Wakil Mohammed; and
21. Barrister Halima Alfa.
The President’s address reads, “I am delighted to inaugurate this Committee today, which is a clear demonstration of the unshakeable commitment of this Administration to strengthening the bonds of our national unity; and our resolve to provide new answers to old problems.

Our Administration is committed to providing a stable socio-political environment for the necessary economic transformation of our dear Country.

To do this, we will work with all social and political formations and existing institutions, particularly the National Assembly. Together, we will systematically address all outstanding constitutional, political and social issues for the benefit of the country and her citizens.

We recognize what Nigerians want; which are inclusiveness, justice, equity and national cohesion, so that we can unleash the bustling energy and spirit of enterprise that abounds in our people.

Ours is a nation of great promise. Our responsibilities as a generation; and our duty as a government, are to realize that promise of good life for our people. That is why the urgent task of this generation is to consolidate our unity, strengthen our democracy and to expand the frontiers of our wealth creation strategies.

We need to embark on crucial social engineering through a process that respects existing national political and social institutions.

We need a process that will inspire the engagement of the Nigerian people and one that makes the best use of previous patriotic contributions. All these are readily available to members of this panel and to the generality of our people.

Nigeria is on the threshold of great possibilities. Despite the present challenges, our sense of togetherness is strong and our democracy is deepening. At the national level, our electoral practice is now universally adjudged as credible. Individual and group freedoms are secure. Governance institutions – the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary – are all bustling with new ideas. Everywhere, there are concerted efforts to improve service delivery.

Our economic planning is sound, even as the implementation framework unfolds.

I make bold to say that the outlook for the future of our country is good. We are at peace with the world, and we remain well-respected internationally.

Yet, since every nation is a work in progress, each one has its own share of unfinished businesses. Nigeria is no different. Now is the time for us to make even greater efforts to find new answers to old-age problems that have long confronted us. Now, more than ever before, is the right time to work together to defuse new threats and address current challenges, so that this nation will advance with greater unity towards our goal of positive socio-economic transformation.

I am always mindful of the fact that our unity is forged from the sacrifices of the generations before us. That unity is sustained by the strong commitment of countless leaders and peace-loving citizens across this nation. It is this same commitment to secure peaceful ends through peaceful means that unites all our national debates, dialogues and conferences since 1922.

That commitment to dialogue culminated in the Clifford Constitution (1922); Richards Constitution (1944); Macpherson Constitution (1951); Lyttleton Constitution (1954); 1960 Independence Constitution; 1977/78 Constituent Assembly and the 1979 Constitution.

Similar credits go to the Political Bureau (1986) and the 1988/89 Constituent Assembly; as well as the 1994/95 Constitutional Conference that substantially shaped the 1999 Constitution. The most recent effort was the National Political Reform Conference of 2005, which provided the basis for some of the proposed and on-going amendments of the Constitution.

As we strive for a better nation in a more perfect union, the sensible path to our future is to consolidate the gains that we have already made. That is why we must occasionally review, and continuously strengthen the instruments, institutions and processes that determine the quality and content of our national life.

I have consulted very widely on the need to address recurrent and emergent socio-political issues and I want us to do so in a manner that will not distract the nation from the immediate challenges of improving the quality of life of all citizens.

I am determined that our nation devotes more resources, time and energy to the pressing issues of development, so that we progressively reduce the drama of politics, the cycles of group agitations and needless contentions.

It is true that our nation had, in the past, committed considerable treasure and blood; time and sweat of good men and women, to develop broad consensus on a wide range of issues. These efforts deserve respect and sustenance, because wisdom is timeless and governance is a continuous process.

I am inaugurating this Committee to develop draft bills on previously agreed issues that would go a long way to strengthen the bonds of our union.

These settled issues include strong recommendations from past Constitutional and Political Reform Conferences; on National Security, Human Rights and Social Security, People’s Charter and Social Obligations; Environment and Natural Resources, Models and Structure of Government, Public Service, Power Sharing, Local Government Reforms and the Economy.

Other areas of firm agreement include proposals for Judiciary and Legal Reforms, constitutional amendments pertaining to the Public Service, Anti-Corruption, State Joint Local Government Account, Traditional Institutions and Cultural Reforms; and Civil Society, Labour, Trade Unions and National Media Reforms, amongst many others.

The draft bills will be considered by the executive branch of government and then sent to the National Assembly. The ultimate purpose is to identify with and reinforce the on-going efforts of Committees of Senate and House of Representatives as they grapple with outstanding constitutional issues.

On our part, the Executive branch will also revisit some of the recommendations for policy changes, course corrections and consider new initiatives, so long as they improve the capacity of government to serve the people better.

I am confident that the maturity, composition, procedures and response capacity of our national institutions are sufficient for the needs of the nation. We have the competence, temperance and depth of vision to tackle all the issues involved to ensure the best outcome for the nation.

Within the process that I am initiating, there is room and mechanism to fully engage the public. I find this necessary and appealing, in the belief that it will accelerate progress on unresolved issues of our national life as we grapple with present day challenges and anticipate our future needs.

In that regard, the task of this Committee is to study and deliberate on the resolutions, recommendations and implementation guidelines of the last National Political Reform Conference; as well as any relevant aspects of the 1994/95 Constitutional Conference.

The Committee will observe that all of the recommendations were unanimously adopted; they were, however, not implemented because of the controversies that engulfed the process of legislation at that time. It is not your job to vitiate or qualify such manifestly stated items of national consensus. Rather, you may review their currency in light of subsequent developments and situate them within present needs and realities.

Also, parts of the draft documents and resolutions that culminated in the 1999 Constitution were unilaterally excised from the final document. You are to consider, and where necessary, update them in light of contemporary challenges.

Though the main focus of your work will be on resolutions and recommendations of past conferences, you must feel free to suggest fresh solutions to old problems, especially those that may have defied consensus in times past.

Let me restate that recommendations which require legislation can only come into effect if they receive the endorsement of the National Assembly.

In doing this, we will always respect and expect the continuous involvement of the Nigerian public, the articulate interventions of our leaders of thought and passionate advocacy of stakeholders.

Your assignment is an important step in our nation’s search for a more enduring union. It links the past to the present.

When people allow a quarrel between the past and the present, they risk the future. I am confident in the ability of the members of this Committee to rise to challenge of the moment.

If we all approach the task ahead with honesty, faith and unity of purpose, we shall create a nation that we can all be proud of. And, by our collective efforts and service, we must bequeath this nation as a worthy edifice to our posterity.

I thank you, and I wish you all the best in your assignment.”