REASONS CONSTITUTIONAL CONFAB CAN'T HOLD NOW -PRESIDENT
The Federal Government will not convoke a constitutional conference now, the President said yesterday. According to him, doing so would send the wrong signals to the public. President Goodluck Jonathan said holding such a conference would be viewed as a distraction from important issues such as economy and security.
Speaking at the inauguration of a 21-member Presidential Committee on the Review of Outstanding Constitutional Issues in Abuja, Jonathan warned the members to avoid controversial areas which would require enlarged debate by various ethnic nationalities.
According to Jonathan, 'the first thinking is that let us bring Nigerians together again just like Obasanjo did. But we consider that the exercise wasted a lot of money from the Federal Government, state and individuals. If we go all out to repeat it, it will communicate the wrong signals to the public. They will feel this is another jamboree, where government wants to play music to distract attention instead of facing Boko Haram or economic issues.'
'I am determined that our nation devotes more resources, time and energy to the pressing issues of development so that we can progressively reduce the drama of politics, the cycles of group agitations and needless contentions, ' he said.
Noting that 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, Jonathan said, 'these efforts deserve respect and sustenance because wisdom is timeless and governance is a continuous process.'
Jonathan told the committee to only look into areas where reasonable agreements have been reached and prepare bills to be considered by the National Assembly, saying that the approach would make the seriousness of government very clear to the people.
The President also charged the committee to pay attention to 2006, adding that it should also identify other areas where agreements had not been reached so that the committee could be enlarged and those controversial areas debated separately.
Jonathan said: 'We feel that first of all, let us select some committed Nigerians, few of them, to look at those areas that we have already agreed on, package them and put it to the National Assembly. Then, to identify those broad areas that agreements had not been reached, then we can expand the team to look and debate those areas separately so that people will see the seriousness because already we should have forwarded some bills to the national assembly so that when we expand the team to discuss, they will know that it is not a discussion that will be locked up in the drawers of Mr. President or other stakeholders of the government.'
Jonathan also said that the draft bills that would be prepared by the committee on previously agreed issues, which would be sent to the National Assembly, would go a long way to strengthen the bonds of the nation.
According to him, '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.
He stressed that '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' Responding, chairman of the committee, Justice Alfa Belgore, said that the 1999 Constitution would have been a very beautiful document, but was done in a hurry.
'I am very happy that we are not treating the document part by part. It is better to do a comprehensive review of the constitution. The executive, the legislature and the judiciary were well conceived but the way each one is scripted has created some confusion and this confusion I assure you Mr. President we shall try as much as possible to resolve it' He said.