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CONSTITUTION AMENDMENT

By NBF News
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The Seventh Senate resumed yesterday in Abuja with the leadership setting the agenda for what to expect from the lawmakers of the upper legislative chamber just as the House of Representatives summoned security chiefs over terrorism.

Welcoming the senators back to the chamber yesterday, Senate President David Mark listed amendments to the Constitution and Electoral Act 2010 as the priority areas Security chiefs for the third time this year were summoned for a closed-door session in a bid to proffer solutions to the spate of bombings by Boko Haram and the killings in Jos, Plateau State which had assumed a frightening proportion.

No date had been fixed for the meeting by Press time. The Senate had on June 29, 2011 met with security chiefs.

The proposed Constitution amendment, according to Mark, would touch on state police, revenue formula, power, state creation and abolition of joint state and local government accounts.

Briefing reporters yesterday, Senate Leader Victor Ndoma-Egbe said the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Oluseyi Petinrin is expected to lead service chiefs including Inspector-General of Police, Hafiz Ringim and the boss of the State Security Service (SSS) Ita Ekpenyong to the meeting.

'Senate will very, very soon go into a closed-door session (with security chiefs) to review the security situation in the country and if need be, engage security chiefs again in dialogue to see what can be done.

'We will review the security situation with them and find lasting solutions to these incessant, needless killings and bombings.'

Earlier, Mark noted the chamber's intervention in the nation's security situation and called for co-operation and dialogue among the agencies.

'In the past few months, our dear nation has come under grievous attacks by forces of darkness and agents of insecurity and destabilization. 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. Indeed, what we have witnessed are 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.

'The Senate has never rested on its oars in the search for greater peace and security in the land. In the discharge of our responsibilities as a sensitive parliament, this hallowed chamber has hosted security chiefs at various times on the security situation in the country.

'The bombers and their sponsors live amongst us. Therefore, our constituents should spare nothing in assisting to find a lasting solution to this national embarrassment. I urge the Federal Government to take decisive steps to stem this ugly tide. It must rise to emphatically make this land most infertile for all sponsors and peddlers of terrorism and anarchy. And in doing this, there must be no sacred cows.'

Besides amending the Constitution, the Senate President disclosed that the National Assembly would also amend the 2010 Electoral Act to guard against flaws in the 2011 elections.

'Nigerians expect us to revisit some fundamental issues such as state creation, the local government system, devolution of powers, revenue allocation, state police, state INEC, uniform minimum wage, joint account and other contentious, but important issues.

The amendment would be guided by the following questions:

•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 the 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 the local governments? Should they be made to function independently of the states?; and

•Is the Joint State/Local Governments account still necessary?

He said: '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.

'Furthermore, in the course of pursuing our legislative agenda, we will most likely review the Electoral Act 2010. Now that primaries and elections are over and the tribunals are addressing the aftermaths of the election in accordance with the Electoral Act, we should be able to draw from the lessons learnt and further amend the Act accordingly.

'Thus, while the 2010 Act laid the foundation for possibly the best election in our democratic history, like any other human products, 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 elections,' the Senate President noted.

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives also yesterday resolved to summon security chiefs to brief it on the incessant terrorist attacks and the steps taken so far to check the trend.

However, no date had been announced for the meeting.

Moving a motion on Matters of Urgent National Importance after about two-hour closed-door session, Hon Patrick Ikhariale (PDP, Edo) said that terrorism which was hitherto not known in this country, had gone 'beyond issues that can be glossed over'.

At the first plenary session of the House after returning from their annual recess, the lawmakers particularly condemned the bombing of the UN building on August 26 as well as other attacks that have led to the loss of lives and properties.

The House agreed that necessary action should be taken to ensure that the world would know that Nigeria does not support terrorism.

As a result, the House accepted the prayers of the motion among which was that the security chiefs be summoned to a closed-door session where they would highlight steps taken so far to improve in security and to also point out areas where they require legislative backing to enhance their performance.

'This has gone beyond issues that we can gloss over', he stated, noting that 'we need laws that will guide, prevent and give adequate funding to agencies which have responsibilities of securing lives and properties'.

Arguing the motion, Ikahariale lamented that despite yearly allocations to the Nigeria Police Force and the Department of State Services [DSS], they have not been able to discharge their duties effectively especially as there had been little or no information on the bombing.

The leadership of the chamber was also mandated to pay a condolence visit to the representative of the UN in Nigeria.

At the closed-door meeting, it was gathered that the Speaker, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, tasked his colleagues to concentrate on passing pending bills as they settle down from their recess.

He listed them to include Electoral Matters Bill, Asset Management Amendment Bill, Office of the Nigeria Ombudsman Bill, Petroleum Industry Bill, Banks and other Financial Institutions Amendment Bill, EFCC and ICPC amendment bill and the Justice Sector Reform Bill.

Members were equally briefed on the status of the composition of the standing committees, election of the House Leader and the financial position of the House.