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CONSTITUTION REVIEW: BELGORE PANEL TO CONSIDER NSG'S VIEWS

By NBF News
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BY CLIFFORD NDUJIHE, Deputy Political Editor
LAGOS - DETERMINED to give Nigerians a more acceptable constitution that would address the fears of the citizenry, the 21-man Justice Alfa Belgore-led presidential constitution review committee will meet today and tomorrow in Abuja.

A member of the panel told Vanguard, yesterday, that the panel would also look into some of the issues raised by some eminent Nigerians such as Prof. Ben Nwabueze, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, Chiefs Edwin Clark, Olu Falae and Audu Ogbeh at a two-day summit held in Lagos, last week.

At the Lagos parley, the 150 delegates had observed that the Nigerian nation was currently facing serious challenges which,  if not urgently addressed, were capable of leading the country to total disintegration.

They identified the issues constraining the development of Nigeria as systemic corruption, insecurity of lives and property, poverty and infrastructure deficiencies, lack of credible electoral process, clueless leadership of state institutions and processes across board and defective structure of the Nigerian federalism, backed by a flawed constitution among others.

Pinning solutions to these challenges to a national conference that would restructure the country into true federalism, the leaders warned that the deteriorating state of insecurity, especially in recent times, called for more urgent attention as it was capable of leading to violent and unprecedented collapse of the Nigerian state if not dealt with firmly and decisively.

A member of the presidential panel, Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeife, was at the Lagos parley.

Asked how the committee would proceed with its work today and whether it would consider the issues raised by the Nigeria Summit Group (NSG's) Dialogue, Ezeife said: 'I want to respect our agreement not to talk to the press on this issue. We don't want to comment on it.'

However, commenting on the observations of the Lagos Summit, a leading member of the panel said: 'We will meet on Monday (today) and Tuesday (tomorrow) in Abuja. We are working round the clock. We are discussing some of the issues raised by the Lagos Summit. It is just that some people are grandstanding. Some, who are almost buried are trying to resurrect with National Conference. While looking at the issues they raised, we are guided by our terms of reference.'

Before their last adjournment, members of the panel had established a template on how they would carry out their duty.

'People have been telling us on individual basis that we have a lot of job to do. And I can tell you that many people expect breakthroughs from this mission because the survival of this country depends on the outcome of our job. And we are determined to give our best.'

'The President has given us a mandate and we will go along the mandate given to us. But we will also make our suggestions. We envisage challenges but we will do our best,' another member said.

President Goodluck Jonathan, on November 17, raised the CRC headed by former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Saliu Alfa Belgore to look at and harmonise past efforts at the review of the constitution. He asked the committee to avoid controversial areas, which would need further and enlarged debate.

He said: '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.'

Members of the committee include Senator Udoma Udo Udoma (Vice-chairman), Chief Ebenezer Babatope, Mr. Ledum Mitee, Dr. Abubakar Saddique, Ms. Comfort Obi, Mr. Peter Esele, Prof. Oladipo Afolabi, Prof. Jerry Gana and Tessy Ikimi.

Others are Mr. G.O.S. Miri, Ambassador Babagana Kingibe, Ambassador Jibrin Chinade, Alhaji Abubakar Mustapha, Prof. Anya O. Anya, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Alhaja Salimot Badru, Hajia Najatu Mohammed, Mr. Ferdinand Agu, Alhaji Wakil Mohammed and Halima Alfa.