Dyepkazah Shibayan, Abuja
There appeared to be some confusion in the House of Representatives at the Inauguration of an ad hoc committee on constitution review by the Speaker, Hon. Yakubu Dogara.
According to the House standing rules, the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Yussuff Lasun is to chair the committee.
The Speaker had gone ahead to inaugurate the committee after waiting for about 30 minutes for the Deputy Speaker who was said to have gone on an official assignment to the Presidential Villa.
The event which was scheduled to commence at 10:00 am started at 10:35am instead.
Commencing the event Dogara asked the House Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila to commence the proceeding prompting his welcome address on behalf of the Deputy Speaker, who was unavoidably absent.
While inaugurating the Committee, Dogara advised the members to expedite action on the alteration of the 1999 Constitution and ensure that the money spent to fund the amendment exercise by the 7th Assembly did not go in vain.
“I do not want to dwell on the reasons for not assenting to the Bill as this will distract us from moving forward. Suffices to say that we are committed to dealing with the issues, expeditiously and early in the life of the 8th Assembly.
“The jurisdiction and mandate of the Ad-Hoc Committee on Constitution Review is straight forward –To conclude work on the 4th Alteration Bill, started by the 7th Assembly.
“To process all other proposals for further alteration of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as may be necessary on behalf of the House of Representatives, or as referred to it by the House.
“In carrying out your assignment therefore, we would recommend a two-track approach. Firstly, we need to conclude the 4th Alteration Bill, which is pending. Secondly, we need to process all the other new Bills referred to the Committee by members, including new proposals from the general public.
“In your discussions and engagements, there should be no off limits except the very basis of the Constitution which is the indivisibility of Nigeria. It is only through clash and compromise of ideas that we can make progress.
“We must avoid the temptation of starting afresh. A lot of public funds were spent in processing the botched 4th Alteration Bill and we think that it would be a disservice to this country if the work of the 7th Assembly on this matter is completely jettisoned.
“The House of Representatives, in particular consulted the Nigerian people widely, leading to the Peoples’ Public Sessions that took place in 360 Federal Constituencies of Nigeria, in conjunction with relevant stakeholders.
“As a House and a Committee, we should work together with, and consult fully, the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on the procedure, process and activities of this Constitution Review in order to achieve the necessary synergy and save parliamentary time, “Dogara added.
Speaking on behalf of the Deputy Speaker earlier, Gbajabiamila said the 7th National Assembly did a comprehensive work on the amendment of the 1999 Constitution, noting that at the tail end of the process, the Bills were not assented to by the former president after meeting all the processes and procedures.
“I will like to state here the need to give the Bills accelerated passage in pursuit to orders X11 and X111 of our Standing Orders (Procedure for Altering the Constitution) and Rule 96”
Lasun in a statement issued later by his Chief Press Secretary, Wole Oladimeji noted that he did not intentionally boycott the inauguration.
“What happened was that Speaker Yakubu Dogara sent the Deputy Speaker to attend a Presidential assignment at the villa presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari.
“It is a known fact that nobody could leave the venue of the assignment when the programme has not ended. Immediately the Deputy Speaker got to the National Assembly, he was informed that the the committee had been inaugurated.
“So there is no iota of truth that the Deputy Speaker shunned the inauguration. He was at the villa to represent the Speaker while the inauguration was carried out at the National Assembly, “statement read.