Lawan, Gbaja blame state assemblies as constitution amendment suffers setback

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Femi Gbajabiamila, speaker of the House of Representatives, says the constitution amendment process may not be concluded before the end of the ninth assembly.

 

Gbajabiamila spoke on Monday at the second edition of the distinguished parliamentarian lecture series organised by the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS) in Abuja.

 

The speaker said the process is being stalled by some state assemblies that are yet to consider and vote on the bills.

 

In March, the senate and House of Representatives voted on bills seeking to amend the 1999 constitution.

 

The red and green chambers agreed on some of the bills and differed on others, while a total of 44 bills were transmitted to the state houses of assembly.

 

According to sections 9(2) and (3) of the 1999 constitution, the input of two-thirds of all the state assemblies — 24 states — is required for each amendment to be approved.

 

In October, Ovie Omo-Agege, deputy senate president, said only 11 states had voted on the constitution amendment bills.

 

At the time, he listed the state as Abia, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Delta, Edo, Kaduna, Katsina, Kogi, Lagos, Ogun and Osun.

 

‘STATE ASSEMBLIES STALLING’

 

Gbajabiamila has now expressed doubts that the process will be completed before the end of the current assembly.

 

“The success or failure of every significant governance initiative depends on the extent to which the objective is a shared priority of the different arms of government and, in some cases, of the state governments,” he said.

 

 “Consider, for example, the vexing issue of constitutional reforms. Several of the commitments in the legislative agenda require amendments to the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to achieve them.

 

“If you took a poll in this room now about the importance and need for substantive reforms to our nation’s constitution, I am sure the poll would return an overwhelming majority in favour. The national assembly passed a raft of amendments to the constitution and advanced them to the states as required.

 

“That process now seems to have stalled in the state assemblies. As it is today, it is doubtful that the current constitutional amendment effort will conclude before the expiration of this legislative term.

 

“Despite broad national agreement on the need for reform, the potential for achievement can rise or fall based on differences in expectations of the context, pace, and direction of the specific proposals.

 

 “The success of our democracy and the progress and prosperity of our nation depends on each of us knowing and operating in the knowledge that Nigeria belongs to us all, and we each have a responsibility to build a nation and leave a legacy we can be proud of.

 

“This is our greatest test and our most defining task. And it can only be achieved by our joint efforts as citizens, brothers and sisters dedicated to a cause greater than ourselves.”

 

 ‘LOBBY YOUR COLLEAGUES’

 

Also speaking at the event, Senate President Ahmad Lawan, asked Nasir el-Rufai, governor of Kaduna, to “lobby” his colleagues to ensure their state assemblies pass the constitution amendment bills.

 

 “We will task you (governor) to lobby for us. We have seen the outcome of our constitution review and we are yet to receive all from the states to enable us to round off this process by getting responses from the state houses of assembly,” he said.

 

“And some of these issues that you have raised that require our attention of course will be given attention.

 

 “But I think it is important that we deal with whatever we have already sent out to the houses of assembly.

 

“And then we take the next step and even if it is one step that we have left, we can work together to ensure we pass some of the legislation that is required in a very expeditious manner.

 

“So help us lobby because I can see you do that very well. Lobby your colleagues, governor.”

 

Omo-Agege had earlier accused some governors of frustrating the process, saying they are working “tirelessly” to turn state assemblies into their “political puppets”.

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