By Ignatius Okorocha
The Deputy President of the Senate and Chairman, Senate Adhoc Committee on Review of the 1999 Constitution, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege has assured that the panel would not kill any of the constitution alteration bills before it.
He promised that the committee would recommend all the bills before it for consideration and that the Senate in plenary would determine whether or not such proposals should be transmitted to state assemblies.
This comes as he clarified that members of the committee are not under pressure from external forces to do their biddings.
Senator Omo-Agege spoke at the weekend on The Platform, a current affairs programme on TVC, anchored by cerebral columnist, Sam Omatseye.
He stressed the need for Nigerians to take advantage of the window given by the committee for Call for Memoranda to submit their proposals on any of the 13 thematic areas to the panel.
Recall that the committee had last week shifted the deadline for submission of memoranda from September 11 to September 25, 2020.
The Delta Central lawmaker disclosed that besides the constitution alterations bills already referred to the panel, more proposals could surface on the floor, arising from memoranda submitted to the committee.
His words: “Any Nigerian who feels strongly about any issue that ought to be addressed in this exercise, has a right within the time stipulated to put their thoughts in writing by way of a memo and submit same to us.
“Upon receipt of that, we will meet as a committee, set up some sub-committees within the main committee that will go to each of the geopolitical zones. There they will reach out and ask people to step forward and speak to the memo that they have already submitted to us.
“Thereafter, we will come back, hold a retreat where we will aggregate the views of the content of the memoranda. And in some cases come up with more bills. This committee will try not to kill any bill. We will rather have all bills go to the floor at plenary and let the Nigerian people, speaking through their elected representatives, make the call as to whether or not those bills should pass. Thereafter, we will go to the various Houses of Assembly to see if those votes can also muster two-thirds majority of the 36 assemblies. From there, we receive and transmit the successful bills to Mr President for assent”.
According to him, the zonal public hearings would be conducted in line with Covid-19 protocols.
Members of the committee, he emphasised, will not succumb to pressure from external forces.
The lawmaker added that as Nigerians of great accomplishments in their respective fields, members of the panel and indeed all senators would continue to live above board in the discharge of their constitutional duties.
“I can tell you that as of this moment, we have not received any such pressure or influence peddling. But let me tell you this: the Nigerian Senate is a chamber made up of statesmen. These are people of accomplishments in their previous endeavours before they came to this place. I don’t think these are people who are going to be susceptible to pressures from external forces. These are people who are here to do the right thing.
“And if you must also know, the Steering Committee of this Constitution Review Committee is populated by the entire leadership of the Senate. I am just the Chairman before you talk about the 56 other senators. We have taken an oath to protect the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I can assure you that members of this committee and indeed all of the senators of this Ninth Senate will do the right thing. We are not going to succumb to any pressure,” he said.
On state assemblies being rubber stamps of state governors, the Deputy President of the Senate called on those who have sent in their memoranda to put pressure on state legislators to do the right thing.
He, however, noted that all the 36 governors are unanimous that more powers be moved from the Exclusive to Concurrent Legislative List.
“It is our belief that it behoves on the electorate to mount the requisite pressure on their House of Assembly members.
“In any event, we are also going to be liaising very seriously with the Speakers of the various Houses of Assembly. So before the final vote is taken, we will be able to have a feel of where we are. And if it requires some lobbying of the state governors, so be it.
“I don’t know of any governor in this country today who doesn’t subscribe to the idea that the content of the Exclusive Legislative List is not too cumbersome and there needs to be some shedding of weight. I am sure practically all governors will subscribe to that so we can have some of these powers devolve to the states,” he stated.