Vanguard (Lagos)

1 February 2013

Nigeria: Reps Postpone Unveiling of Constitution Review Report

THE much celebrated review of the 1999 constitution by the House of Representatives ran into troubled waters Thursday as it was alleged that the report of Emeka Ihedioha led ad-hoc committee had been doctored.

It was gathered that this led to the indefinite postponement of the planned colourful presentation of the report of the ad-hoc committee report to the public.

Rivers State governor and Chairman of Nigerian Governors Forum, Rotimi Amaechi, who was invited to grace the occasion, was visibly absent at the event.

Tambuwal said: " I will begin by apologising to you collectively and severally for the delay in the commencement of the process. I would like to say that as leaders, we will continue to engage ourselves and in the process of doing that ensure that what ought to be done or needs to be done is done very well.

"Especially here in the House of Representatives where this process has been acclaimed to be transparent thus far; we will not as such want a situation whereby at this stage there should be an issue that has to do with the total collated results of what needs to be presented to the public today."

It was also gathered that before the commencement of yesterday's presentation of the report to the public, the leadership of the House had held a marathon meeting.

At the meeting, Tambuwal was said to have declared that there was no way the report he was shown by the committee chairman could be presented to the public.

He had told his colleagues that instead of presenting the report, the presentation ceremony should be postponed till further notice.

The Deputy Speaker, Emeka Ihedioha, was said to have argued that dignitaries had been invited from different parts of the country to attend the event.

The source said the speaker waved that aside and declared that he would personally postpone it.

A source close to the leadership also told Vanguard that "there was serious pressure from the north on Tambuwal to jettison the report as it does not favour us."

Eventually at about 12pm, Tambuwal walked into the venue for the presentation scheduled for 10am and declared that the occasion had been postponed till further notice.

Said he: "This event has been postponed until a better report will be ready for presentation. "

Throwing more light on the position of the House during the weekly press briefing yesterday Chairman of the House Committee on Media, Zakari Mohammed, defended the position of the House for cancelling the presentation of the adhoc committee on constitution review.

He said: "After the public sessions on the constitution review that took us to all our constituencies we agreed with the Nigerian people to produce a constitution that is all embracing.

"But because of the short time we had and the fact that a number of our colleagues have not been able to go through the reports from their various states, we had to postpone the presentation till today (yesterday).

"I want to appeal to all Nigerians that came from different parts of the country to bear with us as we will soon pick another date. "

Reacting to a question that some powerful groups, such as the Governors Forum, Northern Elders and NUT had mounted pressures on the House leadership as the report was not favourable to them, Mohammed simply said "different groups have their opinions. But outside what I have told you other views about the House are based on imagination. The official position of the House is what I have given you."

The postponement of the event sparked off immediate protests from representatives of students, civil society groups and other stakeholders who had waited for the commencement of the exercise for over two hours.

Among them were the National Association of Nigerian Students NANS, Alliance for Credible Elections ACE and other civil society groups.

National President of NANS Yinka Gbadebo, Deputy President of ACE Asuzu Echezona and a representative of Persons with Disability Initiative Society of Nigeria Augustine Onwuamaegbu at separate interviews with news men described the postponement of the collation of the constitution review report as an attempt to truncate our democracy and subvert the will of the people of Nigeria.

Gbadebo while reacting to the cancellation of the collation exercise said " this is another attempt by the House to subvert the wishes and aspirations of the people expressly captured at the 360 constituencies of this country at the peoples' public session just to satisfy the interest of a certain segment of the society".

He stated that all issues relating to local government autonomy and autonomy of state houses of assemblies which were canvassed at the peoples' public sessions and opposed by the Nigerian Governors Forum NGF as non negotiable issues would be resisted by the students even as he argued that the cancellation was an attempt to satisfy an interest group by the law-makers.

On his own part, Augustine Onwuamaegbu representing Association of People with Disability Initiative said " the Nigerian people have a lot of confidence in both houses of the National Assembly; for them to cancel the collation of the constitution review exercise shows that the House has an agenda on this issue".

Also reacting on the cancellation of the collation report yesterday, Asuzu said the yearning and aspirations of the people of this country which were expressed in the last constitution review exercise cannot be truncated by the representatives of the people because" we only elected them; they cannot dictate our views and opinions on certain issues".

The students body also stated that the group would not hesitate to mobilise students of the various institutions of higher learning in the country if the will of the people for a constitution that will reflect their views is hijacked by only a segment of society.

It would be recalled that the Kano State Governor had in a recent media interview opposed the on-going Constitution amendment exercise and Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) presently before the National Assembly. He had also stated that the National Assembly was a drain-pipe on the economy due to the insertion of constituency projects by the federal lawmakers. He had also accused members of the National Assembly of corruption.

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