Abuja — In a bid to check the phenomenon of bad leadership, the House of Representatives yesterday moved to amend the provisions of the 1999 Constitution to criminalise irresponsibility and lack of accountability in the governance of the country.
The lower chamber of the National Assembly passed through second reading a bill seeking to alter the constitution to make provisions for the enforcement of the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy.
Also yesterday, another bill seeking to alter the provisions of the constitution to criminalise contempt of the parliament scaled second reading.
Smarting from the inability of the Inspector General of Police to track down the Chairman, Presidential Task Team on Pension Reforms (PTTPR), Mr. Abdulrasheed Maina, the lawmakers also passed a bill seeking to make it a criminal offence for anyone to shun the summon of the parliament.
If the bill finally becomes law, anyone who fails to honour the invitation of the House even after a warrant of arrest has been issued against him/her shall be deemed to have run contempt of the National Assembly.
According to the proposed law, the contempt becomes due 30 days after the warrant had been issued.
The Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy are enshrined in Chapter Two of the constitution and outlines the essence, responsibilities of government as well as the expectations of the citizenry. It deals with the basic responsibilities of the government to the governed, including the provision of security, shelter, education and healthcare among others. It also enjoins the government to ensure the running of a sound economy to ensure the survival of the people.
Chairman, House Committee on Inter-Party Relations, Hon. Forte Dike, who sponsored the first piece of legislation disclosed that the bill was designed to make the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy enshrined in the constitution was justifiable.
Dike argued that citizens of Nigeria have continued to experience bad governance, while these principles which captures the essence of governance have remained dormant in the 1999 Constitution.
According to him, the citizens have been helpless and have neither benefitted from this state policy nor have they been able to hold government accountable for its failures. He said that the bill was meant to offer the people a platform to hold governments at various levels accountable. He argued that once these rights of the people were made justifiable, the average Nigerian could go to court to challenge the government for failure to provide security, quality education, affordable shelter and all other benefits which governments owe the citizenry.
The bill enjoyed the support of a good number of lawmakers while a cross section of the lawmakers disagreed with the bill.
Leading the pack of those who opposed the bill was Hon. Friday Itulah, who argued that those principles and objectives of state policy were like guidelines and ideals which governments are advised to follow. He said while it was good to strive towards these goals, any attempt to criminalise them will be difficult and might become a wild goose chase.
Similarly, Hon. Chris Eta, who collaborated Itulah position, argued that there was no need to further make laws to make these fundamental objectives justifiable as the constitution has already provided avenues for the citizens to combat bad leadership.
According to him, what has been lacking has been the ability of the people to play their own role by voting out any government that falls short of meeting the needs of the people.
In spite of the opposition, the bill was adopted in a voice vote and referred to the Special Adhoc Committee on Review of the constitution.