By: Jide Akintunde
On the 26th of August, 2020, a statement signed by the Deputy President of the Senate and Chairman of the Senate Ad-Hoc Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution, Senator Ovie A. Omo-Agege, announced that the Committee has “formally commenced the process of further alteration to the provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).”
The statement called on the general public, and groups, to submit memoranda or proposals covering 13 items for the review of the Constitution within 14 days of the announcement.
To Build A Nation (TBAN), a nonpartisan citizens movement advocating for constitutional and electoral reforms in Nigeria and also focused on providing civic education to Nigerians, believes that what the country fundamentally needs is a completely new constitution that is truly by the people and reflects a new “Grand Bargain” that reinvents Nigeria for political stability and prosperity.
Short of a new constitution, the would-be amendments to the 1999 Constitution (as amended) need to be far-reaching in addressing many of the constitutional issues of deep concern to Nigerians. Happily, many of the issues are covered in the 13 items for which memoranda have been requested.
However, TBAN believes that the 14-day ultimatum for summitting proposals for the constitutional amendment is too short. Therefore, TBAN would like to call for a meaningful extension of the deadline by at least two weeks. Nigerians should not be prevented from contributing to the amendment process through a timeframe that seems just barely tolerant of the contributions of the people.
TBAN also calls on the Senate Committee to provide the public more information about the entire framework for the constitutional amendment and the timelines for the entire process.
Without these considerations, a new attempt that merely tweaks the Constitution would be pointless, except to circumvent the yearnings of most Nigerians for a constitutional framework that can inspire national unity and socioeconomic progress in the country. In this regard, we already noted the views of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) and the Yoruba Summit Group (YSG).