Prominent Nigerians and other stakeholders have called on the National Assembly to cascade the constitution amendment process down to the grassroots at the states and local government areas of the country.
This move, they said, is pertinent to make the outcome of the constitution amendment process people-driven, process-led and broad-based in terms of citizen engagement and participation.
These positions formed part of a 15-point communiqué reached at a forum on the constitution amendment convened by OrderPaper Nigeria on Wednesday, May 26, 2021 and signed by Oke Epia, its Executive Director.
The forum, christened, OrderPaper Parliamentary Engagement Nigeria (OPEN), was organized as part of efforts to galvanize informed citizen engagement and participation in the search for a new national ethos and binding togetherness.
Speakers at the virtual event themed ‘Nation Building and Constitution Review,’ included Prof. Julius Ihonvbere, Member, House of Representatives; and Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, accomplished businessman and Elder Statesman. Participants included present and former members of the National Assembly, representatives of Civil Society Organizations and the media, among others.
According to the stakeholders, “the Constitution review process should be participatory, consultative, transparent, process-led and people-driven. It should involve more citizen engagement at the Local Government Areas and State levels instead of just the Zonal level,” and that “representatives of a wide range of citizen groups and Nigerians in Diaspora should be encouraged to contribute to the constitution review process through different fora and granular organizing.”
On the kind of constitution that should be the outcome of the review exercise, the speakers and other participants were agreed that devolution of powers and state policing were key elements in a truly federal system of government.
The communiqué said: “The outcome of the Constitution review process should include a deliberate liberation of Nigeria’s federating units so States can be fully independent of the Federal Government
“A key outcome of the Constitution review process should be promotion of social inclusion; as well as protection of weak, vulnerable groups and the poor in society. Another outcome of the Constitution review should be reduction in the cost of governance; and a systematic allocation of more percentage of budgets to capital projects rather than recurrent expenditures.
“Gender representation and equality should be considered at all stages in the process of the Constitution amendment just as women’s right should be enshrined in the amended Constitution to ensure and promote inclusiveness
“The National Assembly should strongly consider and mainstream reports from past national conferences into the current amendment process. In order to dispel concerns that the current Constitution amendment exercise may be a political jamboree, the National Assembly must ensure that the process intentionally has the citizens of Nigeria as main beneficiaries.”
The forum however stated “in spite of observed short-comings, Nigerians must engage and optimize the ongoing constitution review process to make their voices heard and have their positions imputed as much as possible in the final outcome.”
The stakeholders also called on Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and the Media to “ramp up their advocacy roles in engaging Legislators at the sub-national levels in the performance of their functions of oversight and provision of checks and balances on the Executive arm of Government at those levels.”