Deji Elumoye in Abuja
The National Assembly has urged the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) to join it in the drive to amend the 1999 Constitution (As Amended) by forwarding its memorandum to it.
The NEF, at a news conference on Sunday by its spokesman, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, had stated that rather than embarking on another constitutional review, the federal legislators should collaborate with the executive to fight banditry and insurgency facing the country.
But responding to NEF’s position yesterday, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Ajibola Basiru, advised the forum to send a memorandum detailing its position to the Constitution Review Committee.
He said: “Their views can be encapsulated in a memorandum to the Constitution Review Committee. The thematic areas advertised for constitutional reforms cut across some of the concerns they raised and therefore we shall be glad to engage them through a proper legislative channel rather than news media”.
Basiru wondered if it was wrong for the National Assembly to embark on the review of the constitution even if former attempts in the past had failed.
According to him, “even though they are entitled to their views, the question to ask is; does it mean that if former legislatures cum executive (administrations) have possibly or allegedly failed in this regard, then it can never be achieved?
“Their statement even implied an agreement by them that there is a need for fundamental restructuring exercise, which is the purpose of the present endeavour of the 9th National Assembly.”.
A former Senate Minority Leader, Senator Biodun Olujimi, also said it was wrong for the NEF to call the proposed constitutional review exercise a jamboree, adding that some achievements were recorded during the past review.
She said: “We made some impact the last time. That was where we got autonomy for the state assemblies and the judiciary. If we make small strides, you will find out that in no time, these alterations will be almost done. And except we keep striving to do them, they will just linger and nothing will be done. I do not agree with them on that score”.
Olujimi expressed optimism that the current constitutional review will yield some positive results.
“I believe that even the little, if we can achieve gender equality alteration and 35 per cent affirmative action in the alteration this time around, would we say we have not achieved anything? We would have achieved a lot because women, children and youths make up almost 60 per cent of our population and if you work for those people, then you have worked for Nigeria. So, I believe we should keep striving to do these small things with the hope that we will be allowed to do them as legislators,” she stated.