From IHEANACHO NWOSU and CHUKS AKUNNA, Abuja
House of Representatives yesterday backtracked on its hard line position not to subject the outcome of the constitution amendment process to a referendum. Speaker of the House, Aminu Tambuwal, in a bid to give the people a stronger voice on issues for amendment, said the House would include referendum in the adoption process.
Speaking at the flag off of the Peoples’ session holding nationwide on Saturday Tambuwal said the House was not averse to any process that would involve the generality of Nigerians in the amendment. The Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) recently criticised the choice of Peoples’ session adopted by the House to get the inputs of stakeholders especially the grassroots in the constitution amendment.
The event was slated to hold in 360 federal constituencies. House’s spokesman, Zakari Mohammed, had last week criticised the position of NBA and vowed that the House was going ahead with the Peoples’ session. He argued that the use of referendum was unconstitutional and uncalled for. But Tambuwal at the event yesterday assured that referendum could be included in the amendment process alongside the Peoples’ session.
Sharing its thoughts on the planned amendment the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) differed with the National Assembly on the excersise. It said the only thing that could bring solution to the numerous socio-economic cum political challenges plaguing Nigeria was not a piecemeal amendment of the constitution but evolving an alternative constitution to the one being used currently.
The President of ASUU, Dr. Nasir Isa Fagge argued that reviewing the 1999 Constitution would not provide the solution that Nigerians were currently seeking for their multifarious fundamental problems. He urged the House of Representatives to rather fashion out a procedure that would produce alternative constitution for Nigeria, saying the 1999 Constitution was defective in many ways.
The university don, who was very pessimistic about the ability of any amendment to the existing constitution to address the nation’s menacing problems, opined that the 1999 Constitution was not amendable. Addressing the audience at the flag off, the NBA reiterated that a referendum was inevitable in the process if the outcome of the review must be accepted as the people’s constitution.
President of the body, Mallam Aliyu Umar (SAN), submitted that even the public sessions being organized in the 360 federal constituencies by the House of Representatives was not provided for in the 1999 Constitution just as the lawmakers claimed that the same document made no provision for a referendum to be conducted before the constitution was altered.
He, however, urged the legislators to consider the issues of residence and citizenship, state creation and several other contentious issues that had posed serious challenged to the socio-economic and political development of Nigeria over the years.