By IHEANACHO NWOSU, Abuja
Ahead of today’s public session organised by the National Assembly in all the constituencies across the country, in relation to the review of the 1999 constitution, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Aminu Tambuwal, has assured that every Nigerian would be carried along in a transparent manner all through the amendment.
In line with the promise of transparency, Tambuwal said the public session, which is christened ‘Peoples Session’, will be videoed and the electronic document will be made available to anybody that wants to know the details of the exercise.
“It is in the spirit of unrestrained transparency that video coverage of all the proceedings is instituted. This electronic document will be available for purposes of reference and verification,” the speaker stated this through his Media Adviser, Mallam Imam Imam. Tambuwal, however, refuted media report that he was in support of the inclusion of referendum in the processes of the review. He said he could have backed what he knew was not accommodated in the constitution.
According to Tambuwal, the House will adopt every constitutional and transparent means to deliver an acceptable constitution. Giving detailed explanation on why the National Assembly members want to hold session at the grassroots, he said: “Whereas the House of Representatives is fully conscious of the fact that under Section 4 of the Constitution, the legislative powers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria are vested in the National Assembly and that by Section 9 of same, the procedure for altering the constitution is expressly prescribed, we do not lose sight of Section 14 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which encourages the promotion of popular participation by the citizenry in governance.
“It is in the light of this realisation that we have opted for a process, which is certainly more cumbersome. The main objective is to inject credibility into the process and by necessary implication the final document and ensure genuine ownership by Nigerians.” On the call for the use of referendum instead of public session, Tambuwal stressed: “While acknowledging the public compliments that have greeted the People’s Public Sessions initiative, I also note the well intentioned suggestions put forth by other individuals and groups for alternatives, the most prominently canvassed being the employment of referendum as a process for the constitution review.
“I consider it imperative, both in my capacity as the Speaker and head of the institution midwifing the constitutional review process and also as a legal practitioner, to offer opinion on our preference for the people’s public sessions rather than referendum. As an institution, we have sworn to defend the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This implies that whatever our zeal in responding to public and even popular opinion on issues of critical national importance we must at all times be guided by the spirit and letter of this Constitution.
“Having said so, permit me to state right away that referendum, as a legislative process, is not contemplated by the Nigerian constitution. It cannot therefore be an option, being unconstitutional.”