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Nigeria’s constitution faces overhaul as House Committee prepares for inauguration

Deputy Speaker Benjamin Kalu to Lead 37-Member Committee in Comprehensive Review Amid Calls for Increased Transparency and Accountability

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The House of Representatives Committee on Constitution Review is poised to be inaugurated when the National Assembly resumes post-Christmas recess, marking a significant step towards reshaping Nigeria’s constitutional landscape. The 37-man committee, headed by Deputy Speaker Benjamin Kalu, is set to commence its work on Tuesday, January 30, with representation from each state and the Federal Capital Territory.

An exclusive investigation by The Punch has uncovered the committee’s readiness to gather relevant documents for the upcoming constitutional review. The move comes against the backdrop of persistent challenges in governance, demands for enhanced transparency and accountability, and the imperative for restructuring the Nigerian state.

While the 1999 Constitution has undergone five alterations, the evolving landscape of governance necessitates further amendments. Notably, previous alterations occurred twice under the late President Umaru Yar’ Adua and three times under the immediate past President, Muhammadu Buhari. The 10th Assembly, under Speaker Tajudeen Abbas, expresses its commitment to comprehensive constitutional reforms.

The Legislative Agenda, unveiled by Speaker Abbas, outlines key steps for further alterations, including the enactment of a constitutional alteration procedure law, the consolidation of all amendments into a collaborative document with the Nigerian Law Reform Commission, and a review of penal provisions. The House also pledges to scrutinize the 2023 general elections, addressing gaps observed in the recent constitutional amendments and the new Electoral Act 2022.

One significant proposal involves amending the Electoral Act 2022 to allow diaspora voting by government officials globally. A committee member, speaking anonymously, highlighted the need to refine Section 60(5), addressing concerns about the electronic transmission of results during elections.

Another critical issue on the legislative agenda is the consideration of state police. Since the Boko Haram insurgency in 2009, security challenges have escalated. The proposal for state police, championed by President Bola Tinubu during his election campaigns, is met with mixed feelings among lawmakers.

Members express concerns about the potential abuse of state police powers and funding challenges. While some advocate for the decentralization of the Nigeria Police Force, others, like Afolabi Afuape, question the viability of state police as a solution to the nation’s security challenges.

The chairman of the House Committee on Judiciary, Okuwole Oke, sees state police as a timely idea. The upcoming constitutional review is expected to address various concerns, including state creation and constituency delimitation processes, ensuring genuine public participation in governance.

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