The National Assembly has
affirmed the justification in calls by the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) and many others for the ongoing constitution review process to address major challenges in the Nigerian polity, Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege has said.
“I completely agree with your
submissions that constitution alteration can be utilized for social engineering to address the challenges in our polity, in our economy and security. Over the last decades, these challenges have become exacerbated for various reasons,” he stated while receiving leaders of both unions and representatives of some civil society groups in his office on Monday, 28 June, 2021.
The Deputy Senate President
who is also Chairman of the Senate Committee on Review of the 1999 Constitution was represented by his Chief of Staff, Dr. Otive Igbuzor while the NUT was represented by Dr. Okoroafor Okechukwu and the duo of Senator Bala Adamu who served as Senator between 1999 to 2003 while Comrade Ambali Olatunji represented NULGE.
During the courtesy visit
organized by the Partnership to Engage, Reform and Learn ( PERL), former Leader of the House of Representatives, Honourable Samson Osagie and Comrade John Mutu presented the perspectives of Democracy Vanguard, a coalition of civil society groups.
In his speech, Senator Omo-
Agege applauded the solidarity visit, stressing that the National Assembly will partner with them even in their plans in the monitoring of various states Houses of Assembly’s consideration of proposed amendments after the National Assembly’s first vote.
“I note that many of the
issues you have raised in terms of direct funding to local governments, mainstreaming youth into governance, roles for traditional rulers and so on, are already addressed in the memoranda that the Nigeria Labour Congress and many other Nigerians have submitted and the constitution review process is already taking those into consideration.
“I note that there are some
issues you raised but which are not in your memoranda – issues such as direct funding for UBEC, defining those to participate in the management of primary education and I urge you send the memo soonest because we are concluding arrangements; the commitment of the leadership of the Senate is that voting on the constitution review process would be done before they go on the long recess in July.
“There is also something that
I want all of us to go back on – that is part of the challenges of our democracy; in one breath, we are pushing for genuine federalism through fiscal federalism, devolution of powers to states but in another breath, we are saying that states are not capable of conducting free and fair local government council elections,” the Deputy Senate President stated.
Emphasizing the need every
group and individuals have significant roles to play towards deepening Nigeria’s democracy and making leaders at all levels accountable, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege expressed amazement that many who criticize the nation’s President and decisions being taken in Abuja hardly bother to contribute meaningful ideas to help ensure accountability in their local government area.
“It is a challenge of the
fact that in any democracy, every sector must do its work towards ensuring accountability; the internal mechanisms will do their work, civil society must do its work of holding elected leaders accountable.
“There are many people in
various local government areas who abuse the President everyday yet they cannot say anything about what is happening in the local government; a council chairman may collect funds and say he got less because the state governor is collecting it all.
“We have challenges and these
challenges have to be resolved at various levels: the constitution recognizes the three tiers of government and civil society, the mass media, labour unions, development unions, ethnic its, religious organizations and others must try to ensure that all tiers of government are accountable – I think that is the only way we can move forward as a country.
“We have responded
elaborately to those calling for a fresh constitution and it must be noted that an amendment has not been made to Section 9 of Nigeria’s constitution; so, the National Assembly will stay within the confines of the constitution to do its work,” he stated.