March 3, 2024

Constitution Amendment Suffers Delay, State Assemblies yet to Begin Work 

Barely a month after the National Assembly transmitted to the 36 states Houses of Assembly the harmonised amendments to the 1999 Constitution, most states have yet to begin deliberations on the documents, Sunday PUNCH has learnt.

In the fifth alteration to the constitution by the ninth Assembly, the two chambers, Senate and the House of Representatives, passed 44 bills.

Our correspondents reported that most of the states have yet to constitute committees to study the report while the few that have set up committees have not made much progress on the amendment.

Part 2, Section 9 (1)&(2) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) states that any alteration to the constitution shall not be passed if the proposal is not approved by a minimum of 24 states Houses of Assembly, representing two-thirds of the 36 states.

The Section reads, “The National Assembly may, subject to the provision of this section, alter any of the provisions of this Constitution.

“An Act of the National Assembly for the alteration of this Constitution, not being an Act to which section 8 of this Constitution applies, shall not be passed in either House of the National Assembly unless the proposal is supported by the votes of not less than two-thirds majority of all the members of that House and approved by resolution of the Houses of Assembly of not less than two-thirds of all the states.”

The Clerk to the National Assembly, Mr Ojo Olatunde Amos, had while transmitting the documents to the clerks to the state Assemblies on March 29, 2022, said, “With the transmission of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (Fifth Alteration) Bills, 2022, it must be made clear and unambiguous that the 9th National Assembly has started the process of restructuring within the polity.”

The Chairperson, Forum of Clerks, Lyna Aliya Ocholor, said at the event, “The fifth alteration is novel. And we will work hard to ensure that the states give concurrent approval that it deserves,” she added.

However, about a month after, most state Assemblies have yet to work on the document.

In Osun State, the Speaker of the 26-member House, Mr Timothy Owoeye, said work would soon begin on it.

Owoeye, who spoke through his Chief Press Secretary, Kunle Alabi, told one of our correspondents in an interview, “It is true that the constitutional amendment bill has been transmitted to the state Assembly through the Clerk of the House. The documents have been studied by the State of Osun House of Assembly. If not for the paucity of funds, there would have been a retreat on it. Since members are the representatives of the people, they may also have engagements with their constituents and at the end of the day the people’s wish will carry the day. It will be put to a vote.”

In Bayelsa State, the Speaker of the 24-member Assembly, Mr Abraham Ingobere, said plenaries would be scheduled for members to make their inputs.

When asked when the House would start work on the amendment, Ingobere declined giving a specific date, saying everyone would know when the exercise starts. “The transmission (of the amendments) has got to the Assembly, the clerk will communicate that to the House, we will look at it and members will take their decisions. That is the legislative procedure.”

In Cross River State, when asked if work had started on the exercise, the Speaker of the 25-member Assembly, Eteng Williams, in a terse text message to one of our correspondents, said, “Not yet, because the court ruled against us and we just filed an appeal.”

An Abuja High Court had last month sacked 18 members of the Assembly and two members of the House of Representatives for defecting from the Peoples Democratic Party to the All Progressives Congress

May last year. They defected along with the state governor, Prof Ben Ayade, and his deputy, Ivara Esu. Soon after the judgment, security operatives took over the Assembly complex and prevented the lawmakers from entering.

In Gombe State, attempts made to reach the Speaker of the 24-member Assembly, Abubakar Luggerewo, proved abortive, but sources in the Assembly said an eight-member committee had been set up, with the deputy speaker, Sidi Buba, as the chairman.

One of the sources said, “Initially, the committee had three weeks but work on it would now commence after the Sallah break because of the Ramadan. On the projected duration of the exercise, another source noted, “The House won’t do much aside from voting for or against; the deliberations have been done by the National Assembly.”

In Ondo State, the Assembly has yet to commence work on the bills. One of the principal officers told one of our correspondents on condition of anonymity, “We have not started work on the constitution amendment. Maybe now that Easter is over, we will start.”

Efforts to speak with the Speaker of the 26-member Assembly, Mr Bamidele Oloyeloogun, were unsuccessful. His mobile line was switched off and the text message sent to him was not replied.

In Enugu State, the Chairman, House Committee on Information, Jeff Mba, told one of our correspondents that the House was yet to start working on the bills. There are 24 members of the Assembly.

On when the House would submit its resolutions to the National Assembly, Mba said, “Until we officially receive it, I wouldn’t be able to say anything on the timeline.”

In Oyo State, there are indications that the House may not work on the bills until after party primaries scheduled for May.

The Deputy Speaker of the 32-member Assembly, Mr Abiodun Fadeyi, told one of our correspondents, “We are going on a retreat on it so that we can enlighten ourselves, after which we will begin deliberations on the floor of the House. We will resume after all the primary elections so that we can deliberate on it holistically. We will do what the people want, like the issue of local government autonomy and state police.”

In Katsina State, efforts to speak with the Speaker of the 34-member Assembly, Tasiu Magarin, or his deputy, Dalhatu Tafoki, were abortive as their phones rang out. Sunday PUNCH learnt from sources in the Assembly that work had yet to begin on the bills.

A source in the Assembly said the members could not work on the bills earlier because the House only resumed from its recess on April 9. He noted that only the Speaker or his deputy could speak on the issue. Both principal officers had yet to reply to the messages sent to them.

In Delta State, one of our correspondents learnt that the bill was introduced by the Speaker of the 29-member Assembly, Mr Sheriff Oborevwori, at plenary two weeks ago. Efforts made to reach the Speaker or his media aide failed as calls and text messages put across to their phones were not responded to.

However, a source in the Assembly said not much had been done on the bills after they were introduced at plenary, saying this could be due to the political engagements of the Speaker, who has joined the governorship race.

In Zamfara State, the Director-General, Media and Press Relations of the House, Mustafa Jafaru Kaura, said members of the House were on recess and would not resume until after the Ramadan.

He said the Speaker of the 24-member Assembly, Nasiru Muazu Magarya, attended a meeting of the Conference of Speakers in Oyo State, where the issue was also discussed. “The House will sit and deliberate on the document immediately after the recess,” he added.

In Kwara State, the Assembly, with 24 members, the Chairman of the House Committee on Information, Ayokunle Awolola, told one of our correspondents in an interview, “The Assembly has set up a committee to work on the proposed amendments and the committee has started deliberating on them.”

In Akwa Ibom State, the Chairman of the House Committee on Information, Mr Aniefiok Denis, said a committee would soon be set up to look into the amendments already received by the Speaker and the Clerk. “There would even be a public hearing on it,” he added.

In Edo State, the Speaker of the Assembly, Marcus Onobum, said the House had yet to begin deliberations on the amendments, noting that the people of the state would be consulted before positions are taken on the bills. He said the House would start deliberations when members resume in May.

He added, “We have up till June to come up with our resolutions after which we will transmit it to the National Assembly.

In Anambra State, a member of the 30-member Assembly, Mr Uzoma Eli, said the House was working to speed up the process of the amendment, having been busy with the activities that accompanied the change of leadership in the state.

Eli said, “We will expedite actions on it and revert to the National Assembly. Our mindset is not to work with the deadline, our mindset is to come up with our resolutions and transmit the same to them

Punch News

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