Constitutional review committee advocates independent local govt system, dropping Land Use Act from Constitution
Abuja (WorldStage Newsonline)-- The Presidential Committee on the review of outstanding issues from recent constitutional conferences has submitted its report to President Goodluck Jonathan with recommendations which include the creation of an independent Local Government system in Nigeria.
Besides, the committee also wants the Chief Justice of Nigeria to be empowered to set up a Council to from time to time set up rules of court both civil and criminal and that such councils should be representative of the judiciary, the bar, the private sector and government.
The committee also advocated for the removal of the Land Use Act from the Constitution but retaining it as a National Law.
The report of Justice Alfa Belgore led committee is expected to be part of the executive’s contribution towards the ongoing constitutional review process in the country.
The committee was inaugurated on November 17th 2011, by President Jonathan with the assurance that the work of the Committee would be an important component in the process of national dialogue for enduring change and transformation.
The Committee’s mandate also included the preparation of a legislative bill that would be sent to the National Assembly for debate and consideration in the proposed Constitutional Review exercise.
Speaking shortly after receiving the report, President Jonathan said, “I would like to reiterate our administration’s unshakeable faith in the emergence of a strong, united, and prosperous Nigerian nation.
“Our enduring sense of brotherhood, unwavering desire for freedom, unique resilience, and abiding faith in Nigeria has seen us through sundry challenges over the past 52 years of nationhood. I am confident that these innate attributes will provide us the requisite fortitude to persevere and overcome in the face of new challenges.
“Even though the present Constitution has served the nation well, the general consensus is that it requires review and amendment in view of gaps that have become evident in our attempt to operationalize it over the last 13 years.”
On the report submitted to him, he said that he was informed that the Committee reached unanimous agreements on changes in key areas of the Constitution.
Jonathan also revealed that the report contained provisions to strengthen Fundamental Rights as well as legal protection for all citizens, especially children, women and the physically challenged.
On the recommendation for speedy and fairer administration of justice, the President said the committee had his support, noting, “as I believe that fundamental rights, security of life and property, the protection of the law, and equitable dispensation of justice must be made real as they greatly influence the average citizen’s sense of obligation and patriotic disposition towards the nation.
“I am equally pleased that the Committee has paid justified attention to Local Government Administration. I am convinced, given my personal experience at national and sub-national levels of governance in Nigeria, that the greatest asset of our democracy is the commitment of people at the grassroots to the ideals of transparency, accountability and good governance.
“Considering that Local Governments have the greatest potential for maximum impact on the lives of all citizens, the extent of their efficient development is the true measure of our democracy’s claim to being a government of the people by the people and for the people.
“Similarly, the Committee has made robust proposals on the public accountability imperative for officials in the Executive and the Legislature. As the most visible arms of Government, their integrity and functional capacities determine the quality of trust and reality of the social contract in any society. Their success and mutual reinforcement define the hope of our nation, while their excesses and shortcomings subvert the dreams of democratic transformation.
“I welcome the Chairman’s assertion that the Committee has made profound recommendations to strengthen the Legislature at all levels and also to demand conformity with extant national regulations in the conduct of their affairs.
“I equally welcome the recommendations that will grant the Executive more flexibility in policy making, like the removal of the Land Use Act from the Constitution but retaining it as a National Law.”
The President also described the report as “a great contribution to the country’s efforts to have a Constitution that not only reflects our present reality, but also anticipates future challenges.”
He also assured that the report will receive expeditious consideration.
In his earlier remark, Belgore said after carefully reviewing many parts of the constitution, the committee amongst others concluded that one of the things needed in the country is an independent, incorruptible and stabilizing local government system that is administered by democratically elected officials.
The committee explained that it was necessary in order to deepen principles of democracy and sound resource management at the grass roots where it really matters.
According to him, “The committee also viewed many parts of the constitution. In particular, we put new visions into creating an optimally independent, incorruptible and stabilizing local government system that shall always be administered by democratically elected officials that must be accountable, responsive to local needs, directed, controlled and sanctioned by appropriated laws. In our view, this is necessary in order to deepen principles of democracy and sound resource management at the grass roots where it really matters.
“Of special significance is that we also looked at the judiciary vis-a-vis the bar, which is just one. The procedures we inherited from the colonial tines which were originally meant for jury has not helped the speedy dispensation of justice. The British have done away with the procedures while we still insist on them as sacrosanct, which is unfortunate. That is why we believe that the Chief Justice of Nigeria must be empowered to set up a Council to from time to time set up rules of court both civil and criminal and uh councils should be representative of the judiciary, the bar, the private sector and government.
“Whereas in the constitution, each state has its own judiciary which are linked with the National Judicial Council or appointments and disciple, there is only one bar. The area of problem will be in criminal procedure because our criminal laws are at great divergence i.e, the penal code and the criminal code. To solve this problem it will be better or the President to set up a panel to look into the possibility of a unified modern criminal legislation. If these reforms in the judiciary system and the enabling legislation are carried out, it will be possible for a counsel from, say Cross River State, to travel to Borno State, Katsina State or Sokoto State and find that the criminal law is virtually the same thing; and same will be the procedure.
“Throughout the assignment, every member of the committee felt proud to serve Nigeria on an issue as central to our national well-being as the Constitution. Each member shared the patriotic spirit that animated the Committee and the deep understanding that Nigeria is a great country. Indeed very few countries are like Nigeria. There are three countries that will achieve great heights if they are left in stability for a continuous period of twenty years. These are the Democratic Republic of Congo, Brazil and Nigeria. They are greatly endowed with everything-population, landmass and wonderful vegetation, very rich soil, well-watered even in the semi desert and above all, almost limitless supply of liquid and soil minerals.”
He added: “If our country can achieve up to 40,000 MW in electric power generation, it will be so easy to heavily industrialise it and create employment for Nigerians, with our neighbours coming here to work in a situation whereby all our raw materials will be in the country, unlike the industrialised countries of North America, Europe, India, China etc. The country Nigeria is a pride to the black race and will continue to be. The present situation of some disgruntled elements trying to destabilize the country will soon pass, once Vision20:2020 starts having even greater effect on the economy.”