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Home Law Proposed Constitutional Amendments Submitted by Y.C Maikyau, SAN, FCIArb.(UK), to the House...

Proposed Constitutional Amendments Submitted by Y.C Maikyau, SAN, FCIArb.(UK), to the House of Representatives Committee on Constitution Review, At the Birnin Kebbi Centre of the North West Geopolitical Zone On Wednesday, 2nd June, 2021.

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I am a very proud citizen of Nigeria,from the present Waje Ward, in Danko Wasagu Local Government Area of Kebbi State. I am a lawyer by Profession and by the special grace of God, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria(SAN). I am engaged in private legal practice.

Permit me to appreciate and applaud the National Assembly, for its show of respect to the people of this Nation and the sincerity, in acknowledging the existence of deficiencies in our Constitution.
In the Welcome Address delivered by the Chairman of this Committee, Rt. Hon. Adekoya Adesegun Abdel-Majid, the Deputy Minority Whip, he noted thus;
” It is no longer news that presently our nation is going through a period of unease and that indeed there are growing concerns across the nation in terms of insecurity and ethno-cultural agitations all of which might not have been unconnected with the inadequacies in our present National Constitution. These inadequacies seek urgent redress and attention lest we are all consumed by the effects of our failures to discuss our common and collective problems as a people. It is the need to address these deficiencies in our Constitution that the National Assembly and in particular, the House of Representatives under the leadership of Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila decided to return to our people across the length and breadth of Nigeria with a view to seeking your voices, contributions, participation,and inputs in the proposed alteration of the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999( as amended). By this process, a thoroughly debated conversation will engender a Constitution that we can truly call our own”

While totally agreeing with the Chairman of this Committee in his comment quoted above and without discounting the need, importance or imperativeness of the amendment of the present Constitution, I believe that the failure of the present Constitution as we see,experienced and/ or are experiencing it as a people, has more to do with the sincerity with with which we have operated the Constitution, both from the perspective of the leadership and the followership, in Nigeria.
My humble opinion is that, if the present Constitution as it is had, defective or deficient as it may be in terms of its text or context, been operated with only 50% honesty and sincerity, Nigeria today, would have been the envy of the nations of the world. Put differently, if Nigerians had been led honestly and sincerely on one hand, and
Nigerians had responded to the leadership honestly and sincerely on the other hand, the gloom that seem to loom over Nigeria, would not have been our experience and there probably would not have been such calls for the restructuring of Nigeria; part of which the ongoing process of the proposed Constitutional amendment, seek to address.
My first call in this exercise therefore, is for all Nigerians, whether in the position of leadership, howsoever described, or from the perspective those being led, to be honest and sincere in the conversations on the proposed amendment of the Constitution, as only and only then, can we give birth to a Constitution that can truly be called our own.
Inclusive of Youths, Women and Persons living with disabilities.

With this call at the back of our minds, i propose most humbly that, the provisions of the Constitution, which provide for the establishment of Nigeria as State, founded on democracy and social justice; the composition of Governments of the Federation and the State, their agencies and parastatals, should at all times in their composition or appointments, as the case may be, comprise youths, women and persons living with disabilities. Such that, for purposes of Section 14(3) and (4) of the CFRN 1999, as amended, the composition of the Government of the Federation or of the State, or any of their agencies, will only be said to have recognised the diversity of the people with the view to promote a sense of belonging and loyalty among all the people of the Federation, where not less than 1/2 of those so appointed into positions in the respective Governments of the Federation, State and their agencies comprise youths, women and persons with disabilities.
Similarly, the provisions of Sections 171 and 208 of the CFRN, on the appointments by the President and the Governor respectively, be altered to make accommodation for youths, women and persons living with disabilities, in the like manner.

The future of every nation lies in the youth of that nation. In this time and age, giving the impact of globalisation engendered principally by the technological advancements of this century, it is the energy, resourcefulness, dynamism, potentials, creativity, deliberateness and purposefulness of the youths of Nigeria, under the guidance of the experienced and well meaning older generation, that can, not only get Nigeria out of the woods, but also successfully reposition us in our pride of place amongst the comity of Nations. We must therefore approach this understanding with a constitutional response, in order to guarantee deliberate and sustained effort towards harnessing the potentials of our youths, for the desired national development.

Also, the place of women in National development, cannot be over emphasised. It is commonly said that, empowering a woman is tantamount to empowering a nation.

Thirdly, we must as a deliberate constitutional policy, make room for persons living with disabilities. We have for long ignored the potentials resident in our Brothers and Sisters living with disabilities. I have a colleague in my office; incidentally she is from this State, who graduated with a 2:1 degree in Law and 2:1 from the Nigerian Law School. She has so much faith in this Country and I believe there are many more like her, waiting to be carried on board a constitutional pedestal and it will amaze Nigerians, the dimension of productivity they will bring into the polity.

Finally on this, the security challenge in Nigeria is one that can, with proper guidance to the youths, be tackled leveraging on their technological prowess. Let us give or afford the youths a sizable space in the Constitution and it will be a Constitution that will make Nigeria work again!

Independent Candidacy:

This brings me to the need to make or create enabling Constitutional environment for the youths to compete more in the political landscape. We all know how expensive it is to run for an elective office in Nigeria. Also, no person can aspire for any elective office under the Constitution, except on the platform of a political party; candidates for elective offices must be sponsored by political parties. See Section 221 of the Constitution. Clearly, there is no room for independent Candidacy, under the present Constitution. It follows that a youth, woman or person living with disability, who cannot scale the hurdles to secure a ticket on a political party, can never express his or her political aspiration.

So, while advocating for an amendment to allow for Independent candidacy, I also propose the amendment of Section 223(1) of the CFRN, 1999, as amended, in the manner that I earlier proposed the amendment of section 14(3) and (4) thereof, by ensuring that not less than 1/2 of those to be elected/appointed into the Executive Committee or other governing bodies of political parties, must comprise the youths, women and persons living with disabilities. By this, policies of political parties will always be structured to cater for these critical and important members of our society, in whose hands the future of the nation Nigeria largely depends. The all inclusive Constitutional concept of Federal Character must be expanded to accommodate this level of participation of youths, women and persons living with disabilities. I must however add that in all cases, regard must be had to merits and standards.

Furthermore, in order to make the kind of room that will bring about the required revolutionary changes through the inclusion of youths in the process of governance, I humbly propose that the eligibility limit to contest for elective offices on the ground of age, should be revisited. See sections 7(4), 65(1)(b),106(b),131(b) and 177(b) of the CFRN, 1999, as amended.

We are witnesses in this country of how youths, under 30 years of age, created, managed and are still managing businesses, with capital bases running into billions of Dollars. There is absolutely no reason why, one must be 25 years old before he/she may stand election into the Local Government Council or the State Legislature. The same goes for elections into the National Assembly, offices of the Governor, Deputy Governor, President and the Vice President. If a person is old enough to vote upon attaining 18 years, such a person should be eligible to contest election from that age. To sincerely empower the youth the youths to take over the reigns of power tomorrow (youths are the leaders of tomorrow), that “ tomorrow” may never come until the youths are strategically engaged in the process of governance. There must be deliberate education, mentoring and character development, that will prepare our youths for the leadership responsibilities that lie ahead of us as a people and a nation. I believe the proposed amendments to include youths, women and persons living with disabilities will afford us the opportunity to be proactive in this respect and build the deserving future leadership for Nigeria.

Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission.

This brings me to the provisions of Sections 84,124 and Third Schedule, Part 1, paragraph 32(b) and (d) of the CFRN, 1999, as amended, dealing with the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission.
The paragraphs of the Schedule referred above give the RMAFC the power, inter alia, to

(b)”review, from time to time the revenue allocation formulae and principles in operation to ensure conformity with changing times:Provided that any revenue formula which had been accepted by an Act of the National Assembly shall remain in force for a period of not less than five years from the date of commencement of the Act”

d)“determine the remuneration appropriate for political office holders, including the President, Vice President, Governors, Deputy Governors, Ministers,Commissioners, Special Advisers, legislators and the holders of the offices mentioned in Sections 84 and 124 of this Constitution”

Indeed, the RMAFC, had by an Act of the National Assembly, made a determination of the salaries, allowances and other perquisites, for the officers or office holders mentioned above. This was done in the year 2007. Notwithstanding the obvious changes in the concrete economic realities, there has never been, since 2007, any review by the RMAFC “to ensure conformity with changing realities”.

I am privileged by virtue of my standing in the legal profession, to know that, Judges and Justices have not had their salaries and allowances reviewed, at least,since the determination made in 2007 by the RMAFC. For some, it is for even a longer period.

The reason for this is obviously not far fetched; the proviso that revenue formulae ”shall remain in force for a period of not less than five years…..”. This provision, I humbly propose, should be amended to make the salaries and allowances reviewable not later than five years and not earlier than 3 years from the last review.

Cost of the Bicameral Legislature and omissions in Sections 84 and 124 of the CFRN, 1999, as amended:

There has been hues and cries about the salaries, allowances and the apparent high cost of maintaining the National Assembly as presently constituted. While I support the call for a unicameral Legislative House, it is necessary to note that, the refusal by the Constitution to subject legislators to the determination by the RMAFC, under Sections 84 and 124 of the Constitution, may have been partly responsible for the public suspicion about the extent or amount of salaries and allowances being paid to the Members of the National Assembly.

d)“determine the remuneration appropriate for political office holders, including the President, Vice President, Governors, Deputy Governors, Ministers,Commissioners, Special Advisers, legislators and the holders of the offices mentioned in Sections 84 and 124 of this Constitution”

Whereas in paragraph 32(d) quoted above, the RMAFC, is empowered to determine the remuneration appropriate for legislators, the omission to list legislators in Sections 84 and 124 of the Constitution may seem to suggest that the legislators are not subject to the limits set by RMAFC, pursuant to Sections 84 and 124 of the Constitution, hence the alleged whimsical and capricious pay received by the legislators. This, also adds to the cries about the huge cost of running and maintaining the bicameral legislature.

I humbly propose, the specific mention of Legislators in sections 84 and 124 of the Constitution, for purposes of transparency,accountability and to give effect to the powers of the RMAFC, as prescribed in Paragraph 32, Part 1 of the Third Schedule to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended.

Conclusion.

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