With a run-down of the history of the constitution and a welcome address by the President-in-Council of the Nigerian Global Affairs Council, the Policy Dialogue on the Thematic areas of the Constitutional amendment kicked off. The dialogue had on its panel, 6 Non-Resident Policy Fellows of the Council with a virtual audience which was made up of the great citizens of Nigeria. It was noted that 2020 Constitutional amendment will be the third time the constitution is being reviewed for amendment to promote citizen-oriented Democracy since Nigeria returned to democracy in 1999.
We will share each Panelist Submission at the NIGAC Virtual Policy Dialogue on Nigeria’s Constitutional Amendment:
Dr. Efosa Edebor Trevor – IMMUNITY
He stated that Immunity is a protection for elected Public Officials shielding them from being served a notice on court proceedings and litigations. It allows them concentrate on their duties in office, though some tend to abuse these privileges. The Immunity Clause also shields Legislators from been prosecuted for whatever reason for actions they took in the course of their legislative duties, not outside of it. The idea of the clause is to ensure that elected representatives are fearless in discharging their duties that advances our democracy. Selected appointed Government Officials also have this clause extended to them.
However, this immunity does not cover the following:
- Election Matters
- Shield from Police Investigation after service in office.
- No coverage for Assets.
He stated that some citizens desire the scrap/amendment of the immunity clause for an effective democracy due to its abuse by some government officials.
Although the Nigerian Global Affairs Council thinks that the clause be retained as it is meant to protect elected officials who are primarily voted to bring programs and policies that benefits the citizens. The NIGAC proposes that the Federal Government signs the Fiscal Responsibility Act into Law, so it tightens the noose on the ability of elected and appointed officials to steal whilst in office.
According to the constitution, a citizen is one born in Nigeria or whose parents are Nigerians or acquires citizenship by naturalization. An individual above 18 can apply for citizenship, however, the constitution made no provision for the citizenship of married women, especially young female children who got married at an early stage. On the case of an indigene, the constitution made no precise clarity on who an indigene is, knowing fully well that one of the criteria of an indigene is a certificate of indigeneship.
Ms. Aanuoluwapo Kukoyi – Dividends of Democracy in Promoting Electoral Reforms
The electoral reform is basically done to improve the electoral process.
Ms. Aanuoluwapo noted that the following reforms were suggested:
- Voters Enlightenment on their rights and responsibilities.
- Legal backing of the use of Card Readers and other innovations.
- Collaboration of the National Assembly in making the electoral reforms feasible.
- INEC powers should be clearly defined.
Oladipupo Richard – Public Revenue, Fiscal Federation and Revenue Allocation
Richard noted that as a single economy, the Treasury Single Account was introduced to curb the siphoning of money and corruption. With the government looking for ways to generate tax, the principle of derivation seems to be to the advantage of certain states over others, with most times not contributing to the national pursed and cost of governance been on the increase without commensurate revenue. All these unnecessary expenses and wastages should be curbed to effectively utilize public revenue and revenue allocation be made fair and based on merit.
The Nigerian Global Affairs also thinks that Nigeria should adopt a more Federalist outlook where States are in control of their natural resources as this will enable unproductive states look inwards and identify areas where they have comparative advantage and exploit those advantages and resources to create wealth for their states whilst paying a certain percentage of their revenue to the centre. State Governments in Nigeria need to become sufficient and that can only be done when the Federal Government stops giving them monthly feeding bottle by way of revenue sharing from the Federal purse.
Socioeconomic and Cultural Rights
Equitable distribution of resources and wealth through the Federal Character has been taken advantage of by the selected few, with the absence of inclusive fairness in the distribution of wealth and meritocracy. The civil service should be made to perform optimum in its service delivery to the citizens of the country and states should be made to operate autonomously, thereby effectively utilizing their natural resources.
The Nigerian Global Affairs Council notes that the principle of Federal Character prevalent in the administration of education, jobs and other areas as highlighted by this clause should be repealed. The Federal Character Principle has only reinforced nepotism and unworthy distribution of opportunities to a certain segment of the Nigerian society who are conditioned to never attain for excellence as they understand the bar will always be lowered for their benefit even when they decide to give minimal efforts.
Victoria Amasi-Gomba – Gender Equality
In her passion-driven position, Victoria noted that the Nigerian constitution has not adequately protected the woman and girl child, most especially, in the northern part of the country. Victoria called on Government to enact policies and laws that can guarantee the girl child quality education, remove child-marriage, and ensure that women are empowered economically. Victoria related her personal experience and how her Mother and several Mothers out there are disparaged due to no faults of theirs particularly in rural communities. It was Victoria’s absolute hope that the National Assembly will enact Laws and policies to safeguard the dignity of our women and girls whilst guaranteeing them an opportunity to dream and achieve their goals.
The Nigerian Global Affairs Council also proposes that a Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act be adopted across the 36 states of the Federation and FCT to ensure that offenders can be held liable under the law no matter who they are. More importantly, we need to encourage GENDER EQUITY IN A SYSTEMIC AND CULTURAL MANNER so WOMEN AND GIRLS are not disadvantaged when it comes to pursuit of OPPORTUNITIES.
LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND ITS AUTONOMY
In this aspect, the Nigerian Global Affairs Council noted that the Not2Young2Run Act got it all wrong when it advocated for a reduction in the age limit for all political office – the NIGAC thinks that the organizers of that movement should have advocated for a reduction in the age of those who can contest for a position at the Local Government Level whilst insisting that the minimum requirement needed to contest for a position at the LG level should be proven secondary school education. The NIGAC knows that with reduced age and more young but competent professionals encouraged to contest at the grassroot that it will be possible to engender local government autonomy whilst ensuring that value is created at the grassroot for the benefit of the citizens. Local Government Autonomy can never be guaranteed if those who are meant to steer the ship are puppets of our state government. The Policies of the Federal Government to ensure financial autonomy of the Local Government should also be strengthened to ensure that Local Government delivers on their mandate to the citizens at the grassroot. There are a lot of potential our Local Government can achieve if it is allowed that financial and political autonomy. The Local Government should also have their own electoral commission that ensures autonomy of the electoral process and outcomes. The National Assembly needs to instill a culture of transparency and accountability also at the grassroots, so citizens know where their monies are going to. Lastly, the Finance and PAYE Act should be modified to accommodate a percentage of TAX State Governments collect to be shared to the Local Governments based off the Local Government of Residence of Employees based in that State and Local Government.
Osayuwamen Aladesu (Yuwa) – True Federalism
Yuwa posed this question at the beginning of her presentation, Does Nigeria practice true federalism?
The following recommendations were made to enhance true federalism practice:
- The state should be given autonomy of its own on resources, security etc.
- Every state should be given the power to develop at its own pace.
- States should be autonomous and contribute a percentage to the federal
- Devolution of powers should be looked upon.
- The Federal Structure should be analyzed again.
THE NIGERIAN POLICE
Protection of lives and properties is the main function of the Nigerian Police. Therefore, more emphasis should be placed on state policing by making it, economically viable. The police should be allowed to safeguard their own communities of origin, this will ensure effective performance in the police force. Lastly, the welfare and accommodation conditions of the Nigerian Police Force should be prioritized and given due attention. Our Police Officers cannot be expected to perform maximally if their living conditions is abysmal. We encourage the Federal Government to work with the private sector in providing a total overhaul of the Nigerian Police Barracks. Modern housing Estates should be built and distributed to all Police Officers, overcrowding should be minimized whilst ensuring that the Nigerian Police Force have the requisite psychological and mental training needed to perform optimally and professionally at their Jobs. With the adoption of true federalism, it will be easier and cost effective for State Governments to manage the welfare of a State Police Force. The Nigerian Police Force in every cadre should also embrace technology in the discharge of their duties and responsibilities.
Barrister Elizabeth Osarobo – Judicial Reforms
Barrister Osarobo in her postulation mentioned that the constitution has empowered the judiciary to ignore certain complaints of the citizens in chapter 6 and due to the non-enforceability of chapter 2 of the constitution, no reforms can be made on the constitution. The Government has a responsibility and obligation to meet the basic needs of the citizenry, but it is ironical that the Government cannot be held liable for its failures to meet the basic constitutional guarantees of the Citizens. It is an ABERRATION.
Therefore, it is advisable to make chapter 2 of the constitution enforceable and accountability should be encouraged. Sub-section 6 (c), which was made with the interest of the masses protect the Political Elites.
On the aspect of Judicial reforms, Barrister Elizabeth noted some anomalies that makes it totally impossible if not extremely hard to promote speedy dispensation of justice. She enthused that technological tools should should be adopted for the judiciary for reforms to be felt. This needs to be embedded into the Act to ensure that Judges can adopt a tech-based approach in the discharge of their duties. The welfare of judges should also be prioritized so we do not have Judges who are amenable to taking bribes or subverting justice via financial inducement.
This postulation ended our 1st National Virtual Policy Dialogue for the Month of September 2020.
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The Nigerian Global Affairs Council is a Technology-based and Digital Media-driven Public Policy and Evidence-based Research Think-Tank that always simplifies Government Policy Positions.