The House of Representatives yesterday recorded a major setback in the ongoing amendment of the 1999 constitution. The presentation of the collated results of the recent Peoples Public Sessions held in 360 federal constituencies, slated for yesterday was curiously canceled.
Though the leadership of the House hinged the cancelation on the need to correct some errors contained in the report, some sources claimed that disagreement among the lawmakers as well as external influence caused the cancelation.
After a marathon meeting of all principal officers and some key members of the Constitution Review Committee that lasted for about three hours, the Speaker, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal announced to the surprise of guests who were seated at Hall 231 that the event had been put off. Tambuwal explained that the cancelation was arrived at after a wide consultation by his leadership to address some mistakes.
He said: “I will begin by apologising to you collectively and severally for the delay in the commencement of the process. I would like to say that as leaders, we will continue to engage ourselves and in the process of doing that ensure that what ought to be done or needs to be done is done very well.
“Especially here in the House of Representatives where this process has been acclaimed to be transparent thus far, we will not as such want a situation whereby at this stage there should be no issue that has to do with the total collated results of what need to be presented to the public today.”
He maintained “as leadership, we have reviewed the process so far and realised that we cannot go ahead with this programme today. Just like any other thing associated with humans, there are hitches here and there that are normal.”
Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Zakari Mohammed corroborated the submission of the Speaker. He stressed that there were errors in the report which according to him, if allowed to go to the public would be an embarrassment.
Mohammed told journalists that the leadership was compelled to withdraw the report when some members complained that they were not allowed time to go through the report to ensure that the views of their constituents were captured.
He said: “After the public sessions on the constitution review that took us to all our constituencies, we agreed with the Nigerian people to produce a constitution that is all embracing.
“But because of the short time we have and the fact that a number of our colleagues have not been able to go through the reports from their various states, we had to postpone the presentation today.
“I want to appeal to all Nigerians that came from different parts of the country to bear with us, we will soon pick another date.” However, Daily Sun gathered that the real reason why the public presentation was shelved was as a result of the disagreement among members over the contents of the report.
Apart from that, a principal officer who pleaded anonymity disclosed that the Speaker was embarrassed by the magnitude of mistakes contained in the report. He also alleged that some legislators were doing the bidding of their governors to frustrate the amendment. According to him, Tambuwal openly disagreed with the leadership of the Constitution Review Committee headed by the Deputy Speaker, Emeka Ihedioha on the latter’s stance that the report should be presented despite its inadequacies.
He was also said to have given ear to claims by some lawmakers that the committee did not carry them along before coming up with the report. Tambuwal, the source at the meeting said was very uncomfortable with the fact that stakeholders like the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) and the Civil Society Organisations, that had been working with the committee on the issue were equally not allowed to have access to the final report. Mohammed did not confirm some of the claims but he did not expressly deny them.
Instead, he submitted that the constitution was the conscience of the country and therefore, everything must be done to ensure that its amendment met a high standard. On the claim that some external influence contributed to the cancellation of the report presentation, Mohammed denied the claim, saying he was not aware that the Northern Governors Forum was working against the amendment and was responsible for the cancelation of the presentation.