Kwali - Mr Ezenwa Nwagwu, the Chairman of Partners for Electoral Reform, an NGO, has called for the removal of the authority vested in the President to appoint INEC’s Chairman and Commissioners.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Sections 153 and 154 of the 1999 Constitution empowered the president to appoint INEC’s chairman and electoral commissioners.
Nwagwu said that INEC and all other electoral bodies in the country could not said to be truly independent if their leadership were appointed by elected political office holders.
"The present situation where the President appoints top INEC officials, in spite of the guarantee of impartial selection, still denies the people the privilege of belief.
"We must consciously seek to create a level playing field for all political actors by removing anything that will tempt any player to manipulate the process in his or her favour," he said.
Besides, Nwagwu said that an electoral offences commission should be established to handle illegal acts arising from elections.
He stressed that INEC should focus its efforts solely on administering and managing elections in the country.
"The seemingly increasing electoral violence during election is the key rationale behind the call for the creation of a new body to relieve INEC from performing some tasks," he added.
In Eket, Akwa Ibom, the Paramount Ruler of Eket, Obong Nathaniel Odunenyie, solicited the establishment of the National Council of Chiefs to enable traditional rulers to play significant roles in efforts to stabilise the polity.
He commended the National Assembly for involving the citizens in ongoing efforts to amend the 1999 Constitution and expressed the hope that the final document would be people-oriented.
However, Chief Emmanuel Udoh, a former Chairman of Eket Local Government Council, urged the National Assembly to implant in the constitution a mechanism that will deal with the constitution’s amendment process.
"Taking a critical look at the constitution, there is no provision dealing with the mechanism for its amendment. What the National Assembly is currently doing is based on the `doctrine of necessity’.
"Such provisions should include referendum that would allow people of voting age to take the decisions. What we have here today is only a handful of the electorate," he said.
In Calabar, the participants of the public session on the constitution’s review opposed the amendment of Section 214 (1) of the 1999 Constitution to facilitate the creation of the state police.
They argued that the Nigeria Police Force was in a good position to manage the country’s security but added that the commissioners of police should take orders from state governors, who were the chief security officers of their respective states
One of the participants, Mr Etim Inyang, said that it was unfair for the governors to be called Chief Security Officers without given them sufficient powers to manage security situations in their states pragmatically.
"State Governors are not in control of the Commissioners of Police, yet they are called Chief Security Officers; this is unfair and it should not be allowed to continue," he said.
Mr John Egba, a civil servant, said that the Local Government/State Joint Account should be expunged from the constitution as the arrangement had crippled development at the grassroots level.
"It has reduced the administration of local government areas to a mere appendage of the state government," he said.
The people of Odukpani/Calabar Municipality Federal Constituency also canvassed for the amendment to the constitution to accord local government councils the status of the third tier of government with its legislative list.
NAN also reports that all the federal constituencies drummed support for the equality of states in all the six geo-political zones of Nigeria.
However, a former Minister for Heath, Dr Emmanuel Nsan, stressed the need to amend Section 8 of the 1999 Constitution to remove ambiguities in state creation processes.
"Let us make creation of states easier by advocating a simple majority in the National Assembly so that those who have genuine cases for state creation could have it.
"All the geo-political zones should also have equal number of states," he added.
The participants also proposed one single term of six years for the president and the governor, while the office of the president should not be rotated on the basis of the country’s six geo-political zones, insisting that the best and brightest candidate should be elected.
They also proposed four-year tenure for Local Government Chairmen and Councillors.
Besides, they unanimously agreed that there should be specific provisions in the constitution that would take care of the interests of persons with disabilities.
In Abakaliki, the constituents of Afikpo North/South and Ohaozara/Onicha/Ivo Federal Constituencies called for the creation of additional two states in the South East zone to strike a balance among the six geopolitical zones of the country.
They wanted one state to be created in each of the five other geo-political zones, with the exception of the North-West zone that currently had seven states.
They also wanted state Houses of Assembly to be granted financial autonomy just like the National Assembly, adding the State/Local Government Joint Account should be abolished, while the local government should be strengthened to truly function as the third tier of government.
In his remarks, Rep. Christopher Omo-Isu, the House of Representatives member representing Afikpo North/South constituency, noted that the ongoing effort to amend the 1999 Constitution was the first of its kind.
"This process would enable those at the grassroots to have an opportunity to make input on how they should be governed.
"Whatever you say will be taken from the state to the National Assembly for documentation.
"The National Assembly decided that the people should be part of the constitution’s amendment process so as to avoid complaints from different classes of people," he said.
In Omupo, Kwara, retired Brig.-Gen. Saliu Bello, a former military administrator of Kebbi State, stressed that the removal of the immunity clause from the constitution would be the best way to entrench democracy in Nigeria.
Bello said the constitutionally guaranteed immunity from prosecution for certain categories of public office holders had somewhat encouraged corruption and flagrant disregard for the people’s interests.
"The constitution review should address the removal of immunity clause for the President, Vice-President, Governors and Deputy Governors.
"The current situation encourages corruption and flagrant disregard for the wellbeing of the people," he said.
A traditional ruler, Oba Ahmadu Babalola, the Elese of Igbaja, called on the National Assembly to prepare a constitution that would be acceptable to all citizens, while fostering national unity.
"There is need for us to have an acceptable constitution that will ensure peace and stability of Nigeria," he said.
Also speaking, Mr Rafiu Balogun, the Chairman of the Ilorin branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), said that the best approach to elicit the people’s views on the constitution was through a referendum.
"The best way to get people’s views is via a referendum but since it is not adopted, I urge the National Assembly to listen to the voice of the people and come up with an acceptable constitution for the country," he said.
In Nsukka, Enugu State, the people of Nsukka/Igboeze-South Federal Constituency expressed support for the creation of more states and local government areas in the country.
Igwe Patrick Eze, the traditional ruler of Nkpuonano community, who conveyed the peoples’ viewpoint, stressed that the creation of more states and local government areas would enhance the country’s development.
A participant, Chief Cletus Opata, solicited the creation of Adada State, saying that the proposed state would help to redress the injustice in the South-East geo-political zone which had only five states, while other zones had six or more states
"I hereby move that more states, including Adada State, should be created.
"The creation of Adada state is long overdue; the agitation started as far back as 1980 and Nsukka province is the only old province in the country that has yet to be converted to a state.
"We urge other states of the South-East to support the creation of Adada State, while the National Assembly should also create other states based on genuine people’s demands," he said
Another participant, Mr Edmund Ugwu, urged the National Assembly to amend any section of the constitution that had been making the creation of more states and local governments quite cumbersome.
"The creation of more local government areas will particularly bring development to the rural communities," he said.
In his comments, Rep. Pat Asadu, member representing Nsukka/Igboeze South in the House of Representatives, said that the public hearing was meant to get the citizens’ contributions in efforts to produce a people-oriented constitution.
"The 1999 Constitution is faulty because it does not reflect the views of Nigerians since it was made and approved only by the military government.
"That is why the National Assembly deemed it necessary to amend the constitution and allow people to contribute their views. I urge the people to take the exercise seriously," he said.
Also speaking, Sen. Ayogu Eze, senator representing Enugu North Senatorial District, commended the people for their impressive turnout, assuring the people that their positions in the public hearing would be considered before the final passage of the constitution’s amendment.
"I am happy that Nsukka people have once gained agreed that Adada State should be created whenever new states are created by the National Assembly.
"Your request on Adada State will be given the required consideration," he added.
In his remark, Prof. Demiean Opata, the Chairman of the Public Hearing, also stressed the need to create more states as to correct the erroneous notion that it was only a military government that could create states.
"Today’s public hearing is part of democracy dividends, as our people are allowed to determine what should be in the constitution of the country," Opata, a former Dean of the Faculty of Arts, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, said.
NAN recalls that Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal, the Speaker of House of Representatives, on Nov. 8, inaugurated the Peoples’ Public Session on the review of the 1999 Constitution.
The public session is expected to hold simultaneously in the 360 federal constituencies across the country.