Reps To Miss April Deadline For New Constitution

Reps To Miss April Deadline For New Constitution

House of Representatives may not meet its promise to deliver a new constitution by April this year, findings indicated on Sunday.

Reps To Miss April Deadline For New Constitution

The Senate and the House have embarked on the review of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) since June 2011.

A budget of about N1bn is set aside for the exercise, shared N500m apiece by the two chambers.

Deputy Speaker of the House and Chairman of its Constitution Review Committee, Mr. Emeka Ihedioha, had in May last year, assured the nation that a new constitution would be ready in April.

However, the Senate recently shifted its deadline to June.

Investigations by The PUNCH on Sunday showed that a week into April, work on the constitution was far from nearing completion.

For example, up till March 27 when lawmakers proceeded on the Easter vacation, fresh bills on constitution amendment were still being referred to the Ihedioha committee.

“If you consider the fact that amending the constitution is a tedious process, you do not need a soothsayer to tell you that the April target is a mirage already.

“All the work the ad-hoc committee has done and the new bills will still be subjected to public hearings.

“Besides, the report of the National Assembly on the proposed amendments will be endorsed by the 36 state Houses of Assembly (two-thirds majority) before a new constitution can be in place.

“When the House reconvenes on April 16, there will be less than two weeks to the end of April.

“Clearly, it will be impossible to complete the process this month”, a source close to the ad-hoc committee, confided in our correspondent.

The House also conducted Peoples’ Public Sessions on the constitution on November 8, 2012, but it is still awaiting the final report.

However, five months after the sessions closed, the final report has yet to be made public.

An attempt by the House to present the report to the public in February was stalled after many lawmakers protested that they had yet to scrutinise the document.

It was learnt on Sunday that work on the constitution progressed slowly at the Senate as well.

“The Senate conducted six zonal public hearings before senators went on the Easter break; there is no report of the hearings for now.

“Of course, the fact that the Senate and the House are doing separate constitution review means that they will have to harmonise their findings before sending the final document to the state assemblies for endorsement.

“This is not something that is feasible in April; if one chamber has indicated that its own report will be ready in June, that explains that April is ruled out,” another National Assembly source added.

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