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Rights group accuses NASS of messing up Nigerian constitution

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A Civil Society Group operating under the guise of Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA, has accused lawmakers of the upper and lower legislative of the National Assembly of messing up Nigeria’s constitution at every session for claiming amendments.

The group said, their action was demeaning and devaluing the essence of the Nigerian constitution by always subjecting it to amendments by all the sessions of the previous and current national legislatures. com/pagead/js/adsbygoogle.js"> js">

The rights group described sessional amendments as whimsical, a development they insisted, brought the Constitution to disrepute in the eyes of international community.

They told the National Assembly of Nigeria to stop money making gambit in guise of amending the Constitution as huge funds have always been appropriated at every time, they claim to amend the Constitution.

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Vexed by the simplistic underrating of the national constitution by lawmakers and for the obvious fact that members of each session of the national legislature since 1999 have often seen constitutional amendment as a ‘trading commodity’ whereby the committee members share generous sitting allowances and gallivant all over the nooks and crannies of the nation at massive expenses to Nigeria, HURIWA proposed legislation to halt the amendments of the constitution after the on-going amendment by the 10th session of the National Assembly.

HURIWA said a provision be included in the yet-to-be amended version of the extant constitution, to stop further amendments once the ongoing amendment by the 10th session of the National Assembly is over before 2027.

HURIWA through the National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, regretted that the federal parliament had from the 5th to the current 10th National Assembly made several attempts to amend some provisions of the 1999 constitution to no avail.
“It is generally observed by Nigerians that at every session, the parliament officially spends N1 billion shared equally between the Senate and the House of Representatives.

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However, the media stated that there are reports that the lawmakers spend more than what is appropriated for the exercise”, he said.
HURIWA condemns the legislators for making very tardy and substandard amendments deliberately to prolong and turn constitutional amendments into a juicy assignment for all the sessions of the National Assembly, saying it is inconceivable why some amendments were successful in the past, but due to poor legislative drafting, several others suffered serial failures but kept appearing in new proposals.

“HURIWA believes that considering the huge spending, it is therefore criminal that no significant amendments could be said to have been made to address the yearnings of Nigerians.

We note with regret that the first attempt at amending the 1999 constitution failed woefully in the 5th National Assembly under the chairmanship of former Deputy Senate President Ibrahim Mantu and Deputy Speaker Austin Okpara.

“Understandably, the ill-fated exercise failed when an attempt was made to smuggle the purported third term agenda of then President Olusegun Obasanjo when the lawmakers discovered that a clause to that effect was allegedly inserted into the document.

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The bill was roundly rejected. The second attempt to review the constitution in the 6th Assembly under the chairmanship of Senator Ike Ekweremadu and Representative Usman Bayero Nafada was said to be successful as some sections were amended.

These included the financial autonomy of the National Assembly, which gave it the power to draw its funds directly from the federation account, otherwise known as the first-line charge.

“HURIWA notes that in the 7th and 8th Assemblies, the constitution review exercise was a mixed bag of successful and failed amendment attempts.

As observed by some media experts, the chief among the failed attempts was the provision stripping the president of the power to sign the constitutional amendments, which are required for them to become law.

Then President Goodluck Jonathan’s government argued that the legislature overreached itself in seeking to abridge presidential power, especially the power to “check and balance” the lawmakers”.

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