Nigeria: New Constitution Emerges At National Conference

The National Conference secretariat distributed a draft new national constitution to delegates yesterday, in what came as a surprise to many of them who said the idea of producing such document was never approved.

On their resumption from recess, delegates also yesterday received copies of the conference report, a bill on constitution amendments being proposed, as well as records of proceedings.

The draft constitution contains changes approved by the plenary during debates on committee reports in June and July. These include listing of 18 additional states, delisting of the 774 local government areas, creation of state police, independent candidates for elective offices, and limiting the number of ministers to 18.

Apart from scrapping the 774 LGAs, the new constitution gave powers to state authorities to create and run their local government areas.

The 18 new states included in the draft constitution are Aba, Adada, Amana, Anioma, Apa, Edu, Etiti, Ghari, Gurara, Ijebu, Kainji, Katagum, New Oyo, Njaba-Anim, Ogoja, Oil Rivers, Ose and Savannah.

Delegates have now been given until Wednesday to study the distributed documents and reconvene to approve them.

On July 14 the confab adjourned and asked the secretariat to compile the approved recommendations of the 20 standing committees and draft a report.

Daily Trust exclusively reported yesterday that the secretariat had gone beyond its brief by suggesting in the report that the National Conference should produce a new constitution for the country.

Yesterday's plenary was chaired by conference secretary Valerie-Janette Azinge, as both chairman Justice Idris Kutigi and his deputy Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi did not attend the session.

Mrs Azinge announced to delegates that they would be given documents which they had until Wednesday to study, before she adjourned the session.

"You will receive copies of the main report which is in two volumes-1 and 2, and a bounded draft constitution," she said.

"In that bounded draft constitution is what we call a matrix; it has in it the first column which has the constitution as it exists today, the second column has all the amendments as suggested by you, and the third column is a fusion of both the constitution plus all the amendments that you suggested.

"For easy reading, we have also extracted the third column, that is, the fusion of the existing constitution & the amendments proposed as a draft constitution.

"There is also a draft bill which will introduce the amendments and alterations which will make it the fourth amendment to the constitution."

The idea of drafting a new constitution by the National Conference was first exclusively reported by Daily Trust on June 30, when it reported that deputy chairman Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi was at the time trying to convince Northern delegates to accept the plan.

But after a heated debate at plenary session over the issue, it was agreed that no new constitution was to be drafted by the National Conference. Delegates had argued that the confab had no such powers and this was not part of their brief.

Source: Daily Trust
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