By Ralph Madugu
The Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria has demanded for a new Constitution for the country instead of altering some provisions of the current one.
Presenting its memorandum to the Senate Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution at the zonal public hearing in Jos, Plateau State, PFN National Vice President, North Central, Prophet Isa El-Buba said, “The present Constitution is not a people’s Constitution and does not, in anyway, reflect the aspirations and yearnings of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) and the people of Nigeria.”
He stated that simply amending segments of the Constitution may be an exercise in futility that cannot meet the expectations of the people.
“We stand with the different groups and people across the length and breadth of Nigeria in rejecting the 1999 Constitution, and maintain that it cannot deliver a framework for good governance.
“We do not see the ongoing process of ‘proposed alteration to the provision of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999’ achieving the objectives of Restructuring Nigeria, as desired and canvassed by millions of Nigerians and the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN).
“The Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) demands for a new Constitution coming as per other matters under paragraph 17 of the public notice that will guarantee a truly federalist structure for the good and prosperity of all Nigerians,” he stressed.
Similarly, a citizens-led research-based group known as FixPolitics Initiative has urged the National Assembly to initiate a process towards the creation of a new Constitution as an amendment is “inadequate to address the multiple structural issues that threaten the Nigerian state.”
Presenting a memorandum on behalf of the organization, Mrs. Esther Ibanga suggested that the current amendment process should be halted and immediately initiate a “multi-stakeholder’s discussion on the pathway to a new citizens-led Constitution.”
The group maintained that the power of the National Assembly to amend the Constitution was insufficient to address what it termed “numerous procedural and substantive challenges and flaws of the Nigerian Constitution,” adding that any legal document that required a constant stream of amendments in a period of 20 years needed a serious overhaul.
“While we acknowledge that the National Assembly lacks the constitutional power to write and impose a new Constitution, we call attention to the point earlier made that the people have that power.
“Accordingly, we propose that the National Assembly should take on the role and responsibility of facilitating the process through which the Nigerian people can exercise their constitutional sovereignty to give themselves a constitution. This role is not only consistent with principles of constitutional democracy; it is also a validation of the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution.”
The body also advocated for an enactment of a law to outline the drafting and transition process in support of halting the ongoing amendment process.
“We at the FixPolitics Initiative urge the National Assembly to consider enacting a Constitutional amendment process that will authorize a referendum to accept the outcome of the drafting of the new Constitution. This is based on the emerging popular consensus.
“We at the FixPolitics Initiative are able and willing to provide more advice on this and supplement the capacity of the National Assembly as may be required.”
…Women Want Gender-Neutral, Sensitive Language
Nigerian women, under the aegis of Women Political Participation Technical Working Group (WPP-TWG) have demanded for the use of gender-neutral and sensitive language in the nation’s Constitution as the masculine language contained in the 1999 Constitution is gender-biased and undermines their level of political participation and hinders inclusive governance.
Addressing newsmen in Jos during the presentation and defence of their memorandum, they advocated for a constitution that would guarantee at least 35 per cent women representation in appointive offices at the federal and state levels.
Speaking on behalf of the of the WPP-TG, which is a partnership group of 213 women organisations, Mrs. Jiritmwa Morgak Goyit stated that this should begin with an amendment of Section 14 sub-section 3 which prohibits predominance of few persons from a few states, ethnic or sectional groups in the composition of the government and its agencies and also introduce a prohibition of the predominance of any sex in the composition of government and its agencies.
Female representation in the 2019 elections, she said, was negligible relative to approximately half of the population they constitute, adding that out of the 2,970 female candidates, only 70 got elected representing 4.71 per cent of elected officials.
She noted that this figure symbolized a decline from the 2015-19 period, where women formed 5.65 per cent of elected officials.
“Also, to introduce in Section 14 (4) the equitable representation of both sexes in the composition of government at a state, Local government councils, or any of it is agencies. Other sections for reference include sections 147(3), 171(5), 192(2), 208 (4).”
The women also advocated for the inclusion of gender as a benchmark for Federal Character which would ensure the representation of marginalized groups in the country.
“To achieve this, alter Section 14 by substituting for subsection (3), a new subsection “(3)”: The composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in a manner as to reflect the diversity of Nigeria along the lines of federal character and gender diversity and the need to promote national unity, and also command national loyalty thereby ensuring that there shall be a predominance of persons from a few States or from a few ethnic, linguistic or religious groups or of persons of one gender in that Government of in any of its agencies.”
They also advocated for the creation of additional seats for women in the federal and state legislatures through the alteration of Section 48 of the Principal Act to be altered by substituting the existing section 48 with a new section “48”, Section 49 of the Principal Act be altered by substituting the existing section 49 with a new section “49” and Section 71 of the Principal Act be altered by inserting immediately after sub-sections (1) (a) and (b), new subsections “(2)” and “(3)” among other provisions
They also demanded for the alteration of Section 77 of the Principal Act in subsection (1) by substituting the words “every Senatorial district or Federal constituency” in lines 1 and 2 with the words “every Senatorial district, Federal constituency and the additional seats” and Section 91 of the Principal Act be altered by substituting the existing section 91 with a new section “91”.
The WPP-TWG, which is a partnership of women bodies working to enhance women participation in governance, was established following the outcome of the Post-2019 General Election Conference held by partners to interrogate the low level of women representation in elective positions.