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Northern Elders Forum says a constitutional review is a ‘jamboree’ and not needed now

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 The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) says the Senate’s call for memoranda on review of the 1999 Constitution, is a waste of time, resources and energy

The forum’s Director of Publicity and Advocacy, Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, said at a press conference in Abuja on Sunday that Nigerians should not to support the proposed constitution review “at this difficult time when the economy is facing unprecedented challenges”

He urged National Assembly to direct its energy and mandate towards convincing President Muhammadu Buhari to end the insurgency in the Northeast and killings in most parts of North-central and the Northwest and other parts of Nigeria.

Baba-Ahmed said the Senate should abandon “the wasteful idea of giving Nigerians the impression that it is involved in a serious review of our Constitution.”

According to him, every National Assembly, since 1999, had spent huge amounts of Nigerian people’s money on “jamborees that give them false hope that the three arms of government respect the overwhelming desire of Nigerians for a holistic and genuine review and amendment of the 1999 Constitution.”

Baba-Ahmed said nothing fundamental or of any value had come out of “these grand schemes to exploit our collective desire to address our political and economic fundamentals. This National Assembly is also following suit, and it should not be encouraged on this path”.

According to him, Nigeria’s future rests largely on its willingness to address major constraints to equity and justice, a functional structure, consistent good governance, security for all citizens, a credible electoral process,  growing understanding between and among all groups and an economy that grows and narrows inequalities between and classes and regions.

“This cannot be achieved by a process that routinizes wasteful expenditure around false hopes.

“The legislature and executive branches of government have large quantities of reviews, recommendations and reports from past attempts at amending the constitutions. These represent enough resources for a review if the legislature is serious about this vital national priority.

Even this is not likely to produce a genuine effort to address the basic requirements of securing a stable, secure and prosperous Nigeria, because both arms of this administration are unlikely to accept to put through wide-ranging reviews of the Constitution.” he said

Baba-Ahmed said the Northern Elders Forum reminded legislators and other leaders from the North that security of the region’s communities, reduction of crushing poverty and widening distrust among communities should be their priorities.

He said the forum recommended a Nigerian people’s conference in which “the alternative of leaders of thought, elders, groups and professional organizations and representatives of government to freely discuss every element of our co-existence as a country under principles of voluntarism, genuine representation mutual respect and integrity of the process.

“The outcome of this Conference should be submitted to the two arms of government which should provide for a referendum in the Constitution so that Nigerians can directly decide on how they want their nation to be structured and function. The North is willing to discuss other options that will do justice to the current Constitution and the future of our great country.”

He urged northern groups to be wary of being railroaded into making submissions “which the legislature will hold up as input, further justifying waste and deceit. No northern group should encourage further waste of public funds which should be channeled into battling killers, kidnappers, poverty and poor governance. The  North wants a major review of the Constitution, but it is also ready to resist attempts to create wealth for a few while it leaves parts of the country to quarrel and blame each other for the state of the nation.”

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