By Fatima Abubakar
For so long the Nigerian people have been clamoring for the review of 1999 constitution. It is said that there is no perfect constitution in the world. Nigerians just want a constitution that will serve the masses and bring about development. As It is now, the constitution is a bottle neck to some processes, making it cumbersome and impossible to achieve. Though the constitution has been reviewed a couple of times since its creation in 1999 but there is still a lacuna in the document. Before a constitution can be reviewed so many parties must be present. Some of which include members from the Judiciary arm of Government, members of the Executive arm of Government and the Legislative arm of Government, Civil society organisations etc.
The female Parliamentarians seeks the amendment of section Chapter 4, Section 42 on the Right to freedom from discrimination, to include concrete provisions for 35% Affirmative Action for Women in all appointive and elective positions in Nigeria.
The section of the constitution provides in subsection (2) that, “No citizen of Nigeria shall be subjected to any disability or deprivation merely because of the circumstances of his birth. (3) Nothing in subsection (1) of this …” It states that “’every individual shall be entitled to the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms recognized and guaranteed in the present Charter without distinction of a kind such as race, ethnic group, color, sex, language, religion, political or any other opinion, national and social origin, fortune, birth or another status.
The female parliamentarians are also seeking the amendment of Chapter five Sections 47 – 49 to enable the creation of special seats for women. The section states that “ There shall be a National Assembly for the Federation which shall consist of a Senate and a House of Representatives. The Senate shall consist of three Senators from each State and one from the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the House of Representatives shall consist of three hundred and sixty members representing constituencies of nearly equal population as far as possible, provided that no constituency shall fall within more than one State.
The group of female parliamentarians is demanding that section 147 of the federal constitution that deals with appointments of the federal executive council be guided by the two-thirds rule. The section provides that, section “147 subsection (1) There shall be such offices of Ministers of the Government of the Federation as may be established by the President. (2) Any appointment to the office of Minister of the Government of the Federation shall, if the nomination of any person to such office is confirmed by the Senate, be made by the President. (3) Any appointment under subsection (2) of this section by the President shall conform with the provisions of section 14 subsection (3) of this Constitution:- Provided that in giving effect to the provisions aforementioned the President shall appoint at least one Minister from each State, who shall be an indigene of such State. (4) Where a member of the National Assembly or a House of Assembly is appointed as Minister of the Government of the Federation, he shall be considered to have resigned his membership of the National Assembly or the House of Assembly on his taking the oath of office as Minister. (5) No person shall be appointed as a Minister of the Government of the Federation unless he is qualified for election as a member of the House of Representatives. (6) An appointment to any of the offices aforementioned shall be considered to have been made where no return has been received from the Senate within twenty-one working days of the receipt of nomination by the Senate.”
The clerk of the House Committee on Women lamented the poor number of memoranda from women groups to the constitution review committee and called for Nigerian women increased participation in the constitution review hearing.
Women groups, professional bodies, students, traders, religious based organizations have been challenged to bring forth their demands in the current constitution review into these five major areas as a way of ensuring a gender-sensitive constitution that will meet the needs and aspirations of Women, Youths, and persons living with disabilities in Nigeria.