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NASS Set To Hold Constitution Hearings

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The Senate and House of Representatives ad-hoc Committees on Constitution Review are set to carry out public hearings on several of the Constitution amendment proposals submitted to them. In the plans announced publicly, the Senate ad-hoc Committee on Constitution Review stated that zonal public hearings on Constitution alteration bills will hold across Nigeria’s six geopolitical zones on May 26 and 27. The House of Representatives on its part dropped plans to hold its zonal hearings on the same dates in order to implement a special summit on national security which it considers to be of national priority. The Senate has also gone further to announce plans for a national public hearing to hold on June 1 and 2 at the International Conference Centre in Abuja. The House of Representatives now has to reschedule dates for its zonal public hearings. And unless it can return to renewed conversations with the Senate to jointly hold the national public hearing, it will also need to set a new date for this activity. The technical experts of both the Senate and the House have however, continued to meet and work to harmonise into a common document, the bills and issues that would go to plenary for voting. Some of the issues and bills already identified focus on local government autonomy, electoral reform, women participation, power devolution, state police, judicial reform, among several other issues. Observers worry about the delay in taking forward the Constitution review process, with concerns that if the process prolongs into the year’s end, the National Assembly may not succeed with Constitution review in the current 9th Assembly session. Observers also point out that the process of review of the Constitution is labourious with voting always stretching because of the requirement of numbers needed to vote to pass amendments. Two-thirds each of members of the Senate and House of Representatives are required to vote in support of most of the amendments. A higher threshold is set for a few of the other amendments. Also, the passage of the bills by the National Assembly does not bring the process to a conclusion, as it would need to go to all of the 36 State Houses of Assembly in the country, who would need to vote by a majority in two-thirds of the States. It is only the bills that receive this number of votes that pass and are then sent to the President for assent.