The House of Representatives on Saturday held public sessions on the review of the 1999 Constitution in all the 360 Federal Constituencies across the country. The sessions were held simultaneously. In Ibadan, while that of the Ibadan South West/North West Constituency was held in the hall of the Comprehensive High School, Oke Bola, another one was held at the Cultural Centre, Mokola and another one at Mapo Hall.
At the Comprehensive High School, Oke Bola venue, Hon Saheed Akinade Fijabi was the convener while a panel of discussants was made up of representatives of bodies like the Nigerian Bar Association, Nigeria Union of Journalists, National Union of Local Government Employees, National Association of Nigerian Students and a host of others.
At the session, while Hon Fijabi tried to explain the rational behind the public session and why it was decided by the House of Reps that it should be held in every Federal Constituency, Mr Seun Abimbola, the Chairman of the Ibadan Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association made the stand of the NBA known about the public review. He pointed out that the NBA has told the leadership of the House of Reps that after the public session, there should be a referendum.
One of the examples he cited was the issue of “indigeneship” as stated in the voting template. He said instead of indigeneship, the meaning of citizenship is what should be explained and expanded. He also spoke on the question of the creation of states; he said there has to be justification for each answer. Barrister Abimbola said some questions do not require a “yes” or “no” answer.
Some of the issues raised on the voting template included “should Section B of the Constitution be amended to remove the ambiguities in the process for creation of more states? How many more states should be created – 1 in each of the geo-political zones, bringing it to 6 new states? Should the 6 geo-political zones be recognised in the constitution for administrative purposes? Should the 6 geo-political zones be be included in the constitution as another tier of government? ”
Some other issues were also raised, for instance, it was asked if the “indigeneship of an area be defined to include persons who have resided in an area for a continuous long period, and therefore entitle them to accruing rights duties and privileges”. One of the questions that generated serious debate was “should Section 208 be amended to make the immunity provision for the President, Vice President, Governor or Deputy Governor to cover only civil proceedings?”
Many have opined that sincerity may not be one of the criteria put into consideration when the public session was being planned. Fro instance, Alhaji Ahmed, one of those in attendance said “they have not given us the power to make our own choices, all the questions have been pre=determined and we are to just answer yes or no.”
The representative of the Central Council of Ibadan Indigenes too picked a loophole in the proposition for the creation of 6 new states as he wondered why the house chose to tailor the thinking of Nigerians towards the creation of states based on geo-political zones. He made it clear that the conditions in some geo political zones may warrant the creation of more than one state and it would be unfair on them to use that criterion. He also pointed out that it could be an indication that the House had already concluded on the creation of one state in each geo-political zone.
Most of the people in attendance seemed to agree that the exercise may not have any effect on the decision the House would take at the end of it all. A lot of those asked believed it was more of a formality than anything else