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Conference Of Speakers Of State Assembly To Fast-Track Constitutional Amendment Process

Chairman of the Conference of Speakers of State Houses of Assembly of Nigeria, Hon Abubakar Sulaiman, on Monday, assured Nigerians that the ongoing amendments of the 1999 Constitution transmitted by the National Assembly would be concluded this month.

Hon Sulaiman gave the assurance during the ‘Technical meeting on harmonising Standing Orders of State Houses of Assembly’ held at the instance of the National Institute of Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS) in collaboration with Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS) and State Accountability and Voice Initiative (SAVI).

He said: “It’s in the process. As of now, I think we have five or six States that have already passed it and other States are still on course. You know when this draft was sent to the State Houses of Assembly, there were so many issues that stopped us from going on, like State primary elections, recess and so on and so forth.

“But I assure you, this month of August we will definitely do something about it.”

While responding to question on the indiscriminate removal of presiding officers, Hon. Sulaiman also expressed optimism that the ongoing harmonization of the Standing Order for the 36 States of Assembly would help in addressing the indiscriminate removal of presiding officers by their counterparts and promote unity among the 36 States of Assembly.

“It is one of the targets that we are targeting to avoid this overnight impeachment of Speakers. Speakers among the elected representatives, the Speakers of the State Assemblies are the most vulnerable.

“A certain members of the House if they dislike you for one reason or the other they will just come and say we’ve come out with a number of members and we are removing you. This development unlike what is happening in the South East and the South West, you cannot just do that in that place.

“You have to grant the Speaker the fair hearing, you have to give him the chance to defend himself. If you have reasons to impeach him, then come and tell him the reasons then you give him the benefit of fair hearing to answer.

“Then if you’re not okay, then he can be impeached. So, it’s aimed at sanitizing our Assemblies on the issue of impeachment.”

In his remarks, NILDS Director General, Professor Olanrewaju Sulaiman, who acknowledged that two geo-political zones (South-West and South-East) have led the way in this regard, observed that the proto-template Standing Orders being presented for discussion provides a standardised approach to legislative management and law-making process in Nigeria, especially at state levels.

According to him, one of the direct benefits of this development is a uniform set of standards for the conduct of legislative business.

“Experience and available data show that the State Houses of Assembly in Nigeria have different rules of practice and procedure, which are mostly inadequate in both form and content. This defect affects both the law-making process and the impact of the state legislature in facilitating peace, order and good governance within the state as constitutionally required.

“Furthermore, the absence of comprehensive, coherent and dynamic rules makes it difficult for state legislatures to fully discharge their core mandate of promoting good governance and accountability through robust oversight. The preceding challenge has also been further compounded by several other procedural flaws that affect the overall functioning of some State Houses of Assembly in the country. These and other issues will be sufficiently considered in this technical meeting.

“The need to continuously update and unify legislative norms cannot be over-emphasised. This should be done periodically based on specific needs peculiarities and emerging developments. For example, only recently, the House of Representatives and the Senate revised their existing Standing Orders to incorporate emerging promising practices, particularly in the aftermath of the COVID-19 Pandemic that exposed serious deficits to the rules governing the conduct of legislative business that was strictly based on physical meetings.

“These and other considerations should be uppermost in our minds in our discussions. Having been presiding and principal officers, we can bring our experience to bear and identify other practical ways the provisions of the Standing Orders can be further strengthened even beyond what has already been proposed,” he said.

He assured that after the workshop, the final draft of the harmonized Standing Order will be presented to the leadership of the National Assembly and onward transmission to the Conference of Speakers.

On his part, Speaker of Kogi State House of Assembly, Hon Olakunle Oluomo who expressed delight in the ongoing workshop, observed that the move was aimed

“I felt we should be having one too. But I felt that we should be having one that joined us together like where we copied our democracy from. America with 50 states are having one Standing Order, that is why we are putting pressure to have similar things in Nigeria.

“It will deepen democracy, it will make our work easy. What you do here, what you do in Lagos, is what you will use in Maiduguri, what you are using in Maiduguri is what you will be using in Akwa Ibom. So that deepens our democracy,” Hon Oluomo said.

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