The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas, on Monday, said the review of the 1999 Constitution by the National Assembly would be guided by the spirit of transparency, oneness, inclusivity and national cohesion.

He stated this on Monday while speaking at the inauguration of the House Special Committee on Constitution Review.

The PUNCH had during the weekend reported that the committee chaired by the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Benjamin Kalu, had received over 44 bills seeking alterations in the 1999 Constitution on many issues including rotational presidency, State police, and local government autonomy, among others.

According to Abbas, the parliament will work hand-in-hand with the executive arm of government at the federal and state levels to ensure that the process enjoys the backing of Nigerians.

The constitution review exercise is expected to be completed within 24 months.

He said, “The process will be deeply rooted in engaging with the Nigerian people at all levels, including traditional and religious institutions, pressure groups and trade unions, ethnoreligious organisations, the diaspora community, and much more.

“We intend to harness the inputs of all Nigerians at the level of senatorial districts through open forum public consultations, and digital platforms, ensuring that every voice is heard and considered.”

Commending past exercises, Abbas who represents Zaria Federal Constituency added that the current review which is the 6th would focus on “devolution of powers, state policing; enhancement of fiscal federalism through local government autonomy; further decongesting the exclusive legislative list; recognising and assigning constitutional roles for traditional institutions; and promoting inclusivity, particularly greater gender equity and women representation into appointive and elective positions.”

He called on members of the committee, and Nigerians at large “Not to shy away from the complexities and the debates that will arise during this process, adding that “Instead, let us embrace them as vital components of a vibrant democracy. The discussions and disagreements are not signs of weakness but rather indications of our strength and diversity. They remind us that we are a nation of many voices, each with something valuable to contribute to our collective future.”

Earlier, in his welcome address, Kalu said the panel would work tirelessly to deliver on its mandate within the next 24 months.

Kalu stated that in the discharge of its assignment, the committee would ensure “that every voice is heard, every perspective is considered, and every citizen is empowered to participate in the shaping of our nation’s future. ”

He listed areas of consideration in the amendment to include “Establishment of state police, state access to mines; increased participation of women in politics; clear specification of the taxes/levies to be collected by each tier of government and the provision for the office of the Mayor of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.”

The deputy speaker also assured Nigerians that proposals passed in the last constitution review exercise but which were not assented to by the President, would be revised.

“It is important to reiterate that we are willing to accommodate more proposals to enhance our Constitution and strengthen our democracy. In addition, we await executive-sponsored bill proposals that reflect issues on the renewed hope agenda of Mr President, ” Kalu further stated.

Chairman of Conference of Speakers of State Houses of Assembly, Adebo Ogundoyin, on his part, said the State Assemblies would stop at nothing to ratify the Constitution alterations bills once they are transmitted by the National Assembly.

Ogundoyin who doubles as Speaker of the Oyo State House of Assembly, said, “I assure you that through the conference of speakers, that all the States will work to ratify the documents once they are passed on by the National Assembly.”

However, Ogundoyin added that the debate on the review of the Constitution is an endless one until Nigerians get the Constitution they deserve.

President of the Senate, Godswill Akpabio, assured that the Senate and House Committees will work seamlessly to ensure a comprehensive review of the constitution, adding that the process was not just a law review, but an amendment with the potential to reshape the nation’s democracy.

Represented by Barau Jibrin, Akpabio said that the process would be guided by the highest principles of transparency, diligence, inclusiveness as well as collaboration.