By Matthew Ajai-kume
Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom has recommended the parliamentary system of government as a credible democratic alternative for Nigeria.
Governor Ortom made the call Thursday, September 3, 2020 at the Benue Peoples House Makurdi while inaugurating the Benue State Constitution Review Committee with a charge on members to be diligent and sensitive to their assignment.
According to the governor, amendment to the constitution is a legitimate process that should be carried out when any loophole has been noticed in the one that is being operated.
“There is no Constitution anywhere in the world that can be considered too perfect to require review and amendment. The true test of a good Constitution is that it is continually tested in practice and periodically reviewed so that it is fit for the purpose.
“As we embark on this latest round in the process of Constitutional review, it is important to acknowledge and uphold some of the key principles around which a sufficiently nationwide consensus appears to have emerged.
Among these principles are the fact that- Nigeria is better off as a Federation and a democracy that is anchored on the Rule of Law and that the three tiers of Government should serve the collective good of the citizenry.’
“However, while there is widespread acceptance of these principles, the particular ways in which they have manifested in practice have often left more cause for worry and less cause for joy. In other words, Nigeria’s practice of Federalism, democracy and the Rule of Law need to be improved upon,” the governor noted.
He explained further that “having operated the 1999 Constitution for over 21 years, Governor Ortom said because the presidential system is “not a cost-effective system for our context” “we are better off Switching to a Parliamentary System because according to him, “the Parliamentary System of Government provides opportunities for power-sharing such that smaller parties also participate in governance to the extent of their electoral performance. It is also more accountable as it provides for regular interface between the leaders of the Executive and the representatives of the people. It is also considerably less complex”.
Other reasons adduced by the governor were that “the Federal Government should have a Subsidiary function. This means that it should perform only those tasks that cannot be performed at a more local level. The current practice in which the Federal Government has Constitutional powers in nearly 100% performance while the States and the’ Local Government Areas are only able to function in 30% or less of these areas are a distortion of the spirit and practice of Federalism.
“We need the Constitution to set out a system which the various tiers of Government can simultaneously engage in the types of relationships that are common to all functional Federations by specifying the areas in which the tiers have Autonomy, areas in which they need to cooperate, areas where the relationship is supervisory and areas where power is shared” he said.
Governor Ortom noted that in order to further strengthen the Rule of Law and promote accountability, “we need to separate the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation from that of the Hon. Minister of Justice. Also separate the office of the Accountant-General of the Federation from that of the Accountant-General of the, Federal Government (and similarly for the office’, of the Auditor-General).
Other amendments the governor proposed were the institutionalization of a framework for conflict resolution that proactively providing for which/how disputes about autonomy, cooperation, supervision and power sharing will be resolved; the establishment of a Constitutional Court to support the Supreme Court in settling disputes between the levels of Government as a Court of First and Last resort and the creation of ‘an Inter-Governmental Relations Council with a mandate to undertake the tasks set out in the paragraphs above’.
Chairman of the committee and former Chief Judge of the State, retired Justice Adam Onum, pledged the commitment of members to timely completion of the assignment. Secretary to the State Government and Attorney General of the state will serve as Secretary and assistant Secretary of the committee respectively.