Nigeria took the first major step this week toward rewriting its
constitution. It is the third such attempt in under a decade to bolster
democracy in the country. From the Nigerian capital, Abuja, Gilbert da
Costa reports for VOA.
Since returning to civilian rule in 1999,
Nigerians have been calling for a new constitution to replace the one
drawn up under years of military dictatorship.
The last attempt
to pass a new constitution failed in 2006 when the national assembly
rejected one of the proposed 120 amendments that would have paved the
way for then president Olusegun Obasanjo to run for a third four-year
Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, who heads the
88-member special constitutional review panel, told VOA the committee
will be guided by what it considers is in the best interest of Nigeria.
can tell you that no tenure of anybody, be it a local government
chairman, governor or president, or even the senator will be extended
by one day in that exercise," he said. "That I can assure the whole
world. We are going to do a very transparent and professional job."
are not going to be carried away by emotions or be distracted by any
person's personal view. We are going to put everything on the table and
can only be driven by patriotism and the best interest of Nigeria," he added.
process by which the Nigerian constitution is amended is complex and
time-consuming. And it is far from clear whether a consensus could be
reached on contentious issues such as the devolution of power between
the center and federating states, electoral reforms and revenue
Nigeria has been faltering from religious and ethnic
discord, which some consider a result of a flawed system that has
resulted in neglect, poverty and agitation.
The bombing of
pipelines and kidnapping of oil workers in the Niger Delta by militants
who say they are fighting for a greater share of the region's oil
wealth have cut output from Africa's biggest oil industry by a fifth in
Today, the oil producing region receives 13
percent of oil revenues, a far cry from 100 percent received by other
regions in the 1960s and 70s when the country relied on peanuts, palm
oil and cocoa.