MOULDING NIGERIA INTO A NATION (6)
I concluded my discussion last week with a promise to examine the constitution making process of some countries that share similar features with Nigeria. Two of those countries are Kenya and Tanzania respectively with the former regarded as being more ethnically diverse than Nigeria.
The process in Kenya is multifaceted consisting of the following:
(1) THE CONSTITUENCY CONSTITUTIONAL FORUM
This is found in every constituency and its main task is to facilitate debate, discussion and collection of views from the citizens.
(2) THE NATIONAL CONSTITUTIONAL CONFERENCE
This is an Assembly of selected people from various interest groups who meet to agree on the constitution. It comprises of:- ·
- 222 members of parliament
- 210 district representatives ·
- 29 commissioners ·
- 125 representatives of representatives from interest groups ·
Representatives of political parties
(3) THE REFERENDUM
This is a forum where people decide directly on the constitution.
(4) THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY
This is the body charged with the final approval of the constitution.
(5) Civic Education
One of them is the civic education. This involves educating the public and raising awareness on issues of the constitution. It is done by a commission created by an act of parliament.
In 2003, the National constitution conference was held at the Bomas of Kenya. In case of a disagreement in the National Constitutional Conference, the draft is subjected to a referendum.One was held in year 2005 in which the draft constitution was rejected.
CONSTITUTIONAL REVIEW STAGES
The Tanzanian Constitutional Review Act CAP 83 in section 9, 18 and 25 provides the first to the third stage of the review process.
Stage I: Collecting citizens views and opinion for the New Constitution
Section 9 of the CRA CAP 83 states that “(1) The functions of the Commission shall be to: (a) co-ordinate and collect public opinions; (b) examine and analyse the consistency and compatibility of the constitutional provisions in relation to the sovereignty of the people, political systems, democracy, rule of law and good governance; (c) make recommendations on each term of reference; and (d) prepare and submit a report. (2) In the implementation of the provisions of subsection (1), the Commission shall adhere to national values and ethos and shall, in that respect safeguard and promote the following matters: (a) the existence of the United Republic; (b) the existence of the Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary; (c) the republican nature of governance; (d) the existence of Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar; (e) national unity, cohesion and peace; (f) periodic democratic elections based on universal suffrage; (g) the promotion and protection of human rights; (h) human dignity, equality before the law and due process of law; and (i) existence of a secular nature of the United Republic that does not inclined to any religion and that respect freedom of worship...”
This section gave the Tanzanian opportunity to give freely their opinions on what kind of constitution they would like to have. In the beginning people thought that there were “sacred” matters that people were restricted from giving their opinion on, such matters included the existence of the United Republic, structure of the union and so forth.
The CRC went across Tanzania in every district and respective municipal, council, township and ward-level authorities. Out of a million Tanzanians that attended, over 350,000 of them had the opportunity of presenting their opinions before the CRC. This number has never been reached in terms of public consultation by any other engagement related to constitution making history in Tanzania.
The exercise was very simple and clear, citizens were asked to put forward their views and opinions on what should constitute the New Constitution, emphasis was made that upon giving the views and opinion, supporting reasons was paramount. Those citizens who were able to give constitutional proposals did so, those who couldn’t comprehend constitutional provisions spoke of challenges they were facing in their localities. CRC Commissioners who hosted these public meetings facilitated the citizens who couldn’t pin point challenges and put forward provisions to share with the CRC their dreams depicting the kind of Tanzania they would wish to live in, the kind of village they would wish to live, be part of, feel safe, feel happy and that guaranteed their present needs without compromising their future needs.
Stage one also gave political parties, civil society organizations including religious institutions the opportunity to submit their views on the new constitution, an enormous number of submissions was received, analyzed and formed part of the constitutional proposals put forward in the First Draft of the New Constitution.
The outcomes of Stage I was the report of public opinions on the New Constitution explaining Constitutional issues proposed, history and practice in Tanzania, experience from other parts of the world and reasons supporting each issue in question. It was this report that made it possible for the CRC to come up with the First Draft of the New Constitution. The CRC also made a separate report that looked at Policy, Regulatory and Administrative proposals that citizens were aggrieved with and the intention of the CRC was to inform the government to start responding to the matters while the review process was progressing.
Stage II: Citizens Constitutional Forums
This stage is provided for by section 18 of the CRA CAP 83 that stated the following; - (1) there shall be fora for constitutional review.
(2) The fora for constitutional review shall provide public opinions on the Draft Constitution through meetings organized by the Commission.
(3) The fora for constitutional review shall be formed on ad hoc basis by the Commission based on geographical diversity of the United Republic and shall involve and bring together representatives of various groups of people within the communities.
(4) The fora referred to in subsection (1) and in other provisions of this Act shall exclusively be for the citizens of Tanzania.
The constitutional forums organized by CRC brought together over 18,000 people from all villages in rural areas and streets in urban areas in Tanzania Mainland and Zanzibar. Members of the Constitutional forums organized and coordinated by the CRC were elected at village (rural) and street (urban) levels. The election was organized in such a manner that the people could elect a young person, a woman, an elder person and any other person (could be a person with disability).
To be continued
AARE AFE BABALOLA SAN, CON, LL.D, D.Litt