Expect reforms with ongoing 1999 Constitution review, Speaker Abbas tells EU


The Speaker of the House of Representatives Rt. Hon. Abbas Tajudeen, Ph.D, has told the European Union of his readiness to champion reforms in Nigeria through the National Assembly, including electoral reforms, empowerment of women and more inclusion for them in politics and governance.


Speaker Abbas noted that part of the reforms is having a roadmap for timely passage of the ongoing amendments to the 1999 Constitution.

The Speaker made this known while receiving the 19 EU countries’ ambassadors to Nigeria at his office in Abuja on Thursday.

The delegation was led by the Ambassador of EU to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Ambassador Samuela Isopi. Several members of the House, the Clerk to the National Assembly, Alhaji Sani Magaji Tambuwal, and top aides to the Speaker were also in attendance.

Speaker Abbas said: “I want to inform you that there is uniqueness this time in the approach we are taking on the Constitution review. In the past, we observed that we did not start it in good time, and that also affected our time of completing it. That usually affects the quality of bills that are supposed to be transmitted to state legislative assemblies for them to also concur.

“This time around, we told ourselves that we need to start earlier and we need to use a roadmap. We need to also determine how long it will take us to finish our own job at the National Assembly level. That is the reason why you can see that the Constitution review committee that we kick-started a few weeks ago, started earlier than the preceding assemblies.”

He added: “I want to categorically inform you that the Constitution review committee has been given 24 months to complete all its work. We want to make sure that by the time we are at the mid-term of our mandate, all issues that have to do with Constitution review have been concluded at the level of the National Assembly so that we have clear one-and-a-half years to be able to reach out to the states Houses of Assembly and ensure that they do the needful, for us to return it (amendment bill) back to Mr President for assent.

“We are giving you the commitment that we are starting early ,and we have a timeline and timetable, and will ensure that we finish our assignment at the National Assembly in good time.”

The Speaker noted that the key issues to be addressed in the Constitution amendment include the role of Nigerian women in governance and women’s participation in politics, which he said “are issues that we are taking very seriously this time around.”

“We reflected on what happened in the 9th Assembly… on why some of these very important bills did not see the light of day. We have decided now to map strategies, to ensure that first and foremost the bills that have to do with women are well accepted by the National Assembly – first and foremost,” he stated.

Speaker Abbas disclosed that the chairmen and members of the House Committees on Women Affairs, and Women in Parliament have been mandated to lead the stakeholders’ engagement and lobbying for the gender-related bills “for them to really be on the same page with the women folk when the time comes for voting.”

He added that the House would also send a delegation to understudy some African countries, like Uganda and Rwanda, which now have unique models for women’s participation in governance.

The Speaker thanked the EU member countries for their support of Nigeria while urging them to do more for the country.

“I am also particularly delighted that the small initiative that we came up with at the beginning of the 10th Assembly is being accepted by the European community… the issue of friendship groups. We believe that it is a small window of opportunities that the various countries in the world and the Nigerian Parliament or the Nigerian Government can be able to deepen their understanding of our legislation, to bring about a lot of economic development to our countries.

“We are grateful that some of the members (of the House) that we have appointed to lead the friendship groups have started making impacts, particularly in the European Union.”

Meanwhile, members of the delegation took turns to hail Speaker for forming international parliamentary friendship groups in the House and congratulated the National Assembly for the completion of its library modelled after the Library of Congress, Washington D.C, in the United States.

Earlier in her address, Ambassador Isopi noted that the European Union is a champion and advocate of democracy and the National Assembly is the symbol of democracy in Nigeria. She also noted that the EU is West Africa’s largest neighbour, adding that the EU and Nigeria have an interest in working together on stability, peace and development of the whole region.

The ambassador said: “As you know, there are 19 European member states present in Nigeria and the size of the group gives you an idea; it is a signal of the importance that is attached by European Union institutions and member states to Nigeria, and to the partnership between Nigeria and the European Union. Meeting with you and working with you as a leader of the Nigerian Parliament is very important to us.”

Those who commended the Speaker and the House in their respective remarks include the President of the Council of the EU/Belgian Ambassador to Nigeria and the Swedish, German, Spanish, French and Bulgarian Ambassadors to Nigeria.