Law News
Constitution review: Dogara meets empty hall for panel’s inauguration

Members of the House of Representatives stepped up their late-coming habit on Thursday when they arrived late for a crucial meeting on the inauguration of the House Ad Hoc Committee on Constitution Review.

The 8th House is set to embark on further amendments to the 1999 Constitution.

The action of the lawmakers thoroughly embarrassed the Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, who was the first to arrive at the venue only to meet empty seats.

Only eight out of the 51-member committee, were seen hurrying in to settle down just as Dogara took his seat.

Among the eight members were the Chairman, House Committee on Rules and Business, Mr. Oker Jev, and the Chairman, Committee on Public Petitions, Mr. Uzoma Nkem-Abonta.

A worried Dogara sat alone on the high table, expressing surprise over the failure of the members to turn up in time.

Raising his hands, he said, “What is happening? Where are the members?”

With nobody with him on the high table, Dogara turned to his Chief of Staff, Mr. Jerry Manwe, chatting briefly with him before the House Majority Leader, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, who was late, sauntered into the hall.

The Deputy Speaker, Mr. Yussuff Lasun, who is the Chairman of the ad hoc committee, was absent at the venue.

But The PUNCH learnt that Dogara delegated Lasun to represent him at a separate function, which was held at the Presidential Villa.

The late arrival of the members delayed the event till 10.45am from its originally scheduled time of 10am.

In the absence of Lasun, it was Gbajabiamila, who later read the deputy speaker’s prepared text for the inauguration.

The PUNCH gathered that Gbajabiamila too had no prior notification that he was to read Lasun’s speech.

At most sittings of the House, lawmakers report late for the plenary.

The plenary, officially fixed for 11am, is usually delayed till 11.35am and sometimes 12pm due to lateness.

On Thursday, after Dogara rounded off the constitution review committee’s inauguration and moved to the chamber, only 22 out of the 360 members, were on their seats by 11.38am.

Speaking earlier at the inauguration of the review committee, Dogara explained that the aim of the current exercise was to complete the amendment started on the 1999 Constitution by the 7th Assembly.

He recalled that there had already been first, second and third alterations to the constitution by the 6th Assembly (2007-2011) in continuation of efforts made by the 4th and 5th Assemblies.

Dogara noted that the fourth alteration by the 7th Assembly was stalled because of the refusal of former President Goodluck Jonathan to assent to the bill.

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