IN Nigeria, the configuration of the National Assembly has received knocks in some quarters. As noticeable, the Northern part of the country presently accounts for the large number of members in the National Assembly, with the Southern part of the country crying that they are being marginalised in the sharing of federal constituencies and senatorial districts.
Different interests have continued to reinforce the need to address the perceived inequality in the configuration of the federal constituencies and senatorial districts and other matters of interest to the inhabitants of various states of the federation. However, the Constitution explicitly spells out how federal constituencies and senatorial districts should be shared or reviewed.
Section 73 (1 and 2) of the 1999 Constitution as amended states as follows: “The INEC shall review the division of States and that of the Federation into senatorial districts and federal constituencies at intervals of not less than 10 years and may alter the districts or constituencies in accordance with the provisions of this section to such extent as it may consider desirable in the light of review.
“Notwithstanding subsection 1 of this section, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) may at any time carry out such a review and alter the districts and federal constituencies in accordance with the provisions of this section to such extent as it considers necessary in consequences of any amendment to Section 3 of this Constitution or any other provision replacing that Section or by reason of holding of a census of the population or pursuant to an Act of the National Assembly.”
It is on this strength that the House of Representatives has asked for the review of the 360 federal constituencies and 109 senatorial districts in the country. To this end, the House mandated its Committee on Electoral Matters to liaise with INEC to review federal constituencies and senatorial districts across the country.
The House maintained that the proposed review was in accordance with the 1999 Constitution which stipulates that these political blocs should be reviewed after a minimum of every 10 years. In a motion brought before the House by Honourable Mohammed Ango-Abdullahi, he reminded his colleagues that the last delineation of the constituencies was at the beginning of the present democratic dispensation in 1999.
He noted that since the constitution allows for a period not less than 10 years for the review, the country had exceeded that limit by about three years. In the lead debate, Honourable Ango-Abdullahi argued that the review of constituencies had become imperative because the population of Nigeria has been increasing by the day.
According to him the country’s population has been experiencing an annual growth rate of 3.18 per cent since the 2006 census when the population hit 140 million.
He said that the review will create more constituencies and districts to safeguard the interest of the people socially, economically and politically at the federal level.
Said he, “This will also reduce the burden of the National Assembly members who have two (2), three ( 3) or four ( 4) local government areas as a federal constituency without consideration to its population density or seven to fourteen local government areas in a senatorial district without consideration to the population density of the area”.
He quickly added that a new population census would be required to provide a true picture of the population of the various constituencies and districts. He, therefore, urged the National Population Commission to commence preparations for the next census expected to hold in 2016.
However, in an interview, the Chairman House Committee on Rules and Business, Honourable Albert Sam-Tsokwa explained that the INEC had not broken the law of the nation for not reviewing the senatorial districts and federal constituencies over the years.
Buttressing his point, he said, “So if it is in not less than 10 years you cannot review it, within 9 years and 11 months but you can review it after 20 years, if you review it after 20 years you are still in order, review after 30 years you are still in order, if you review it after 11 years you still in order, the only thing is that you cannot do it in less than 10 years, so strictly speaking legally INEC has not break the provisions of the constitution.
“I think in 2008 and 2009 INEC went around in an exercise to review the constituencies and senatorial districts. Now I am aware that under Professor Attahiru Jega, I am a member of House Committee on INEC, there is a work plan for the review of the constituencies, so I use this medium to ask Nigerians to wake up and present concrete facts to INEC. Those who want their constituency and district to be reviewed let them present those facts to INEC.”