By: Emmanuel Utibe
Last time out, we took time to look at the process of constitution review which had been initiated by the current Indy Hall assembly during their last plenary sitting.
We saw the speaker acting in line with what he said during the inaugural sitting when he told an Indy press correspondent about the house’s commitment to seeing that the current constitution is reviewed.
We also went on to as a way of preliminary contribution speak on those issues which we can notice merely from reading the constitution as a document.
So now, in this particularly article, like we said the previous time, having considered the constitution through the lens of any slightly informed person who carries the constitution and see the lacunas that exists in it off the top, we would now be considering the constitution through the lens of a Katangite.
A Katangite who has seen how governance has worked in the hall for at 3 different administration and seen those areas where the constitution has been found wanting both by those who are in governance and those being governed. And so right away, we would be setting out on this journey of finding what has been right and wrong.
In Article VII, section I (i), the constitution only allows for the election, based on the numbers of floor in 3 blocks, of 12 honourable members in total. So, by the virtue of that, each floor in block A, B, C are represented by one floor representative.
Anybody conversant with Independece Hall, even if that person were not a Katangite but a Kantangress, would know that Indy Hall has 4 blocks and not just 3. This would mean that the finalist block, D-block, does not have even a single representative to the house.
Why we may want to understand the spirit of the constitution in thinking that finalists may all be occupied with their final year work to bother themselves with house politics but then, events over the years have shown that this assumptive provision, while maybe done in good faith has not turn out all that good.
Evidence to this fact, is the single point that the house has over the years made it legislative precedence to frequently use it power of co-option to co-opt a member to the house who would represent the interest of D block on the floor of the house.
This came as a result of the fact that there were several times when D-block had pressing issues but nobody to voice it for them. Of recent were things like the state of toilets on some floors and then also the number of lines set up for drying clothes in front of D-block.
So putting this in mind, I think the constitution review committee should try to in the new constitution make provision for even if it’s a representative for the whole D block, so as to properly encode it into law and give credence to it.
Qualifications and Electoral Provisions
The memory of certain beloved candidates been disqualified during the last cycle of hall elections is still very much fresh in mind and the images has not left of people stealing their way through the dark of night to try to pay “courtesy visits” to the rooms of KRIEC members and then descending to threats and intimidation against KRIEC members when the outcome initially went against their planned interests.
The election drama brought about many questions about what the constitution, most especially in the Article XIII, section II, about the conduct of elections and the powers of the KRIEC.
Particularly, the c part of the said section which says that: “Shall screen all aspirants and have power to clear or reject the candidature of any aspirants subject to the provisions of the constitution.”
From this, it would seem surprising what provisions of the constitution they are made subject to as the constitution itself does not in any place highlight any specific qualifications for any office except that of the financial commissioner who is expected to not be in his final year (see Article VI, section V, sub-section I).
This is also important to emphasize as over the years, it has been established as a political tradition that 100 level students are not allowed to contest for any other political offices aside from floor representatives since it is assumed that they are necessarily lacking in political experience to hold more consequential offices.
It’s of note that this is unconstitutional as the constitution makes no such restraints.
From what has been noted above, it now follows that in this new constitution we should do due diligence to have at least a baseline qualification for all elected officers and then to make sure that if we would disqualify anybody, it’s on the bases of the legal scriptures and not man-made traditions.
The constitution is not a legislative ethics and conduct document and should not be reduced to that.
As a house, the Independence Hall assembly is expected to have a separate document that contains their standing order rules that guides the general conduct and ethics of members of the assembly during their plenary sittings and all.
On this ground, Article XI, order of the assembly’s business, should not be retained in the constitution. Rather it should form the bases of a separate ethics and conduct document for the Independence Hall assembly.
In that new document, all those nuances which pertain to legislative conducts, house proceedings, rules of debate, nature of motions, proper way of address in the house, dressing requirements and all the likes should be contained in that document as is obtainable in any other well-meaning assembly.
If such a document already exists, it would have given more credibility to the ascertainment of the house members to the executives on how to properly address the house as the existence of such a document would allow for them to be easily referred to the document to learn of what is expected to be obtainable during legislative sittings. And that way it allows for fairness as the rules guiding executive council meeting is not also contained within the constitution, and rightfully so.
Executives And Their Relationship With The House
Article VII, section I (iv) states clearly that executive members are not automatically members of the house.
It is of note though that over the years it has become legislative tradition to comply all members of the executive to be present at all house sittings, even in situations when their presence is not needed.
This had been a thing of contention sometimes, with the house punishing or fining executive members at various time for failing to attend plenary sittings without any notice sent to the house.
Particularly, the AG had brought it up to the house during a certain plenary sitting. But the speaker justified the house’s position on it, using a section of the constitution to back it. (See Article XVI, section I c which requires members unable to attend a sitting to inform the clerk, 24 hours before with reasons stated why).
It is noted though that reading through that Article XVI, section I, general discipline and attendance, it is clear that for most part that section refers to the legislative members and not the executive which the constitution already said are not automatically members of the Indy Hall assembly.
But then you might not blame the speaker so much for this error as even the said constitution seems to toe the line as if it regarded executive members as members of the assembly when in the sections of Article VIII, it spoken of election of principal officers of the assembly from non-executive members of the assembly or member of the assembly outside the executives.
This is further confounded when you realise that house committees, by the constitution, are supposed to be composed of members from the assembly and headed by a certain executive member all except the house audit committee (See Article X).
From this, in the new constitution it should be made clear by the house if the executive members are automatically non-voting members of the assembly, who would then be compelled to be present at all meetings by the provisions of the constitution even though they would not have voting rights in plenary, or they would have just one vote to represent the whole executive council while they all still retain speaking rights (Westminster style).
The constitution did well to clearly spell out the duties of the members of the executive council as it relates to the republic as a whole. But the thing is, the passage of time since when the constitution was first written till now has done away with some of the good contained within the letters of the constitution.
In some parts, the constitution is now found wanting. For example, like in the case of the issue around the gym there was the question of if we can by the constitution determine if the gym falls to the house secretary or the sports commissioner or if we should go along with tradition and allow the defence commissioner to continue to oversee it affairs.
Then there was the additional issue of if the squabble from the collection of gym revenue be tied to the financial commissioner, who the constitution empowers to collect money or if it be pinned on the defence commissioner who by tradition “helps” the finance commissioner to collect gym revenue.
This and other questions that we have had in the past should be worked on. The constitution should succinctly state in clear terms, the duties of the executive members with particular regard to the current realities of things within the hall and with eyes been kept out for how things would shape out in the future.
Of all the things which seem to be out of place in the constitution, this is one of those very big things in which the constitution is find faulty in.
In as much as 18 articles which were dedicated to several things which may have not been all that much consequential, it’s a big shortcoming that money matters, which is one of those big things of life and governance, is not given any article or even section.
That this is a consequential thing can be seen from the fact that several times in various house sitting whenever the issue of budget defence comes up and there is talk of funding by external sponsorship, there is always the issue of how the house would oversight to make sure that no fishy financial deals are going down under the covers.
Now, because the constitution does not speak on those ways the hall would be looking to generate revenues, how they would be required to collect those revenues and other intricacies like that.
Sponsorships are a unique thing as the way they work in the hall are quite dicey. While it is easy to monitor those money which find their way into the hall’s account, most sponsorships are organised on a P2P basis as most of the money are paid directly out of hand and may into the hall’s account.
This poses a sort of a dilemma as on one hand you would be looking to have all money go through the hall’s account and all receipts shown for accountability’s sake but then on the other hand, this would obstruct many sponsorship opportunities as currently they are sometimes arranged as informal things where a well-meaning individual would volunteer to settle a certain aspect of the budget out of pocket. i.e. providing refreshment for a party for free or even settling the hype man or DJ brought to a party based on personal relations.
For this, we would suggest that due diligence is given to provide a guiding framework as to how the handling of the finances of the hall should go while also looking to make that framework flexible enough to give room for such things as is currently observed as regards to sponsorship and rigid enough to curtail any financial mis-appropriateness.
In this last part we would be looking to talk about things that had not been mentioned in passing in the previous sections.
Things like a reference to a drama group in the hall or a horticulture club should either be removed from the constitution to truly reflect the current realities of things or efforts be made to revive them.
Then as to the state of the Indy Hall L n D and also the Indy Press, whatever new constitution is put forth should be worded to properly reflect their current status in the situation of the hall. That is to say, their status as independent body whose internal affairs are not supposed to be subject to interference from external parties.
All these things having been said, we believe that all these preliminary contributions which have been made to the ongoing discuss about constitution review would serve as a good building stone to achieve what the committee is set out to do.