Constitution amendment: Stalemate as Senate, Reps differ on six-yr single tenure

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From ADETUTU FOLASADE-KOYI, Abuja

Stalemate looms in the amendment of the 1999 Constitution in the National Assembly as the Senate and the House of Representatives differ on the tenure of the president and vice president, governors and their deputies.

Senate Committee on Constitution Review (CRC), which submitted its report on the amendment process recommended a six-year single tenure for executive offices including that of the president and vice president, governors and their deputies.

But the public hearing report collated from interaction with the public by the House of Representatives CRC retained the two terms of four years for executive offices.

The Senate has, however, rejected rotation of executive offices. Senators opined that rotation of offices should be the exclusive preserve of political parties as it was not a constitutional matter.

In a clear departure from what obtained in the Sixth National Assembly, where state assemblies rejected financial autonomy, the amendment scaled through in this dispensation.

Similarly, the Senate CRC has abrogated the joint account of states and local governments. In this instance, however, only local councils that had democratically elected chairmen and councillors would benefit from the direct payment from the federation account.

In the report presented by the Committee Chairman and Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, on Wednesday, the CRC “rejected this proposal on the grounds that the Constitution should not make Nigerian leadership subject to ethnic or regional considerations. This should be a matter of consideration among the various political parties.”

Presenting the report, Ekweremadu noted that, “the recommendations contained in this report were arrived at on the basis of extensive research, study tours, proposals from memoranda submitted to the Senate committee, strategic collaborations with key partners, consultation with stakeholders and feedbacks from the national and zonal public hearings on the review of the Constitution.

“Discussions of the committee were always open, frank, sometimes intense but always amiable and at all times motivated by what is best for Nigeria. Members always tried to reach out for a consensus decision. Hence, decisions and recommendations in the report have been approved by consensus. In those rare occasions when there were strong divergence of views, decisions were supported by a majority of members and, where it was requested, the minority view is also recorded.

“While some of the issues highlighted above can be addressed through incremental amendment within the constraints of the provisions of Sections 8 and 9 of the Constitution, others, it appears, require an entirely new Constitution.”

The Senate CRC drew attention to constraints faced during the amendment process. “Although our Constitution makes provisions for amendments, it has stopped short of specifying or making explicit provisions for enacting a whole new Constitution. If this is not envisaged, as it is the case with our Constitution, sometimes there is doubt about whether the amendment process could be used to provide a completely new Constitution. This and many other considerations are some of the unique challenges and opportunities the committee had to grapple with,” Ekweremadu said.

Sections 135 and 180 which dealt with tenure of the president and his deputy, governors and their deputies had been amended. The old Section 135 had been substituted with a new Section 135 which reads: (1) Subject to the provisions of this constitution, a person shall hold office of president until-

(a) when his successor in office takes the oath of that office;

(b) he dies whilst holding such office; or

(c) the date when his resignation from office takes effect; or

(d) he otherwise ceases to hold office in accordance with the provision of this Constitution.

“(2) Subject to the provisions of Subsection (1) of this section, the president shall vacate his office at the expiration of a period of six years commencing from the date, when –(a) in the case of a person elected as president under this Constitution, he took the oath of allegiance and the oath of office; and

(b) in any other case, the person elected to that office under this Constitution took the oath of allegiance and oath of office or would, but for his death, have taken such oaths.

“(3) If the federation is at war in which the territory of Nigeria is physically involved and the president considers that it is not practicable to hold elections, the National Assembly may, by resolution, extend the period of six years mentioned in Subsection (2) of this section from time to time; but no such extension shall exceed a period of six months at any one time.”

The Senate report was, however, silent on the take-off date. A ranking senator had, on Tuesday told Daily Sun that the commencement date was 2015.

Curiously, Senate threw out the entire Section 136 and replaced it with a new one. The old Section 136 (2) stipulated that, “where the persons duly elected as president and vice president die or are unable for any reason whatsoever to assume office before the inauguration of the National Assembly, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) shall immediately conduct an election for a president and the vice president.”

In the amended section, INEC plays no role while barring the vice president from contesting future elections. The new Section 136 (2) states:  “Where a vice president-elect or vice president succeeds the president-elect or the president in accordance with Subsection (1) of this section, he shall not be eligible to contest for the office of the president in any subsequent election.”

In the report presented by Ekweremadu, 61 requests for creation of states could not meet the constitutional criteria as spelt out in Section 8 (1).

Similarly, Section 137 has undergone the legislative surgical knife. The new Section 137 specifically disqualifies current office holders (president and governors) from benefitting from the six-year single tenure.

It reads: “Section 137 (1) (b) is altered by-(a) deleting the word “two,”  (b) substituting for the word “elections”, the word “election”, and (c) inserting a new subsection “3”; “(3) A person holding the office of the president or vice president immediately before the coming into force of the alteration of Sections 135 and 136 of this Constitution shall not be eligible to contest election for a single term of six years.”

Same applies to Section 180 and a new 182 reflecting the disqualification of current governors and their deputies from benefiting from the proposed six-year single term.

The Senate CRC also amended Section 6 of the First Alteration Act to increase the number of bodies and offices to benefit from the first line charge from an initial three to seven. They are: (a) National Assembly, (b) Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), (c) Judiciary, (d) attorney-general of the federation, (e) auditor-general of the federation, (f) Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission and (g) National Human Rights Commission.

The Senate CRC further separated the office of the attorney general of the federation from the office of the minister of justice. The same separation was effected with regards to the 36 states. “To guarantee the independence of the office of the attorney-general of the federation and the attorney-general of the state, the office is accordingly separated from that of the minister of justice or commissioner for justice,” said Ekweremadu.

Should that amendment scale through, states would also have attorneys general, different from the office of the commissioner of justice.

An amended Section 162 effects direct payment to local governments from the funds of the federation but with a caveat; “there must be a democratically-elected council in place.”

To make for accountability and an effective local government system, the state- local government joint account is expunged from the Constitution. Although the Senate stepped down the issue of granting pension to the Senate president, his deputy and the Speaker of the House of Representatives and his deputy, the matter came back in the Constitution review.

Section 84 had been altered with the insertion of a new Subsection “(5A)” which states that, “any person who has held office as president or deputy president of the Senate, speaker or deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, shall be entitled to pension for life at a rate equivalent to the annual salary of the incumbent president or deputy president of the Senate, speaker or deputy speaker of the House of Representatives.”

Furthermore, Section 302 has been inserted in the Constitution, to grant a mayoral status to the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). The section, with the sub-heading; an elected mayoral system of administration for the FCT accords “a mayoral status to the FCT is not only in keeping with the practice in many capital cities of the world but it is also to ensure efficient administration of the FCT.”

Other amendments are as follows: Second Schedule, Part I – Devolution of Powers.

The exclusive list under Part 1 of the Second Schedule to the Constitution is congested, cumbersome and unwieldy. There is therefore the need to decongest the exclusive list by maintaining only items of utmost importance to the federation as a whole, while transferring items of concurrent interests to the concurrent list.

The committee therefore substituted “Post and Telegraphs” with “Post and Telecommunications,” removed pensions, prisons, railways, stamp duties and wages from the exclusive legislative list and also added new items to the exclusive and concurrent lists, namely: (concurrent list) arbitration, environment, healthcare, prisons, railways, road safety, stamp duties, wages, land and agriculture, youths, public complaints and aviation and (exclusive list) national security.

(iv) Senate Bill 108 – ministerial (Nominees Bill) 2011. This seeks to make provision that will enable the National Assembly to be more effective in the screening of ministerial nominees by ensuring that portfolio is attached to each nominee. Assigning portfolios should remain the prerogative of the president for reasons of flexibility. Besides, it has been shown that professional qualification does not necessarily approximate to performance in practical terms.

Immediately after Ekweremadu presented his report, Senate President David Mark announced that there would be no debate until the chamber resumed from its anniversary recess, which would end in two weeks. Although Mark commended the Ekweremadu Committee for a job well done, he, nevertheless, explained that suspension of debate was to enable senators read and digest the report with a view to adopting positions on the amended clauses.

Said Mark: “You have done a detailed job. You have spent considerable time doing the job. We will use our recess to consult more with our constituents on the clauses. More importantly, all the speculations in the media have now been rested with the submission of the report. It is now a public document. There will be no debate on it today. We will debate it when we return from our recess.”

Mark further added that unlike in the past, voice vote would not be allowed on the amended clauses. “Voting on the clauses is not by voice vote. Every senator will vote on each clause. Every senator will vote and declare where he stands on each clause. Please, prepare your mind on where you stand.”

Thereafter, Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba (SAN) moved a motion for the chamber to defer “further consideration till another legislative day.” Minority Leader, George Akume, seconded the motion.

Meanwhile, northern and southern senators met at different times after Wednesday plenary at the White House Complex of the National Assembly.

In a dramatic u-turn from the position adopted by the Senate at plenary two weeks ago, northern senators were now in support of the House of Representatives’ resolution barring President Goodluck Jonathan from spending funds of states under emergency rule.

Daily Sun gathered that the crux of the meeting of the Northern Senators’ Forum (NSF) was the state of emergency in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, which took effect on May 20. On the same day, the northern senators met in Hearing Room 4, their southern counterparts also met, simultaneously in Hearing Room 1.

The northern lawmakers, it was gathered, resolved to plead with “President Jonathan not to touch the funds of the affected states.” At the conclusion of their meeting, no lawmaker from the South agreed to speak with newsmen.

 

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15 Comments

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    • shorebattery on

      Please stop riding piggyback on another website to promote your products! It’s just as easy as anything to float your own website and promote/market such products! What you are doing here is only a distraction, submitting unrelated matters!

  2. Ike Ekweremadu-led constitution amendment committee told us the committee had the mandate of the people at the grass roots to amend the constitution. On the other hand, he is saying that the millions of Nigerians who requested for new states could not meet the constitutional requirements.

    Ekweremadu is biting more than he can chew. He is charting his route to political oblivion. It is either Nigeria creates a sixth state in the southeast or the country embraces fiscal federalism.

    • Hi Ken, having many tiny states is not viable. Having 6 zones would be better. Then Anioma area of Delta State would join the South-East zone thereby enlarging that zone and reuniting separated brothers. We would have 6 Regional Assemblies and 6 Governors. LGAs can remain as they are. This would be cheaper than 36 Governors, 36 Deputy Governors, 36 Governors lodges, 36 State Assemblies and so on. Each of the 6 zones would be viable and no longer need to take Niger Delta’s money. Nigeria would be a confederation of 6 zones like Switzerland with its 3 distinct zones: French, German and Italian but one country. Take care!

      • @Ndidi, no body from the southeast has a grouse against Anioma, but Anioma is in the southsouth, it used to be in the southwest region and latter Midwest.

        Again, the rest of Nigeria is not willing to embrace confederation even with a long spoon, you know why. The southeast needs to have equal number of “beggarly states” like others. So let there be commensurate number of states created in the southeast in the ongoing constitution amendment, else the exercise is in futility

  3. Ozobugha B.Udoka on

    Anything short of creating the sixth state for the Igbos is tantamount to injustice,nepotism, tribalism and sectionalism.Its been clearly shown that the likes of Ekwerenmadu and Ihedioha are there to enrich them selves and not to champion the Igbo cause,i feel totally let down.What these idiots called Ekwerenmadu and Ihedioha are after is to introduce a caveat in the constitution that stipulates the fact that past senate presidents and their deputies as well as past speakers of the house as well as their deputies should be entitled to life salaries after they might have finished looting respectively at the upper and lower chambers of the assembly, this is a shame and betrayal at the highest level,i hope the electorates are taking note.

  4. @Ndidi,your submission makes sense,but the fact is that if the amendment is adopted as it stands now,the issue of regionalism will die a permanent death because our national assemby members are not even blinking in that direction.They are more pre-occupied with the issues that affect them more as major political players.Again i do not see real reason why the serving president and the governors should be excluded from the six years term in the amendment.By right,it`s the constitutional right of those affected to seek a two term period of eight years under the present constitution and by extension,if the constitution is amended while they are still in power,it contravens their rights to be exempted.In my opinion,they should be allowed to benefit from the current arrangement.It is their right!!

  5. Patrick Agbobu on

    WAS THIS PLANED AS A SOFT LANDING FOR MR JONATHAN? YOU HAVE NOW SHOWN NIGERIANS YOUR TRUE COLOUR ABOUT YOUR WURUWURU AND MOGOMOGO NEW STATES CREATION. FROM THE WORD GO I SAID IS WAS 419 AS THERE IS NO WAY THAT YOU CAN CREAT NEW STATES. YOU USED THAT TO GRAB FROM THE PEOPLE, WHO THOUGHT THAT YOU HAVE THE POWER TO CREATE NEW STATES, WHEN YOU KNEW FROM DAY THAT IS WAS OJORO. AS A MATTER OF FACT I WILL ADVOCATE THE SCRAPING OF THE EXISTING STATES AND THE CREATION OF MORE POWERFUL LOCAL GOVERNMENTS.

  6. It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his steps…so says the bible and it is true by what we are seeing now. Nigeria is burning hence the need for the constitution ammendment and various public hearings designed to make it look like the people’s constitution. What are we seeing now, the wishes of the people like rotational offices,regionalisation, etc are being sidelined and selfish drives like life salaries and using it to scuttle 2nd tenure of opponents are being promoted. Hmmm…one thing is certain…as we make our bed,so shall we lie on it…

  7. I know that new state can never be created for us in the south-east judging from the controversial section 8 of our constitution. I don’t blame Ekweremadu and Ihedioha because the Northern law makers are more than the southern law maker in both houses. And the North will not allow that which make them the controllers of our NSA slip off their hand. I preach true federalism and not more states because some of the states we have are not viable and are unproductive. GOD BLESS NIGERIA!!!

  8. Patrick Agbobu on

    IF YOU BUNCH ARE SERIOUS LEADERS AND NOT THE DEALERS WE ALL KNOW YOU AS, WHAT YOU SHOULD DOING IS HOW TO SUSTAIN THE DEMOCRATICS PROCESS THAT IS TERMINAL .
    IF I HAVE MY WAY I WILL SCRAP ALL THE STATES AS THEY ARE VERY WASTEFUL AND THE MONEY SAVED SHOULD BE USED FOR ECONOMIC DEVELOPEMENTS, CREATE JOBS FOR THE TEAMING ABLED BODIED YOUTHS ROAMING THE STREETS OF NIGERIA. I WILL ALSO SCRAP ONE OF THE HOUSES IN THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY AND CREATE POWERFUL LOCAL GOVERNMENTS. WE SHOULD HAVE ONE FEDERAL HOUSE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS. THE COUNCILLORS SHOULD ONLY BE… PAID SITTING ALLOWANCES, BUT THE FULL TIME CHAIR PERSONS SHOULD BE PAID FULL SALARY AND SHOULD BE MADE TO DO FULL TIME WORK FOR THEIR PAY. THE SALARIES OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY MEMBERS SHOULD BE DRASTICALLY REDUCED. A NATION THAT SPENDS 84% OF ITS REVENUE TO PAY THE SALARIES AND WAGES OF LESS THAN 4% OF ITS POPULATION AS WE DO IN NIGERIA HAS NO FUTURE. AND TO MAKE THE MATTER WORST WE ARE A ONE PRODUCT ECONOMY CRUDE OIL. BY 2016 THE CRUDE OIL PRICE WILL COLLASPE, AS THE USA WILL NO LONGER BUY CRUDE FROM ANY NATION AGAIN, AS THE USA WILL BE NOT ONLY THE LARGEST PRODUCER OF CRUDE BUT THEY WILL BE SELF SUFFICIENT IN CRUDE. OIL. THE MAIN MARKETS WILL BE CHINA, INDIA AND WESTERN EUROPE AND WE CANNOT COMPETE WITH THE MIDDLE EAST IF YOU FACTOR IN TRANSPORTATION COSTS. THEN THE ALARM WILL BLOW AND THE ROFOROFO WILL KICK IN. NIGERIANS WE ARE IN VERY BIG TROUBLE AND HOLE AND WE ARE STILL DIGGING. DO NOT SAY THAT YOU WERE NOT WARNED OR PUT ON NOTICE. I REST MY CASE

  9. I am ashamed of Ike Ekweremadu in this mission of constitution amendment. If he, being Igbo could not mobilize igbos ( by guiding the people through the governors on the requirements) to achieve additional state in the region like others, how and when will this maginalisation end? And he had the effrontery to declare in the floor of the senate that none of the agitators met the requirement for state creation. Between him and Emeka Ihedioha are coward and chicken hearted polticians.

  10. All legislators are delegates on behalf of their people. What tangible result will Ekweremadu and Ihedioha bring to Igbos when they return from Abuja. Or are they there only to support other peoples motions.

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