Stories from ADETUTU FOLASADE-KOYI, Abuja
The single term proposal of seven years for the offices of the President and his vice, governors and their deputies is not on the card of the National Assembly, it has been revealed. Shortly after the April 2011 elections, the Presidency has suggested the tenure to replace the constitutional two terms of four years as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
The federal legislators said the single term proposal for elective offices is even not on its agenda in the fresh amendment of the 1999 Constitution. Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, who also chairs the Senate Constitution Review Committee (CRC), told Daily Sun in Abuja at the weekend that single term proposal was not one of the clauses being considered in the fresh amendment of the Cnstitution which started in the third quarter of 2011.
His words: “How can we discuss what we don’t even have as agenda before us? Please, take time to look at our agenda very well, it is not included…” At a press conference last November, Ekweremadu said that the CRC “has so far received 241 memoranda from Nigerians to update the ones we carried over from the sixth Senate. These are apart from the requests for state creation. The issues at stake are not different from those put before Nigerians during the national public hearing. “They are devolution of powers, state creation, constitutional recognition for the six geo-political zones, local government system, fiscal federalism, residency and state of origin, and the police system.
“Others are rotation of offices, immunity clause, executive (terms of office and system of government), judicial reforms, mayoral status for the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), gender and special interest matters. Nigerians will also be expected to speak on constitutional roles for traditional rulers, and removing the Land Use Act, National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and the Code of Conduct from the 1999 Constitution.” Regardless, a senior member of the CRC, who also participated in the exercise in the sixth National Assembly, and who doesn’t want to be named, provided further explanations on the controversial proposal. He said that both chambers of the National Assembly do not “have a single input from the Presidency on this amendment of the Constitution.
We have not received any document from them proposing whether one term, two terms or three terms; nothing whatsoever.” In the last quarter of last year, some lawyers had expressed worries over National Assembly’s haste to proceed with the Constitution amendment without the report of the Justice Alfa Belgore Presidential Committee on Constitutional Reforms.
President Goodluck Jonathan had earlier promised to commission another committee to look at the Belgore Report after which it would be forwarded to the National Assembly for consideration. But the ranking lawmaker, who served on a sub-committee on Constitution amendment in the last exercise in the sixth National Assembly dismissed observations of the lawyers. He insisted that “the National Assembly cannot wait for the President forever.
We do not have the Belgore Report before us. It was the President who set up the panel and what we heard is that another committee would study the report and the recommendations would be sent to us. “Since then, we have not heard anything. We have already resolved to press ahead, with series of public hearings, both nationally and at the state, constituency levels. “At any point, the President decides to send the Belgore Report to us, we may consider it.
But for now, our July 2013 date for a new Constitution is sacrosanct.” Daily Sun also gathered that this fresh constitution amendment by the National Assembly may be in jeopardy as there is a lawsuit pending over whether the President ought to assent to the bill or not. Human rights activist, Chief Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), had instituted a suit asking the court to determine whether presidential assent was needed before the last Constitution review could be legal and binding.
The court ruled that presidential assent is needed and President Jonathan subsequently signed the amendment bill. The case is presently before the Supreme Court for adjudication.