Senators were divided yesterday over the proposed plan to include the presidency in the initiating process of constitutional amendment as some alleged it was a deliberate plot to give room for the presidency to ask for a referendum after the ongoing constitutional conference.
The Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu who is the Chairman, 1999 Constitution Review Committee had while presenting report of the constitution review appealed to the Red Chamber to consider the report of the Committee on Constitution Review and the Bill for an Act to further alter the Provisions of the Constitution.
Senator Ekweremadu in the proposal wants an amendment to Section 3 (b) of Clause 2 of the Fourth Alteration Bill dealing with how a new constitution can be processed, adding that Section 9 of the first Alteration Bill provided for how a new constitution can come into being through the National Assembly.
He said the aim of the insertion was to make provision for the President in addition to the National Assembly to initiate the process of a new constitution.
He also called for an alteration of Section 68 and 109 to mandate the Clerk of the National Assembly and the Clerks of States Houses of Assembly to notify the Independent National Electoral Commission in writing within seven days of the existence of a vacancy arising from death, resignation or defection of a member of the National Assembly or a member of the State House of Assembly respectively.
Besides, Ekweremadu in the proposal wants an alteration of Sections 134 and 179 which aim to extend the time for conducting presidential and governorship re-run election from seven days to 21 days as contained in Clause 4 and 5. INEC is seeking for an extension of the seven days to 21 days after results have been announced.
He further made a proposal for the empowerment of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC to de-register political parties which fail to win presidential, governorship, chairmanship of a local government area council, or a seat in the National or States Assembly elections.
The Constitution Review Committee proposed for an amendment that would confer exclusive jurisdiction on the Federal High Court for the trial of offences arising from, pertaining to or connected to the violation of the provisions of the Electoral Act and any other election related act of the National Assembly.
Another proposal was the alteration of the Third Schedule of the Constitution in Clause 8 to include former Senate Presidents and Speakers of the House of Representatives as members of the Council of States.
He said, “What happened was that in July last year we came up with this view that since Section 9 did not make any provision for how a new constitution would come into being, we need to amend Section 9 in order to accommodate such possibility in the future. “
Senator Ahmed Lawan, APC, Yobe North, said the proposal was an attempt to allow the presidency usurp the powers of the Legislature.
He said, “We must not dilute the functions of the executive nor that of the legislature. I can concede that any president can send request and that is provided in the Constitution but when we say initiate it is now taking some functions of the National Assembly
“And because of that I oppose this proposal that we maintain the sanctity, the purity of the functions of the executive and that of the legislature in such a way that there is no lacuna and no confusion; so that in the nearest future we don’t run into a constitutional crisis where the constitution amendment process will become neither here nor there.”
Also opposing the inclusion of the presidency in initiating amendment of constitution, Senator Kabiru Marafa, APC, Zamfara Central said, “I want the Senate to be very careful in the way and manner we repeal and re-enact laws because sometimes we make laws that make us useless as a body.
“Today in Nigeria there is a lot of mistrust among the various components that make up Nigeria. This is the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and I think the buck should stop here. – Vanguard.