The Senate on Wednesday suspended its vote on the recommendations contained in the report submitted by its Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution because the number of the senators in attendance did not form the required two-third.
The development came just as the Chairman of the Committee, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, announced the suspension of the controversial addition into Section 9 of the constitution which gives President Goodluck Jonathan the power to initiate the process of a new constitution.
Senate President, David Mark, who presided over the session, explained that the vote was suspended because the numbers of the senators, who attended the plenary was slightly above the required 73, which is the two -third of the entire figure of 109.
He therefore urged all his colleagues to attend the next legislative sitting because all members should be present in order to participate in the “all important process of constitution amendment”
Ekweremadu, who is also the Deputy Senate President, had earlier informed the chamber that his committee met on Tuesday to exhaustively debate on the insertion to Section 9, which tends to recognise the right of Jonathan to initiate the process for a new constitution.
Members of the Senate had expressed divergent views on the additional report submitted last week Wednesday by the committee because of certain aspects that affect national and individual party’s interests.
The bill titled, ‘An Act to further alter the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 and for other matters connected therewith, 2013′, according to Ekweremadu, is to principally enhance and strengthen the legal framework for the processing of a new Constitution, electoral process and other connected institutions in Nigeria.
He had recalled that the Senate at its sitting of Thursday, 1 July, 2013 voted on some recommendations of the Senate Committee on the review of the 1999 Constitution.
He explained that while expecting the inauguration of a Conference Committee of the Senate and the House of Representatives which are separately working on the same issue to harmonize areas of differences, his own committee received six additional requests which have very serious implication to the electoral process.
He therefore stated that his committee found it imperative and incumbent on it to take immediate legislative action on the requests.
The highlights of the amendments as proposed by the committee are, to amend Section 3 (b) of Clause 2 of the constitution dealing with how a new constitution can be processed.
Ekweremadu explained that Section 9 of the first Alteration Bill provided for how a new constitution can come into being through the National Assembly but that the aim of the current insertion by his committee was to make provision for the President in addition to the National Assembly to initiate the process of a new constitution.
Secondly, he said Sections 68 and 109 were being altered 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, 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.