Jonathan’s men lobby sen­a­tors

...want Ek­w­ere­madu c’ttee bill re­vis­ited Pres­i­dent seeks sup­port from groups

Daily Trust - - FRONT PAGE - By Tu­raki A. Has­san

A pro­posal to em­power Pres­i­dent Jonathan to come up with a new na­tional con­sti­tu­tion may be rein­tro­duced in the Se­nate, fol­low­ing in­tense lob­by­ing on be­half of the pres­i­dent, Daily Trust learnt.

When the clause first came up in the Se­nate weeks ago, through a bill from the Con­sti­tu­tion Re­view Com­mit­tee, sen­a­tors op­posed giv­ing the pres­i­dent the same lat­i­tude as the Na­tional As­sem­bly in propos­ing a new con­sti­tu­tion.

This forced chair­man of the com­mit­tee and Deputy Se­nate Pres­i­dent Ike Ek­w­ere­madu to with­draw that as­pect of the bill to avoid a neg­a­tive vote. Un­der the Se­nate rules, a bill or part of it can be rein­tro­duced if it is with­drawn be­fore be­ing sub­jected to a vote.

Daily Trust learnt that there is now a plan to bring back the pro­posal, and sen­a­tors are be­ing lob­bied to tone down their op­po­si­tion.

The plan, sources in the Se­nate said, is to give Pres­i­dent Good­luck Jonathan the pow­ers to in­tro­duce a new con­sti­tu­tion which may be drafted by the on-go­ing Na­tional Con­fer­ence.

The Na­tional Con­fer­ence com­prises mostly ap­pointees of

the pres­i­dent, the Federal Govern­ment and state gov­er­nors.

Sources said al­ready the pres­i­dent has iden­ti­fied key pro­vi­sions that he would want in the new con­sti­tu­tion.

They in­clude abol­ish­ing of the 774 lo­cal govern­ment ar­eas as the third tier of govern­ment; stop­page of Federal al­lo­ca­tion to the lo­cal gov­ern­ments; set­ting aside 50 per cent of oil rev­enues for the Niger Delta; cre­ation of an additional state for the South-East; and pro­vi­sion of six-year sin­gle term for the pres­i­dent.

Twenty com­mit­tees of the Na­tional Con­fer­ence are to be­gin work to­day, and these items are among is­sues to be dis­cussed and most likely sub­jected to voting if con­sen­sus failed.

The six-year term was first pro­posed by the Ek­w­ere­madu com­mit­tee in June year but it was re­jected by the Se­nate in July.

Mean­while, Daily Trust has learnt that Pres­i­dent Jonathan has been lob­by­ing in­ter­est groups to sup­port his bid to in­tro­duce a new con­sti­tu­tion.

The pres­i­dent has been meet­ing with var­i­ous groups, where he has been per­son­ally plead­ing with them to see rea­son with him on the need for a new con­sti­tu­tion, sources told this news­pa­per.

Op­po­si­tion in Se­nate

The pro­posal in the Se­nate to em­power Jonathan on con­sti­tu­tion change would most likely have re­ceived a ‘nay’ vote when the bill came up for voting penul­ti­mate week.

This would have made it nearly im­pos­si­ble for Ek­w­ere­madu to bring it back dur­ing the life of the cur­rent Se­nate.

But he re­quested that he be al­lowed to with­draw it, mean­ing he can bring it back at any time.

“We told our col­leagues that we should not al­low him with­draw it but we should vote and ‘kill’ it. But we didn’t do that and now they have gone to re­strate­gise and may bring it back,” said a se­na­tor who does not want to be named.

An­other se­na­tor told Daily Trust he was aware of a lobby mounted to per­suade sen­a­tors to ei­ther sup­port the bill or stay away from the cham­bers on the day it will come up for voting.

But sen­a­tors op­posed to the bill have dug their heels, say­ing they would not al­low it to pass if it is tabled again.

Se­na­tor Babafemi Ojudu (APC, Ek­iti) told Daily Trust: “We are wait­ing for them to rep­re­sent the bill…. I am to­tally against and I will op­pose it any day.

“The sus­pi­cion is that they want to use as win­dow to bring in the out­come of the Na­tional Con­fer­ence. But elec­tion is few months away in Fe­bru­ary, why do you want to change the con­sti­tu­tion? To which end are you chang­ing it?”

Se­na­tor Ah­mad Lawan (APC, Yobe), who is also a mem­ber of the con­sti­tu­tion re­view com­mit­tee, said: “All the is­sues they are ag­i­tat­ing for can be brought un­der an amend­ment but not new con­sti­tu­tion. It will lead to chaos to in­tro­duce an en­tirely new con­sti­tu­tion and I don’t see how it will pass.”

Se­na­tor Umaru Dahiru (APC, Sokoto) said the pow­ers to amend or change any law in­clud­ing the con­sti­tu­tion rested with the Na­tional As­sem­bly.

But Se­na­tor Ita Enang (PDP, Akwa Ibom) thinks the pres­i­dent al­ready has pow­ers to pro­pose a con­sti­tu­tion bill.

“If the Na­tional Con­fer­ence pro­poses at the end that there is the need for a new con­sti­tu­tion all the Pres­i­dent needs to do is to bring a bill to the Na­tional As­sem­bly, it doesn’t mat­ter whether it is a new con­sti­tu­tion or an amend­ment,” he said.

“What­ever it is, it is bill, the Pres­i­dent can send it. It is for the Na­tional As­sem­bly to say yes or no to it. The State Houses of As­sem­bly can also say no or yes to it.”

For his part, House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives mem­ber Ibrahim Tukur El-Sudi (PDP, Taraba) said: “The 1999 con­sti­tu­tion is very clear about the pow­ers to al­ter or mod­ify the con­sti­tu­tion rests with the leg­isla­tive arm… It is there­fore our pow­ers to change the con­sti­tu­tion and noth­ing stops the Pres­i­dent from send­ing a pro­posal in form of a bill for our con­sid­er­a­tion.”

He added: “The pro­posal is su­per­flu­ous and there is no need for it. The Pres­i­dent can­not have ex­ec­u­tive as well as leg­isla­tive pow­ers. I am very much con­cerned about these kinds of bills com­ing from mem­bers of the par­lia­ment but in ev­ery or­gan­i­sa­tion you can­not rule out the ex­is­tence of Ju­das. It is very dis­turb­ing.”

The Se­nate is on a three-week re­cess, and Daily Trust learnt that the bill may be rein­tro­duced soon af­ter sen­a­tors re­con­vene on April 29.

If Ek­w­ere­madu brings back the bill, it would have to be ap­proved by two-thirds of the Se­nate be­fore it passes.

Any con­sti­tu­tion amend­ment bill would also have to be ap­proved by twothirds of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives as well as at least 24 state houses of as­sem­bly.

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