Why Jonathan can’t pro­pose new Con­sti­tu­tion - El-Sudi Bar­ris­ter Ibrahim Tukur El-Sudi rep­re­sents Gashaka/Kurmi/Sar­dauna Federal Con­stituency of Taraba State. A con­sti­tu­tional lawyer and for­mer state At­tor­ney Gen­eral, he says the Pres­i­dent can­not have both

Daily Trust - - INSIDE POLITICS - By Tu­raki A. Has­san & Ibrahim Kabir Sule

Federal leg­is­la­tors have ex­pressed reser­va­tions about the Na­tional Con­fer­ence, but the Na­tional As­sem­bly has ap­proved the N7 bil­lion al­lo­cated for the con­fer­ence. How do you rec­on­cile that?

As you rightly pointed out, ma­jor­ity of the mem­bers of the Na­tional As­sem­bly are against the Na­tional Con­fer­ence, how­ever, it should be clearly un­der­stood that there are cer­tain lee ways in the budget left for the pres­i­dent to take con­trol of cer­tain ac­tiv­i­ties, even if they are not bud­geted for. We be­lieve it is with this spirit that the Na­tional As­sem­bly gave the pres­i­dent this N7 bil­lion, be­cause it was not in the budget.

There are spe­cial sub head­ings where the pres­i­dent is given recog­ni­tion to con­duct cer­tain things that are not within the con­tem­pla­tion of any­one. I be­lieve this is what hap­pened.

What is your take on the bill that sought to grant the Pres­i­dent pow­ers to pro­pose a new con­sti­tu­tion?

The pres­i­dent is try­ing to use the pow­ers of the leg­is­la­tors. Sec­tion 9 of the 1999 Con­sti­tu­tion is very un­am­bigu­ous, that the pow­ers to al­ter, vary or mod­ify the Con­sti­tu­tion lie with the leg­is­la­ture. The par­tic­u­lar word­ing there is “al­ter­ation” and al­ter­ation here in­cludes amend­ment. An amend­ment, if you go into var­i­ous def­i­ni­tions, as en­cap­su­lated in var­i­ous dic­tio­nar­ies, in­cludes whole­some change or re­plac­ing an old one with a new one.

By im­pli­ca­tion it means the Na­tional As­sem­bly, can change the con­sti­tu­tion com­pletely. This does not stop the Pres­i­dent from re­quest­ing us to en­dorse it, be­cause 70 per­cent of the leg­is­la­tion at the federal level comes from the ex­ec­u­tive arm. There­fore noth­ing stops the pres­i­dent from re­quest­ing that or pre­sent­ing a brand new con­sti­tu­tion for our con­sid­er­a­tion, be­cause the Supreme court as far back as 1964 in the case of the At­tor­ney-Gen­eral of the East­ern re­gion of Nigeria and the At­tor­neyGen­eral of the fed­er­a­tion, de­cided on that. And that is the locus clas­sico, the case that is reign­ing un­less the Supreme Court re­verses it­self.

So, are you now say­ing that there was no need for that bill to have been tabled in the Se­nate since the Pres­i­dent can pro­pose same un­der the ex­tant pro­vi­sions?

There was no need for that in the first place. In fact, both the Se­nate and the House of Reps, through pri­vate bills by in­di­vid­u­als, mem­bers of the Na­tional As­sem­bly have even ques­tioned the pow­ers con­ferred on the Pres­i­dent un­der sec­tion 315, which says the Pres­i­dent can by or­der al­ter or mod­ify pro­vi­sions of any law to be in con­form­ity with the Con­sti­tu­tion. Now we said ‘no.’ you can­not have ex­ec­u­tive as well as leg­isla­tive pow­ers.

But this pro­posed al­ter­ation did not come from the Pres­i­dent, rather it came from a pre­sid­ing of­fi­cer of the Na­tional As­sem­bly...

As pre­sid­ing of­fi­cers, they are first among equals. They have their own pedigree, they have their own dis­po­si­tions, so they can bring is­sues, ei­ther na­tional or lo­cal, but it is not the gen­eral opin­ion. In fact even on the floor of the Se­nate it was ve­he­mently op­posed to by the ma­jor­ity of the mem­bers, and at the end of the day, it was also dropped.

Mem­bers of the leg­is­la­ture seem will­ing tools in the hands of the ex­ec­u­tive in com­ing up with leg­is­la­tion that are en­dan­ger­ing the in­sti­tu­tion. Are you not con­cerned about this?

I am very much con­cerned. Ob­vi­ously in any or­gan­i­sa­tion, you can never rule out the ex­is­tence of some Ju­das and there­fore to any gen­eral rule, there are ex­cep­tions and these are the few that crop up from time to time in an in­sti­tu­tion like the leg­is­la­ture. It is very dis­turb­ing and you can never stop that. It hap­pens every­where.

There are those that are pre­em­i­nently pro-ex­ec­u­tive. I am not say­ing that you should be an­tag­o­nis­tic to the ex­ec­u­tive. We are all work­ing to­wards the same govern­ment un­der the demo­cratic sys­tem we are prac­tic­ing. But the bot­tom-line is that we should not be seen to be pro­mot­ing things that are an­ti­thet­i­cal or anti-demo­cratic in na­ture.

Many be­lieve the con­fer­ence was pri­mar­ily con­voked to ad­dress the ag­i­ta­tion for the re­source con­trol and for ten­ure elon­ga­tion.?

Only God knows the mo­tive be­hind the con­vo­ca­tion of this con­fer­ence. But I want to say that there is sem­blance of the ac­cu­sa­tion or the al­le­ga­tion ped­dled on the is­sues ru­mored round that this might be the case be­cause of the pas­sion some people come out to speak on this is­sue.

Do you sup­port the idea of re­source con­trol?

It all de­pends on how you look at the whole is­sue. The is­sue of re­source con­trol is a new is­sue in Nigeria. How­ever, I want to make abun­dantly clear and I be­lieve many Nige­ri­ans know that un­der sec­tion 44 (3) of the 1999 Con­sti­tu­tion, the is­sue of min­eral re­sources, whether solid or liq­uid, lies squarely with the Federal Govern­ment and I want to quote ver­ba­tim, so that I would not be quoted out of con­text. I says “notwith­stand­ing the fore­go­ing of this sec­tion, the en­tire property in and con­trol and all min­er­als oil and nat­u­ral gas in, on or un­der any part of Nigeria or un­der or upon the ter­ri­to­rial wa­ters and exclusive eco­nomic of Nigeria should vest in the federal repub­lic of Nigeria and be man­aged in such man­ner as may be pre­scribed by the Na­tional As­sem­bly.’ We are han­dling the is­sue of Petroleum In­dus­try Bill, which when sub­se­quently passed, will be­come a Petroleum In­dus­try Act. The ques­tion is: as Nige­ri­ans, are we not in sup­port of the con­trol of min­eral re­sources as en­cap­su­lated in the sec­tion 44 (3) of the 1999 con­sti­tu­tion? Ma­jor­ity of Nige­ri­ans are very com­fort­able. The most an­noy­ing is­sue of it is that people have com­pletely for­got­ten his­tory.

I have heard our south­ern broth­ers cas­ti­gat­ing, abus­ing, us­ing very un­print­able words that we are par­a­sitic, we don’t con­trib­ute any­thing to the econ­omy and they should be given the op­por­tu­nity to con­trol their re­sources 100 per­cent. When you go into var­i­ous def­i­ni­tions, most oil pro­duc­ing coun­tries, the places where these min­eral re­sources come, do not ag­i­tate the way this our south­ern coun­ter­part do. This is not a new is­sue.

Now, go­ing back into his­tor­i­cal lane, there is a book writ­ten by Ade­bayo Ad­edeji, he cap­tioned it ‘Nige­rian federal fi­nance’, in page 60, I just want to recap some of the is­sues he raised: the north­ern re­gion re­ceived sub­stan­tially, that is in the 1960s, much less al­lo­ca­tion than its de­riv­a­tive share. East­ern re­gion re­ceived sub­stan­tially much more. The western re­gion, at first, re­ceived much less al­lo­ca­tion than its de­riv­a­tive share, al­though the gap the be­tween its de­riv­a­tive share and the ac­tual al­lo­ca­tion di­min­ished over the years, from 5.9 per­cent from 1948-1949 to 0.9 per­cent in 1951. So the East re­mained con­sis­tently a deficit re­gion while the North and to some ex­tent the west re­mained the sur­plus re­gion. And the East at the time com­prised the present NigerDelta.

Sir Richard ex­pressed the sit­u­a­tion then as thus: ‘I found that the North which pays its taxes al­most as obe­di­ently as people do in Eng­land and which con­trib­ute more than any other sec­tion of Nigeria to the gen­eral rev­enue is the part of Nigeria which has the least spent on it by the cen­tral govern­ment. The east­ern prov­inces, which com­prised the South-East and the South-South to­day, the part of Nigeria which is most vo­cal and which clam­ours and calls for more ed­u­ca­tion, more of ev­ery­thing is the part which least con­trib­utes to the other two re­gions on the gen­eral rev­enue of the coun­try. It is also the part upon which govern­ment spent much. This is a book not writ­ten by a north­erner but a south­west­erner Ade­bayo Ad­edeji. And this was writ­ten in 1969 and some people are telling us that we have never con­trib­uted to the peace­ful co-ex­is­tence of this coun­try.

What then could be rea­son­able?

What is rea­son­able is what is ob­tain­able now, be­cause look at the budget. Look at what is em­bed­ded in the Niger-Delta De­vel­op­ment Com­mis­sion, the min­istry of Niger-Delta, the amnesty pro­gram. In fact so many things em­bed­ded in the budget, with so many nomen­cla­tures, with dif­fer­ent coinages. It is enough for them to de­velop. Let them blame their lead­ers. The south­ern part should blame their lead­ers.

Bar­ris­ter Ibrahim Tukur El-Sudi

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Nigeria

© PressReader. All rights reserved.