Northern delegates allege: ‘New constitution is 3rd term plot’
National Conference delegates from the North yesterday rejected the draft new constitution prepared by the confab secretariat, saying it was part of a plot to give some elected public officers the legitimacy to stand for a third term.
The new constitution was circulated to delegates on Monday, and they are expected to debate it along with the report of the conference when they reconvene at plenary session today.
Speaking at a news conference in Abuja yesterday, the Northern Delegates Forum said the document was a plot to leverage on a court ruling in 2003 that said governors who had served during the aborted third republic were eligible to seek another term in 2003 elections since they were serving under a different constitution.
That judgment was delivered in a case
affecting then-governors of Kogi, Yobe, Taraba and Ogun states, who had also been civilian governors in 1992-93.
It was based on this court decision that Abubakar Audu, Bukar Abba Ibrahim, Jolly Nyame and Segun Osoba run again for election as governors for what was seen as third tenures in 2003.
The Northern delegates said yesterday if the confab draft were to be approved, serving elected office holders who are ineligible to seek another term in 2015 elections under the 1999 constitution would then be eligible under the new constitution.
“Adopting a new constitution is therefore calculated to enable incumbent elective office holders who are statured barred from going for third term at both federal and state levels, to run for offices again under the guise of running under a new constitution,” said co-chairman of the forum, Alhaji Ibrahim Coomassie, who read a text on behalf of the Northern delegates.
Other delegates at the briefing include co-chairman retired General Jeremiah Useni, Dr Iyorchia Ayu, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, Dr Bashir Dalhatu, Alhaji Mohammed Kumalia, retired General Jonathan Temlong, Prof. Andrew Haruna and retired AVM Mukhtar Muhammed.
Coomassie said after a newspaper report in June alleged the plot to introduce a new constitution at the confab, conference chairman Justice Idris Kutigi denied this.
He said now that the new constitution has been drafted by the secretariat, it was obvious that the National Conference “has been infiltrated by fifth-columnists whose goal is to subvert democratic processes and plunge the country into deeper, but avoidable political crisis.”
The conference secretariat distributed the draft new national constitution to delegates on Monday, in what came as a surprise to many of them who said the idea of producing such document was never approved.
Coomassie said, “To all intent and purposes, the introduction of a ‘ new Constitution 2014’ for Nigeria, is a calculated attempt by some people to take advantage of Court of Appeal’s ruling in 2003, as delivered by Justice George Adesola Oguntade, (JCA as he then was) in the celebrated case of Attorney-General of the Federation Vs. ANPP, and Others (A.G, Fed. v. A.N.P.P.  15 NWLR (Pt. 844).
“Wherein Governor Abubakar Audu of Kogi State (then) was challenged over his eligibility to run for a second term in 2003, having had a first term which ended in May 2003. The contention was that having been elected Kogi State Governor in 1991, his tenure 1991- 1993 should be regarded as a first term and the tenure 1999-2003 should have been regarded as second term….
“In that decision, the Court of Appeal upheld the eligibility of Governor Abubakar Audu of Kogi State, to stand for re-election as Governor, on the ground that his first tenure (1991-’93) was under a completely different Constitution (CFRN 1989), while the country was at the material time operating the 1999 Constitution, which was a new Constitution.
“Given the observation (above), adopting a new constitution is therefore calculated to enable incumbent elective office holders who are statured barred from going for third term at both federal and state levels, to run for offices again under the guise of running under a new constitution.
“If not arrested, the third term agenda, as in the past (2005), is capable of plunging Nigeria into another circle of political chaos with potential of violence and anarchy.”
Explaining how the plot started, Coomassie said: “The first indication that there was going to be problem was on Monday 30th June, 2014, when a front page report in a national daily ( Daily Trust) alleged that a member of the leadership of the conference had been lobbying members of the Northern Delegation to be able to smuggle in a ‘new constitution’ at the conference. A delegate drew the attention of the Conference to the publication under ‘matters of national importance: The integrity of the leadership of the conference and it was demanded that the leadership should make a categorical statement on the issue.
“The leadership claimed ignorance of the existence of any such document and demanded to see a copy of it. This was immediately made available, and after going through it, the conference chairman made the following statement as reflected in the Conference Hansard of Monday 30th June, 2014, on page 14: ‘We know nothing about the paper in circulation. We know nothing of the consideration of any Committee, we formed no Committee apart from the standing Committee we set up …We are not aware of that…We have nothing to do with it. That matter should be closed!’
“Ordinarily the matter of a ‘ new constitution’ should have died a natural death. But that was not to be. The issue was brought over and over again in the course of plenary sessions, but each time it was overwhelmingly rejected by the delegates.
“And when attempts were made to bring in the issue of ‘referendum’, as a means of actualising the outcome of the conference, it was always strongly and painstakingly explained that the operating constitution does not have any provision for such a referendum. The only instance when a referendum can be held is in relation to the creation of new states or boundary adjustment, per the provision of Section 8 of the CFRN 1999 (as amended).
“You are aware, by now, of the surprise, shock and disappointment with which not only delegates to the conference, but many patriotic Nigerians, have reacted to news of the sudden appearance of a ‘New Draft Constitution 2014,’ among other documents distributed to delegates, when we resumed at plenary, last Monday, August, 11, 2014.”
Coomassie added: “We, Northern delegates…unequivocally disown (the new constitution), and emphatically disassociate ourselves from it. Accordingly, we will have nothing to do with it, for the following legal, moral and political reasons.”
The National Conference reconvenes today to begin consideration of the draft report and the new constitution.