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Senate submits interim report on Constitution review



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The Upper Legislative Chamber, on Thursday, received the status report of its Constitution Review Committee, chaired by the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu.

According to Ekweremadu, the full draft of the constitution amendment bill will be ready soon after harmonizing with the House of Representatives on grey areas.

The Seventh National Assembly embarked on a similar exercise, but former President Goodluck Jonathan, declined to sign it into law. Rather, the then Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Mr. Mohammed Adoke, approached the Supreme Court to stop National Assembly from vetoing the president.

But in the report, released by Ekweremadu-led Constitution Review Committee, it recommended a uniform 3-year tenure for elected local government council officials and also suggested that Local Governments without a democratically elected council should not be entitled to any revenue from the Federation Account.

In the report, the committee made a provision for national savings of 50 per cent of oil revenues above the bench mark for a particular year and 10 per cent of any non-oil revenue paid into the Federation Account.

It amended sections 82 and 122 of the Constitution to reduce the period within which the President or a Governor may authorize the withdrawal of monies from the Consolidated Revenue Fund in the absence of an appropriation act from 6 months to 3 months.

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“Essentially, this will compel early presentation of budget proposal by the Executive arm of government thereby giving the legislature sufficient time to scrutinize such proposal,” Ekweremadu noted.

The report said sections 134 (4) & (5), 179 (4) & (5) and 225 have been amended to Extend the time for conducting presidential and Governorship re-run elections where no clear winner has emerged from 7 to 21 days to give INEC sufficient time to plan, considering the logistics that is required such as printing and transporting new ballot papers for the elections.

It also empowered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to de-register political parties for non-fulfillment of certain conditions such as breach of registration requirements and failure to secure/win either a presidential, governorship, Local Government chairmanship or a seat in the National or State Assembly elections.

Also, section 121 of the Constitution has been amended to guarantee a first line charge funding of State Houses of Assembly from the consolidated revenue fund of the State. If it is passed, it will free state legislatures from the grip of state governors.

The committee made a daring move and sections 256, 299, 300, 301 and 302 of the Constitution were amended to create the office of an elected Mayor for the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), with powers to administer the FCT as if it were a State of the Federation by exercising all functions presently administered by the Minister of the FCT.

Sections 147 and 192 of the Constitution were amended to Ensure that the President and Governors designate and assign portfolios to persons nominated as ministers or commissioners respectively prior to confirmation by the Senate or State House of Assembly.

It also provided a period of 60 days within which such nominations shall be forwarded to the Senate or State House of Assembly following inauguration And 35 per cent representation for women in the appointment of ministers and commissioners.

Sections 51, 67, 93 and 315 were amended to Create the National Assembly Service Commission and the State House of Assembly Service Commission and empower the National Assembly and State House of Assembly respectively to provide for the powers and structure of the Commissions through subsequent legislations.

It has also made it mandatory for the President to attend a joint meeting of the National Assembly once a year to deliver a State of the Nation Address and removed the lawmaking power of the executive arm of government under S. 315. The extant provision is starkly contrary to Section 4 of the Constitution which confers law-making powers exclusively on the legislature.

The committee also tinkered with Sections 233, 237, 247, 251 and Part I of the Third Schedule of the Constitution were amended to Provide for all appeals from the Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court to be by leave of the Supreme Court except in the case of Interpretation of the Constitution, death sentences and fundamental human rights.

It also proposed that two justices of the Court of Appeal sitting in chambers to dispose any application for leave to appeal after considering the records of proceedings if the justices believe the interest of justice does not require an oral hearing of the application.

Also, it resolved to establish a criminal division of the Federal High Court to try electoral offences, terrorism cases, economic and financial crimes cases and provide for appeals from the decisions of the National Industrial Court to the Court of Appeal.

According to the report, 12 Justices of the Court of Appeal are to be learned in Labour and Employment Matters for the purpose of hearing appeals from the National Industrial Court and put the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) under the control of the judiciary instead of the executive.

Second Schedule, Part I and II of the Constitution were altered to decongest the Exclusive Legislative List to give more powers to states. This enhances the principle of federalism and good governance. It substituted “Post and Telegraphs” with “Post and Telecommunications”, and moved Pensions, Prisons, Railways, Stamp Duties and Wages from the Exclusive Legislative List to the Concurrent List and added Arbitration, Environment, Healthcare, Housing, Road Safety, pensions, Land and Agriculture, Youths, Public Complaints to the Concurrent List.

Speaking further on the recommendations, Ekweremadu said: “In line with the Committee’s decision to disaggregate constitutional amendment proposals into different bills, we consolidated and clustered amendment proposals into appropriate thematic and sectional heads. While some amendment proposals were incorporated into existing Senate Bills, others were grouped thematically.

“Additionally, some amendments that could not fit into any of the above classifications were produced as stand-alone bills. Those stand-alone bills contain amendment proposals which we deem contentious, hence the need to isolate them from other proposals.

“These clusters are given different short titles such as Fourth Alteration Bill No.1, 2, 3, etcetera. The reason for this is to ensure that the rejection of a group of sections dealing with an issue does not affect other clusters dealing with different unconnected issues.

“This is to forestall the unsavory experience of the Fourth Alteration Bill as passed in the 7th Assembly, which after satisfying the provisions of section 9 of the 1999 Constitution as amended was not assented to by the then President.”

By Odia Ehisuan

RipplesNigeria ….without borders, without fears

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