By Tordue Salem
Alleged moves by some political interest groups to truncate the amendment of the 1999 Constitution gained ground at the weekend with the postponement of the scheduled Senate zonal public hearings.
The zonal hearings scheduled to hold on November 20 and 21 have been postponed to next month.
The official reason given by the Senate Committee on Constitution Review was that the hearing was deferred to allow Muslims undertaking the pilgrimage to Mecca to fully participate in the programme.
Vanguard sources alleged that the same interest groups had earlier successfully engineered the rift between the Senate and the House of Representatives over the chairmanship of the now moribund National Assembly Joint Committee on Constitution Review (JCCR).
It was learnt that leading elements among those opposed to the review of the constitution had in the past week piled pressure on the committee against holding the zonal hearings before the forthcoming Islamic festivities by month end.
The postponement of the zonal hearings further limits the time for the Senate and the House of Representatives to reconcile their positions on the constitution review before a harmonised document is passed on to the 36 State Houses of Assembly for ratification.
â€œThis hearing is not holding during the festival, so why the zonal hearings? I wonder what this could be about,â€™â€™ a Senate official involved with the organisation of the hearing told Vanguard.
The Clerk of the Senate Committee on Constitution Review, Mr. Innocent Mbieri, at the weekend confirmedÂ the postponement.
He said: â€œThe Senate Committee on Constitutional Review (SCCR), has postponed to December 14 and 15 theÂ proposed zonal hearings on the â€œAlteration to the Provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.
â€œThe zonal hearings which were fixed for November following the successful national public hearing will hold simultaneously in the six geo-political zones of the country.
â€œThe change is to enable Muslims to fulfill their religious obligation- the 2009 hajj and return to fully participate in the zonal hearings,” he added.