Breaking News
Translate

FOR THE RECORDJCCR SUIT: Federal High court preliminary ruling

It was supposed to be a  retreat of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review of both chambers of the National Assembly in Minna to reflect on process of reviewing the 1999 Constitution. But rather than Senators and Representatives achieving the purpose of their gathering, controversy ensued over chairman cum Co-chairman of the committee.

While the Senators insisted the session’s chairman should be Deputy Senate President Senator Ike Ekweremadu, Representatives said Deputy Speaker Honourable Usman Nafada must be Co-chairman. The fallout was a suit instituted February by House of Representatives Chairman on Media and Public Affairs, Hon. Eseme Eyiboh and five other members seeking interpretation of status of  the two chambers of the National Assembly.

Below is the Federal High Court, Abuja division preliminary ruling on the issue:

The Plaintiffs through Counsel F.R. ONOJA ESQ. on 5th February, 2009 via Originating Summons formulated 4 questions for Court’s determination and prayed for 3 declarations as follows:

“(1) Whether in the light of Section 4 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the House of Representatives are not two bodies created under the Constitution with equal and coordinate status and functions in respect of the primary responsibilities of making laws for the peace, order and good government of the Federation.

(2.) Whether any interpretation or construction of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria can give rise to the inference in law that the Constitution created or intended to create a Bicameral legislature with an upper superior Senate and a lower and inferior House of Representatives.

(3.) Whether if the answer to the above question is in the negative, whether in the light of Section 53(2) and 54(2) the joint committee set up by the mutual agreement of the Senate and the House of Representatives for the review of the Constitution (known as the JCCR) can be regarded as a joint sitting of the National Assembly for the purpose of determining whether a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria must automatically preside.

(4)  Whether having regards to Sections 53(2) and 54(2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 with particular reference to Section 62(3) of the said  constitution, the Joint Committee of the National Assembly set up to review the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (generally known as the JCCR) must be headed by a Distinguished Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, or whether the joint committee can determine the nature and type of offices and officers it requires to appoint for the purpose of conducting its proceedings and functions.

The reliefs:

1. A declaration that the House of Representatives and the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria are two distinct but equal organs of the National Assembly created by Section 4 of the Constitution with the primary and equal powers to make laws (including amendments of the Constitution) for the peace, order and good government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

2. A declaration that the joint committee set up by the mutual agreement of the House of Representatives and the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, for the purpose of reviewing and if thought fit, to make amendments to the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is not a joint sitting of the National Assembly as stipulated in Section 53(2) of the Constitution for the purpose of determining the appropriate officer that will preside over the proceedings and functions of the joint committee.

3. A declaration that the joint committee set up by the mutual agreement of the House of Representatives and the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria are entitled to, and can in fact determine the procedure and manner of selecting or electing its own officers to preside over its proceedings and functions without reference to the provisions of Section 53(2) of the Constitution.

The Originating Summons is supported by a 30 paragraph affidavit sworn to by one Hon. Eseme Sunday Eyiboh, wherein he averred thus:

(2.) That I am a member of the House of Representatives in the National    Assembly    of   the    Federal    Republic    of   Nigeria representing Eket Federal Constituency.

(3)  That I am the Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Media and Public Affairs.

(4)  That I have duly subscribed to the oath of allegiance contained in the seventh schedule to the Constitution of the Federal Republic  of Nigeria  1999  as  a  member  of the  House  of Representatives of the National Assembly.

(5) That I am fully conversant with the provisions of the Constitution of the Republic of Nigeria 1999.

(6) That sometimes on or about October 2008, there was a mutual Agreement between the Senate and the House of Representatives of the National Assembly to form a Joint Committee consisting of equal members of Senators and honourable Members of the House of Representatives to be known as the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review hereinafter referred to as the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review or JCCR for ease of reference.

(7) That a committee of 44 members was eventually set up by each chambers and jointly inaugurated thereafter in November 2008 and consisted of 44 Senators and 44 members of the House of Representatives with the mandate to review the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 and recommend amendments to the National Assembly which is what is known as the joint committee for the review of the constitution (JCCR).

(8)  That I supported the setting up of the Committee and subsequent Joint Committee on Constitutional Review and voted in favour of it when the House of Representatives took a decision on the matter.

(9) That I sincerely believe that the setting up of Joint Committees of both organs of the National Assembly is a necessary and expedient effort to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which is the Primary function of the National Assembly as it will hasten legislation, reduce cost to the tax payers and my constituents and generally promote and deepen democracy in Nigeria,

(10)  That I am aware that sometimes on or about the 16th January 2008 at a retreat organized for the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review in Minna, Niger State of Nigeria, a significant dispute arose between members of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review, more particularly between the Distinguished Senators in the Committee, and the Honourable Members of the House of Representatives over leadership of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review.

(11)  That I know that the Distinguished Senators took the view that by section 53(2) of the Constitution, the leadership of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review and its sub-committees should be vested in Senators.

(12)  That the Honourable Members of the House of Representatives took the contrary position, that as the Joint Committee on Constitutional review is a special vehicle set up by mutual agreement, the provisions of Section 53(1) will not apply to deny them a chance to seek that the leadership of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review and that leadership of the joint committee should reflect the principle of equality which is the very basis of the mutual agreement to set up the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review in the first place.

(13) That as a result of failure to resolve this dispute, the members of the House of Representatives in the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review dissociated themselves from the breach of eth mutual understanding by not attending the retreat.

(14) That the action of the members of the House of Representatives in the joint committee was provoked by the unfair attempt by Distinguished Senators to take control of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review by undemocratic means and in clear breach of the mutual agreement that resulted in the setting up of the joint committee on constitutional review in the first place.

(15)  That the failure of the Joint Committee on Constitutional review to resolve the dispute under reference has led to a huge public outcry especially amongst citizens in my constituency who are demanding to know the reason why such an important National Assignment is being marred in crisis even before take off.

(16)  That in order to address the huge public anger over the dispute, the distinguished Senator have resorted to informing the public through various media, that there is traditional superiority of Senators over Honourable Members of the House of Representatives and as such, the members of the House of Representatives are in error to assume that officers of the Joint Committee on Constitutional review can be chosen by a mutually agreed democratic method.

(17) That the distinguished Senator has even gone as far as to suggest that the position of the House of Representatives is a carefully orchestrated plan by some ‘fifth’ columnists’ to derail democracy in Nigeria or that it is an entirely self-serving position by members of the House of Representatives.

(18) That for purpose of clarity, it is important that I depose to the arguments of the Distinguished Senators as reflected in some National Dailies.

(19)  In the widely circulated, Thisday Newspaper of Monday, January 26th 2009 (Vol. 14, No. 5027) on the front page and particularly at page 8, an interview granted by Senator Kanti Bello was reported as follows:_

“He said that they were actually trying to confirm the insinuation that that (sic) they were being engineered by some external forces that were determined to truncate the constitutional amendment”

(20) That Senator Kanti Bello was directly quoted in that report as follow:

“And if that is the reason why they don’t want the constitution amended, they should tell Nigerians and not use other excuses. As Jar as I know, parliaments all over the world are guided by conventions and the constitution and that the constitution states that whenever there is Joint sitting of the two Houses, the President of the Senate who is the Chairman of the National Assembly would preside.

I do not see why the issue of Chairman and co Chairman of the Joint Committee on Constitutional review should degenerate into stopping a national assignment from taking place”

(21) That the views of Senator Kanti Bello quoted above reflects the position of the entire Senate that the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review is like a joint sitting of the National Assembly.


Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.