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Fresh amendment of constitution possible, but… – Ndoma Egba

By Dayo Benson & Ben Agande

LAGOS—DEPUTY         Senate Leader and member National Assembly Joint Committee on Constitution Review, Senator Victor Ndoma Egba SAN, yesterday, said that fresh amendment of the 1999 Constitution and Electoral Act 2010 would be tight but stressed that the exercise would be carried out because of the exigencies of the moment.

This came against the background that the Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Professor Attahiru Jega will this morning meet with the 42-member Constitution Review Committee of the National Assembly to explore ways of achieving the postponement of the forth coming elections from January to April, 2011.

Senator  Ndoma Egba who spoke to Vanguard in a telephone chat ahead of today’s crucial meeting of members of the National Assembly Joint Committee on Constitution Review, Independent National Electoral Commission INEC Chairman Professor Attahiru Jega and the Attorney General of the Federation AGF Mohammed Adoke, SAN, noted that whatever would happen would depend on the outcome of the meeting.

He said: “Amendments of both the Constitution and the Electoral Act are feasible but it is going to be tight.”

INEC had at a stakeholders meeting with leaders of political parties, Tuesday, in Abuja requested that the poll be shifted from January to April 2011, a position the parties agreed to.

The implication, however, is that the 1999 Constitution has to be amended afresh since the amended constitution now prescribes that elections should be held not earlier than 150 days and not later than 120 days from the expiration of incumbent’s tenure.

Resumption of office holders

Before the amendments, the constitution provided that elections should hold not earlier than 90 days and not later than 30 days from the date the elected office holders resumed office.

Before the amendment, section 132 stated: (1) An election to the office of President shall be held on a date to be appointed by the Independent National Electoral Commission. (2) An election to the said office shall be held on a date not earlier than sixty days and not later than thirty days before the expiration of the term of office of the last holder of that office.

Also section 178(2) prior to the amendment stated: (2)An election to the office of Governor of a State shall be held on a date not earlier than sixty days and not later than thirty days before the expiration of the term of office of the last holder of that office.

Same also applies to section 116(2) on National Assembly election which states that the date mentioned in subsection (1) of this section shall not be earlier than sixty days before and not later than the date on which the House of Assembly stands dissolved, or where the election is to fill a vacancy occurring more than three months before such date, not later than one month after the vacancy occurred.

Speaking on the issue, former Nigerian Bar Association President, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN, said: “This then means that the idea of concluding petitions before those declared winners are sworn in would have to be discarded.

I think that what should happen is for the National Assembly to more or less swallow the humble pie and let all of us agree that the Constitution has not been amended. So, if the 1999 Constitution has not been amended, we can regard it together with the Electoral Act as the operational laws of the land. Then  whatever is in conflict with them remains null and void to the extent of that conflict.”

Also speaking, Lagos lawyer, Mr Tayo Oyetibo, SAN, said: “I think that INEC wants to probably play on the safe side and ask for an extension based on the assumption that the constitution has come into effect.  By and large I think that there is a need for the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, AGF, to go and seek judicial pronouncement on the status of the amended Constitution so as to clarify the true situation once and for all.”

Jega meets with NASS members today

Chairman of INEC, Professor Attahiru Jega will, this morning, meet with the 42_member Constitution Review Committee of the National Assembly to explore ways of achieving the postponement of the forth coming elections from January to April, 2011.

Today’s meeting is at the instance of the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu following the request by INEC chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega, which was later supported by leaders of the registered political parties, that the election be shifted from January to April, 2011.

It is believed that today’s meeting would allow members of the constitution review committee of the National Assembly explore means of how legal means could be used to back up the proposed shift in date.

A member of the constitution review committee of the Senate told Vanguard that though there was the likelihood that the National Assembly may grant the extension, it was not going to be an easy sail.

He asked: “Before we passed the Electoral Act, we asked for the input of the Electoral body and they made their input. Why the sudden change?”


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