Confab: Crisis looms as northern delegates plans to frustrate Amendment of 1999 Constitution

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By Henry Umoru
ABUJA- AS delegates at the on- going National Conference resumed plenary yesterday to debate on the final report of the Conference as produced by the Secretariat after one month of recess, strong indications have emerged that crisis looms as some northern delegates may have concluded plans to frustrate moves to amend some sections of the 1999 Constitution.

Preparatory to carry out some alterations in the Constitution as contained in the report as recommended during Committee sitting and proposed amendments to be made on the proposed constitution as approved by delegates, the Conference Secretariat has prepared a draft Constitution to be sent to the National Assembly.
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Yesterday the Conference Secretatiat distributed the draft copy and a bill to give the Amendment teeth to all the delegates, just as some northern delegates were not comfortable with the draft with plans to ensure that it did not sail through.

The body language of the north to jettison the idea came up yesterday when a northern delegate from Jigawa State and representing the Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, Mallam Sani Zoro raised the issue that a new constitution was being prepared by the Secretariat and described the document as a strange one.

Zoro who queried the inclusion of the draft constitution, which he termed “strange document, was however economical with words and said, “Thank you for giving us the draft constitution. We didn’t expect it, but we welcome it and will go through it”.

The Justice Idris Kutigi led 2014 National Conference plans to forward a Bill to both the Senate and the House of Representatives to alter some sections of the 1999 Constitution aimed at correcting what it termed some anomalies in the said constitution and make it more people oriented.

Kutigi in the Bill titled, an Act to further alter the Provision of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999( with the first, second and third Alterations, and for Related Matters 2014 will go the National Assembly as an Executive Bill.

Vanguard gathered that crises were already brewing at the Conference as delegates were poised to fight with the leadership of the Conference for tagging it a draft Constitution rather than tag it proposal for the alteration of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria against the backdrop that the conference has no such mandate to write a constitution, but to advise the President on areas that could be changed in the constitution.

When Vanguard contacted a lawyer and a delegate, Festus Okoye to speak on the document, he noted that the problem was not with the content of the document, but with the National Conference Procedure Rules 2014, stressed that the title was wrong, adding that rather than write ” Draft Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 2014, it would have been, “Proposal for the Alteration of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, saying that the rules recognise that.

Speaking further, Okoye who said that there were some delegates and persons who never wanted the Conference to succeed from the beginning, stressed that what the leadership of the Conference had done was to play into the hands of such persons as it was not within the mandate of delegates to draft a constitution, adding that at the end of the day, it would amount to rubbishing names and integrity of delegates.

Citing Order 13, Rule 3 of Conference Procedure Rules 2014, Festus Okoye who is at the Conference on the platform of Civil Society Organisations, said that the section reads thus, “Should the final report lead to the drafting of issues of law and policy, the Conference shall in consultation with the six Principal Officers of the Conference advise the government on the legal framework, legal Procedures and options for integrating the decisions and outcomes of the National Conference into the Constitution and laws of the country. ”

Also speaking with Vanguard, Sani Zoro who noted that the draft Constitution if allowed was capable of ridiculing the entire assignment at the Conference, it would amount to waste of time, energy and Government resources, just as he said that as delegates, it was not within their mandate to carry out such an assignment against the backdrop that it was not a constituent Assembly, adding that conflict looms between the delegates and the National Assembly.

Zoro who noted that there was no place President Goodluck Jonathan mentioned the draft of a new constitution during the inauguration, said, “the issues of the draft Constitution were capable of making nonsense of the entire exercise that has caused delegates their time, resources of government because when the President inaugurated the conference March 17, where in his speech or mention of mandating us to produce a new constitution.

” Apart from that, I have seen strange clauses being smuggled into the draft Constitution. It is capable of ridiculing what we have done, no where it was mentioned that we have a new constitution; we are not a Constituent Assembly, we were not elected, only the National Assembly has such powers. Our job would have stopped at producing recommendations, the work Plan says submission of Conference reports and modalities of Implemenation. This can cause conflict bewteen us and the National Assembly, there is no need for that.”

According to the draft Constitution, some of the alterations were section 2 subsection A that ” Any State of the Federation wishing to do so may enact and give its self a Constitution for the State, but if any provision of the Constitution of that State is inconsistent with any provision of this Constitution, this constitutions shall prevail and that other provision shall to the extent of the inconsistency be void. ”

Also the draft constitution stipulates that the country will now ave fifty- four state following the creation of additional States by the Conference.

The document read in part, “Alteration of section 3
Section 3 of the prinripal Act is altered – (a) by replacing the existing subsection (1) with the following as new subsection (1) -
“(1) There shall be fifty-four states in Nigeria, that is to say, Aba, Abia, Adada, Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Amana, Anarribra, Anioma, Apa, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Benue, Borno, Cross River, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Edu,piciti, Enugu, Etiti, Ghari, Gombe, Gurara, Ijebu, Imo, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kainji, Kano, Katagum, Katsina, Kebbi, Kogi, Kwara, Lagos, Nasarawa, New Oyo, Njaba-Anim, Niger, Ogoja, Ogun, Oil Rivers, Ondo, Ose, Osun, Oyo, Plateau, Rivers, Savannah, Sokoto, Taraba, Yobe and Zarnfara.”: and (b) by deleting subsections) (2) and (6); and ( c) in subsection (3) by replacing the word “third” with the word “second”.

“Alteration of section 6
Section 6 of the prinfipal Act is altered – (a) in subsection (S) by – (i) by replacing the provision~ of paragraph (b) with the following – 1 “(b) the Federal Court of Ap,peal; (ii) inserting new paragraphs (bb) and (bbb) as follows-
“(bb] the State Court of Appeal; (ccc) the Constitutional Court”: and (cccc) the Anti-Corruption Court; (b) by deleting subsection (6)(c); and
( c) by inserting a new subsection (7) as follows – “(7) (i)In the exercise of judicial powers, the courts shall be independent and shall not be subject to the control or direction of any person or authority. (ii) No person or authority; shall interfere with the court or judicial officers in the exercise of their judicial functions. (iii) All organs and agencies of the State shall accord the courts such assistance as may be required to ensure the effectiveness of the courts.
(iv) A person exercising judicial powers shall not be liable to any action or suit for any act or omission by that personiin the exercise of judicial powers.

” Alteration of section 7 Section 7 of the principal Act is altered -
(a) in subsection (1) by replacing the existing provisions with the following-
“(l)(a)(i) A system of local governments by democratically elected local government councils is guaranteed. (ii) Chairmen and councillors of local governments not democratically elected shall not be recognised by all authorities and persons and shall not be entitled to any revenue allocation. i
(b) States shall create Iocal governments. which shall be under the jurisdiction of that State.
(c) States that wish to, may increase or reduce the number of existing local governments which shall be under the jurisdiction of the State.
(d) The number, structure, form and administration of local governments shall be deterrnirjed by States: Provided that the tenure of elected local government councils shall be three years.”; (b) by deleting subsection ~6)(a); and (c) by inserting a new subsection (7) as follows -
“(7) In addition to the functions conferred upon local government councils as specified in the Fourth Schedule to this Constitution, the House of Assembly of a State may by Law confer additional functions; on the local government.”

” Insertion of a new Section 8A – Merger of Existing States. 8 A 1). Without prejudice to States constituting the federating units, States that wish to merge may do so. Provided that- (a) a two-thirds majority of all members in each of the Houses of Assembly of each of the States in which such merge! is proposed support by resolution the merger; (b) a referendum is conducted in each of the States proposing to merge with 75 per cent of the eligible in each of those States approving the merger; and
(c) the National Assembly by resolution passed by a simple of membership approves of the merger. (2) States that decide to merge shall also reserve the right to demerge following the same procedure and processes for merger.
(3) Any group of States may create a self-funding Zonal Commission.”

” Alteration of Section 9
Section 9 of the principal Act is altered by – (a) replacing the existing subsection (2) with the following- “(2) An Act of the National Assembly for the purpose of altering any provision of this constitution shall only be passed if the proposal for alteration of the Constitution is approved – (a) in a referendum by simple majority; (b) by simple majority of all the States of the Federation supported by a simple majority of members of the Houses of Assembly; and (c) by a rlsolution passed by two-thirds majority of members of each House of the National Assembly.”; and (b) deleting subsection (3)

“Alteration of section 12 Section 12 of the principal Act is altered by -
(a) inserting new subsections (1) and (2) as follows-
“12. -(1) The National Assembly may make laws for the making of treaties between the Federation and any other country on any matter on the Exclusive List. (2) All treaties to be negotiated and entered into for and on behalf of the Federal Republic of Nigeria by any Ministry, government agency, body or person shall be made in consultation with the relevant committees of the National Assembly before such treaties are signed by such bodies.”
(b) by renumbering the existing subsections as subsections (3), (4) and (5); and(c) by inserting a new subsection (6) as follows – “(6) No treaty shall be ratified except when such treaty has been enacted into law by the National Assembly.”

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