Move to enlist Govs’ for Constitution review
By Jide Ajani & Ise-Oluwa Ige
LAGOSâ€”Sequel to revelations in yesterdayâ€™s edition of Sunday Vanguard that the Senate is set to wade into the political impasse over the absence of President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua from office for the past 41 days, there are strong indications that a series of intrigues and power play have ensued in the last 24 hours.
Also, it was learnt that a divide-and-rule approach is being engaged by some powerful forces comprising those who do not want the amendment of Sections 144 and 145 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Vanguard has been reliably informed that whereas some senators are having informal discussions on the way forward, specifically on how to amend Sections 144 and 145, and how to fine-tune their strategy when they resume tomorrow, some powerful individuals, including ministers and some very close aides to President Yarâ€™Adua are attempting to frustrate the move.
Moves to cede power toÂ Jonathan
The kernel of the move is the presentation of a bill seeking to transfer power to Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan.
The bill, it was further learnt, would pass through the First, Second and Third Readings expeditiously.
The product of that process would then, most likely, be passed to the state governors to convince their legislatures at the state levels to pass it with the required two-third majorities in at least 24 of the 36 states of the federation.
One of the first steps towards frustrating the move, according to a reliable source, is to use the governors considered very loyal to Yarâ€™Adua not to allow their state houses of assembly to pass the bill into law.
But, a senator (name withheld) insisted that â€œmembers of the Governorsâ€™ Forum are Nigerians and are as concerned as we senators who are attempting to find a solution to the present problem.
â€œThe way people are toying with the destiny of this nation, this matter that people think is a minor thing has the capacity to completely destroy this country.
â€œWell, we are very happy that Mr. President has signed the Supplementary Appropriation Act in Saudi Arabia.Â It is our hope and belief that he would also sign the letter handing over power to his deputy, Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan.â€
Although no formal contact has been made with the Governorsâ€™ Forum yet, the senator stressed that â€œall these are the things we would be discussing at our Executive Session when we resume next Tuesday.
â€œMind you, we are not interested in the selfish calls in some quarters insisting that the National Assembly should impeach President Yarâ€™Adua.Â No.Â That is not what we are trying to do.Â Anybody can fall sick; the error in this instance is that Mr. President did not write to the Senate President and the Speaker informing them of the necessary transfer of power.â€.
Attempts to speak with the Office of the President of the Senate and the Office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives were unsuccessful.
But a source in Aso Rock Presidential Villa denied that there was move by the National Assembly to amend the constitution expeditiously.
The source told Vanguard that: â€œit was for the National Assembly to do whatever it believes is within its purview as the legislative arm of government.Â Whatever they do, so long as it is within the bounds of legality, nobody would question it.â€
SERAP drags FG before UN
Meantime, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, has dragged President Yarâ€™Adua before the United Nations, UN, over his refusal to hand over power to Jonathan, in accordance with the law, following his inability to perform the functions of his office owing to ill-health.
Yarâ€™Adua is reportedly receiving treatment at King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Saudi Arabia over acute pericarditis (inflammation of the heart lining).
SERAP, which tabled the issue before the UN, is contending that President Yarâ€™Adua and his cabinet members, by their conducts, are deliberately raping the 1999 Constitution of the Republic of Nigeria contrary to the Federal Governmentâ€™s obligation to its citizens.
The non-governmental organisation cited the controversial signing of the 2009 Appropriation Bill and his inability to sign the 2010 Budget as part of the details of the wrongs being perpetrated by the Yarâ€™Adua government.
SERAP seeks special session on Nigeria
In the petition dated January 3, 2010 and signed by SERAPâ€™s Executive Director, Mr. Adetokunbo Mumuni, the organisation is consequently â€œurging the HRC to simultaneously hold a special session on the non-compliance by the Nigerian government with its obligations in relation to the realisation of economic, social and cultural rights.”
It also wanted the UN to consider its petition under the HRC new Complaint Procedure, established pursuant to Resolution 5/1 of the HRC, and General Assembly Resolution 60/251 of March 15,Â 2006.
The petition meets the requirements of the new Procedure and raises issues of importance justifying the holding of a special session on Nigeria.
According to the organisation, â€œPresident Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s absence from duty and his inability and failure to empower the Vice-President to act as president pursuant to Section 145 of the 1999 Constitution, is obstructing the effective implementation of the 2009 Supplementary Budget and the 2010 budget.
â€œIt also indicates a failure to invest the â€˜maximum of available resourcesâ€™ to realise economic and social rights and to meet core obligations regarding the rights to education, health, food, among others.
â€˜â€™At the beginning of 2010, retrogression in the realisation of these rights is apparent.â€
â€œPresident Yarâ€™Adua was flown to Saudi Arabia on November 23, 2009, for medical treatment, and to date the president has not returned to the country.
â€œPresident Yarâ€™Adua reportedly signed the 2009 Supplementary Budget from his sick bed in Saudi Arabia. The National Assembly had in November passed the N353.6 billion supplementary budget, which includes a capital spending of about N253bn, out of which about N114bn was earmarked for the critical â€œpost-amnesty interventionâ€ programmes in the Niger Delta,â€ the organisation added.
Relying on Section 145 of the Constitution, the organisation also argued that â€œthe President has so far failed and/or neglected to empower the Vice-President as required by the Constitution, thereby starving critical projects such as education and health important funds and precipitating unnecessary delay in addressing the deplorable conditions of our roads, and worsening the security situation in the Niger Delta.
”This situation is also undermining the effective utilisation of a $300million Word Bank (obtained from the International Development Association, an arm of the World Bank) facility for gas to meet the 6,000 Megawatts target.â€
The organisation also argued that â€œNigeria is a state-party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
â€œAs such, the government has a legal responsibility to use the mechanism of the budget to allocate and spend maximum available resources to ensure the full enjoyment of the rights to health, education, food, water and housing by millions of Nigerians who continue to live in extreme poverty, with barely enough to eat.â€
â€œThis situation is worsening the governmentâ€™s non-compliance with the fundamental principles of progressive realisation according to maximum available resources, prioritisation of minimum core obligations and the duty of non-discrimination.
”Millions of Nigerians remain extremely poor and lack access to basic economic and social rights. Nigerians have suffered and continue to suffer years of failed budgeting and implementation, a critical element of statesâ€™ obligations to fulfil economic and social rights,â€ the organisation stressed.
The organisation added that â€œthe present situation in Nigeria is also contributing to the violation of the fundamental principle of non-discrimination and equality, which is essential to the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights.
Article 2 (2) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and Articles 1(3) and 55 of the UN Charter prohibit discrimination in the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights.
â€œUnder international law, a failure to act in good faith to comply with the obligation in Article 2(2) to guarantee that the rights enunciated in the Covenant will be exercised without discrimination amounts to a violation.”
SERAP on Covenant rights
SERAP further argued that extreme poverty has resulted in pervasive discrimination, stigmatisation and negative stereotyping of millions of marginalised Nigerians, denying them access to the same quality of education and health care as others, as well as to public places.â€
The organisation also said that, â€œNigeria is obligated not only to refrain from discriminatory actions, but also to take concrete, deliberate and targeted measures to ensure that discrimination in the exercise of Covenant rights is eliminated.
â€˜â€™The Nigerian government has a responsibility to ensure that through its budgetary allocations, strategies, policies, and plans of action are in place and implemented in order to address discrimination in the area of the Covenant rights.â€
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