By Tordue Salem & Inalegwu Shaibu
ABUJA—THE joint National Assembly Committee on Constitution Review, yesterday, succumbed to INEC’s request for a three-month extension of the 2011 election timetable.
Deputy Senate President and Chairman Senate Committee on Constitution Review,Sen. Ike Ekweremadu, announced this in Abuja after a closed-door session with INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega and the Attorney General of the Federal,
Mohammed Adoke, SAN.
He said the decision to grant the time extension was to enable INEC to conduct a credible, free and fair election in 2011, adding: “The only section of the Constitution that empowers us to alter the provisions of the Constitution is section 9. We have done that in amending the first set of the constitution dealing with electoral reforms and if there is going to be any other amendment,we have to follow the same process by going back to the section and apply all
the procedures that are stated there.”
Fastracking the processs
Ekweremadu added: “But because of time constraints, we are going to try as much as possible to work within a time frame and in doing so, we are also going to link up other stakeholders such as the state Assemblies and Governors. We are
going to meet the Governors and Speakers of the state Assemblies on Tuesday, hoping that they will fast track the process and that they will do what is expected of them.”
The deputy Senate president said that INEC would provide the National Assembly the timeframe and “we are going to work expeditiously to produce the desired result.”
Earlier, Ekweremadu had said: “As you are aware, we met with the Attorney General of the Federation and the Chairman of INEC. We have discussed extensively on their request for extension of time within which to hold the 2011
election. As you will recall the first amendment to the 1999 Constitution provides that the election will hold between 150 days and 120 days that is notearlier than 160 days and not later than 120 days to the end of this present
“Now INEC, in doing their time table, have fixed January based on that provision of amendment to 1999 Constitution and now because of time constraint they have requested that National Assembly should look at the law again and be able to do further amendment to the Constitution to enable election to hold somewhere in
“So we discussed this with them extensively. We asked relevant questions, they have given us relevant answers and we are satisfied with the explanation given, but we have asked them to go back and do a time line blow by blow on how they
arrived at April and what they think they will do at this time to guarantee free
and fair election.
‘May 29 is sacrosanct’
“We want to be sure that there will be no more request for extension of time because May 29, as far we are concerned, is sacrosanct for the handing over of the present regime to the new set of people who are elected to take over from
those who are here now. So we have asked them to go back and come with time-line of what they will do at this period to ensure transparent election. “Having done that they have gone back and they have promised to bring back to us the
time-line by Wednesday and at our Committee we will meet thereafter to look at it and then we start the process of legislating on those extension. So that means that there is going to be further amendment to the Constitution and then
the Electoral Act will also be altered in some particulars to accommodate some of this request.
“We have also committed ourselves to ensure that this is done expeditiously. We will get the request from INEC and then discuss with one or two stakeholders and we get on the process hoping that within a very short time we will finish with
it so that the business of election next year will continue.”
The Deputy Senate President also disclosed that members of the Joint Constitution Review Committee, will meet with Governors and Speakers of the 36 State Houses of Assembly, today, on the proposed amendments to the time line for
elections, before they finally agree on a specific date for the general elections.
He said: “Because the House of Assembly will also be involved, we are hoping to meet with the state assemblies; the speakers we hope will be in Abuja by tomorrow night and the leadership of the National Assembly will have the
opportunity of meeting with them. We will also meet with Mr. President and the various state governors so that we will all commit ourselves further to expeditious treatment of this national emergency.
“So once we finish at the National Assembly we will be able to transmit to the state assemblies for their required approval. So when we draw our time-line, we will also send it so that they will know the time we are working with and be
ready to receive this document from us and work on as quickly as possible.
Everybody will be put on alert to ensure that elections take place in 2011 and not just taking place but taking place in acceptable manner.”