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CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT SIGNING: NASS bows to Jonathan

By Daniel Idonor, Clifford Ndujihe & Inalegwu Shaibu
ABUJA– AFTER considerable controversies over whether or not  he should sign the amended Constitution, President Goodluck Jonathan, yesterday, signed into law the amended constitution.

The President formally assented to the amended 1999 grundnorm with a call for the regular amendment of the document to make it a people-oriented Constitution.

L-r: President Jonathan, Senate President David Mark and House of Reps Speaker, Dimeji Bankole at the signing of the amended constitution yesterday.

With the two amended versions of the Constitution which have to do with the time line for the conduct of the elections, this is the first time since 1999, that the country will successfully amend sections of the 1999 Constitution after amendment exercises that gulped over two billion naira.

President Jonathan said at the signing ceremony that the amendment was a major step in the enthronement of democracy in the country.

The amendment came as some eminent Nigerians and lawyers hailed the move, which they said was necessary for the stability of the polity ahead the 2011 polls. Among legal icons who spoke were Chiefs Guy Ikokwu, Ayo Adebanjo and Olisa Agbakoba (SAN).

Agbakoba, who was in court to compel the lawmakers to pass the amended constitution to the President for signing into law, said yesterday’s assent had validated his stand and promised to withdraw the case once he confirmed the assent.

Process of amendment

Jonathan said: “One is quite conversant with some of the provisions that are a bit wearisome and some that we cannot implement properly. We still have such in the constitution and we will continue the process of amendment.”

While thanking the leadership of the National Assembly for their ability to conclude this first phase of the amendment, the President maintained that “amending the Constitution is not an easy thing but if you are outside you think it is an ordinary law because you need two third votes of members of the National Assembly and two thirds of the states Houses of Assembly. So, it is an enormous task.

“For us to have reached this level, it means both the National Assembly and the executive must have been working together. Even, with the concept of the separation of powers, you cannot separate the parliamentarians from the executive. You can separate the judiciary but the executive and legislative belong to the same political party. So, how can you separate such people? They must work together for the country to move forward.

Even with those controversies about signing, we all agree that the laws of the land have to be followed not necessarily for this set of people but for the subsequent generation. The executive and the legislative have no problem at all.”

How controversies were resolved

Senate President David Mark, who gave insight into how the controversies surrounding the amended Constitution were resolved said:  “Well, you don’t know when so many things are resolved and this is not an exception. We have been discussing and we feel that there is need for us really to move democracy forward and entrench it. “Every democracy will be based on the culture of the people and we are building it up and I think this is the right step for us to take” adding that the signing was “historic being first time.”

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole, expressed gratitude to God for the way things panned out, adding:  “We thank God for everything.”

At the historic ceremony were Vice President Namadi Sambo, Mark, Bankole, Mike Oghiadomhen, Chief of staff to the President, Yayale Ahmed, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, and Bello Adoke, attorney-general and minister of justice.

We conceded to Jonathan to save Nigeria – NASS
Speaking on the issue, Chairman Senate Committee on Information and Media, Senator Ayogu Eze explained that the National Assembly jettisoned their stand not to pass the amendment to President Jonathan to avoid creating confusion in the country.

Senator Eze who spoke to Vanguard via a telephone said that the decision by the National Assembly to allow President Jonathan append his signature on the amendments to the 1999 Constitution was in the interest of the nation.

He said: “We felt that there was no need to hold down the country after the court ruling. We have to allow the President to sign the amendment while we await the outcome of the appeal still before the court. The country was considered ahead of the position of the National Assembly in the matter.”

I’m vindicated – Agbakoba
Speaking to Vanguard on phone yesterday, an elated Agbakoba, said he had been vindicated. “It simply validates my position,” he said.

On what would happen to his court case, he said: “I have not confirmed it (assent). When I confirm it, it means my case is no longer necessary.”

It’s a popular decision – Adebanjo, Ikokwu
Also reacting, Adebanjo, who is a chieftain of Afenifere, the move was popular and in tandem with the wishes of the citizenry. Once the president did not assent the controversial versions of the electoral act, it is a good decision. Let’s move forward from there.”

For Ikokwu, a Second Republic politician and one of the founders of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, the president and lawmakers adopted the doctrine of necessity to save the polity. “What they have done is following the doctrine of necessity. If they allowed the case to continue and for the Supreme Court to decide, we will waste time, everything will be futile and the country will suffer. Necessity was the better part of the judgement.”

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