BY DANIEL IDONOR
ABUJA— NOTWITHSTANDING the spate of criticisms that greeted the plan by the presidency to send a bill containing a single term proposal for president and governors to the National Assembly, it emerged, yesterday, that President Goodluck Jonathan is not about to jettison the plan.
Those wishing that the idea would be dumped have therefore been urged to key into the process as there is no going back on the President’s decision.
The Presidency maintained that, rather than jettison the proposed single tenure bill, it will pursue it from the level of ideas to a legislative bill.
Presidential Spokesman, Dr, Reuben Abati at an interactive session with State House correspondents, dismissed report that the President may have dropped the proposal following public reactions.
However, Abati explained that the earlier promise to send the bill to the National Assembly by August is not longer feasible because the senate has gone on recess, adding that the proposed bill may be forwarded to the upper chamber sometime next month.
“Yes people have asked whether the president has withdrawn the proposal or bill on single term tenure. My immediate reaction is to tell people that how do you withdraw something that has not been tabled? It is a proposal and still at the level of proposal”, he said.
Still a proposal
He stated further “It is not on record anywhere that the president said he is no longer interested in that proposal. If you have any evidence to the contrary, you can present it. People saying it has been jettisoned, whom are they quoting? That is the type of question we should ask and I keep saying on this particular issue, which seems to be exciting a lot of people that the debate is healthy, for our polity”.
While acknowledging that the issue has generated robust public debate, Abati said the debate in support or against the proposed bill was healthy for the country’s democracy.
“It is still at the level of ideas, how do you withdraw something that hasn’t been submitted. If you check the debate out there you will see that there are a lot of people supporting the President, but with some of them saying the time is not right. It is not on record anywhere that the president said proposal has been jettisoned” he said.
Opposition parties condemn plan
Major opposition parties, including the Action Congress of Nigeria, the Congress for Progressive Change, the Labour Party and the All Nigeria Peoples Party had condemned the President’s plan.
In line with his party’s stand, the Osun State Governor, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola, was quick to condemn the bill.
Aregbesola, who won the state’s governorship election on the platform of the ACN, spoke through his aide, Mr Semiu Okanlawon, who described the bill as ‘distracting.’
Okanlawon, who is the Director, Bureau of Communication and Strategy, Osun State, said that there were more problems confronting Nigerians than single term bid.
“The position of the government of Osun is in alignment with the position of the Action Congress of Nigeria. There are many fundamental problems challenging the corporate existence of the country than single term bid,” he said.
The governors and opposition parties kick is further hardened by the constitutional challenges facing such alteration.
Section 9 of the Constitution states, “Any act of the National Assembly for the alteration of this constitution, not being an Act to which Section 8 of this constitution applies, shall not be passed in either House of the National Assembly unless the proposal is supported by the votes of not less than two-thirds majority of all the members of that House and approved by resolution of the Houses of Assembly of not less than two-thirds of all the states.”
24 state assemblies required to ratify alteration
In other words, 24 state assemblies are statutorily required to ratify any alteration before it can stand.
According to reports, opposition parties had started mobilising the governors and state assemblies to shoot down the proposed bill.
The dissenting parties are the ACN, ANPP, LP and CPC. The four parties currently control 11 states.
The ACN is in power in six states: Ogun, Lagos, Oyo, Osun, Ekiti and Edo states, while the ANPP controls Zamfara, Borno and Yobe states.
Also, the CPC governs Nasarawa State, while LP is in charge in Ondo State.
Although the PDP controls the Nasarawa State House of Assembly, it was gathered that the state Governor, Alhaji Al-Makura, had concluded arrangements to convince the lawmakers to reject the bill.
Besides the 11 opposition states controlled by four parties, except All Progressives Grand Alliance, many North-East and the North-West governors were said to have been riled by the proposed bill.
It was learnt that the ACN had directed its governors and their state houses of assembly to ensure that the bill was killed.
The party is said to have described Jonathan’s plan as deceptive and self-serving and a terrible misadventure.
It was also gathered that the ANPP at its National Executive Committee meeting in Abuja advised its three governors to be vigilant.
Report on Boko Haram tomorrow
Meantime, Abati also disclosed that the Presidential Committee on Boko Haram which was recently inaugurated would submit its report this week; and assured that when submitted the recommendations contained will be taken very seriously by the President.
“The Boko Haram report is to be submitted shortly and the President will react to it, because security is what the President takes very seriously”, adding that it is not all that is included in the report that will be discussed publicly because it is security issues and may bridge investigations”.
According to him, given the calibre of persons in the Boko Haram committee and the efforts put in place by government, such report when received will not be swept under the carpet.
“Security in part of Nigeria, the president takes it seriously, this is one report that will not be swept under the carpet. Some of the issues there will not be made public in other not to be give those behind it (Boko Haram) undue advantage”.
President yet to visit Maiduguri
Asked why the President has not visited violence prone- Maiduguri since the deployment of troops, Abati said the inability of the President to visit Maidugiri since the escalation of the crisis does not mean that he was insensitive, noting that “so far he has shown enough concern as reflected by the kind of attention given to the situation.
Abati also denied allegations that the president is far from the people, saying that “he is the president who has the common touch. Don’t forget in terms of his background, he is one of those we can relate to. The secret of his success is that he is not far removed from the people”.
He reiterated the President’s position on issues of accountability, transparency and openness in governance, adding that no government functionary would be protected from the law if found wanting.
“The President has the reputation of not interfering with agencies processes of handling corruption cases,” Abati said.