By Henry Umoru & Joseph Erunke
ABUJA —The Senate Committee on the review of the constitution has recommended a single term of six years for President and Governors because of the financial expenses often associated with re-election as well as to ensure that executive heads are freed from distractions.
The report of the committee which was presented to the Senate, yesterday, also shattered the hopes of Nigerians, who desired to have more states created from the existing ones as it said none of the 61 requests for new states complied with the entire provision of Section 8(1) of the Constitution.
Also, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria will no longer have the powers to assent to constitutional amendment if the review of the 1999 Constitution scales through.
With amendments being carried out by the Senate, if a Vice President-elect or Vice-President succeeds the President-elect or the President, he shall not be eligible to contest for the office of the President in any subsequent election.
It was also recommended that the idea of having State Police must be jettisoned, as the Committee called for a total overhauling of the present Federal Police system for effective and efficient service delivery.
Discussions on the report were, however, suspended as Senate President David Mark announced that it will commence when the Senators come back from two weeks break that will start on Friday.
Also, according to the Committee, to engender accountability and efficient service delivery, State Houses of Assembly, State Independent Electoral Commissions, Auditor-General of the State and the Attorney-General of a State will henceforth get direct funding from the State Consolidated Revenue Fund with the coming in place of first line charge funding.
The Committee which also separated the office of the Attorney General of the Federation and that of the States from the Ministries of Justice, also gave a mayoral status to the FederalCapitalTerritory in line with what obtains in other capital cities of the world.
The report presented to the Senate for discussions, yesterday, by the Deputy Senate President who doubles as the Chairman of the 49-member Constitution review Committee, also rejected calls for rotational presidency and other offices on the grounds that it should be a matter of consideration among the various political parties.
On the issue of assenting to alteration of constitution by the President, the Committee said: “In the light of recent experiences, the committee inserted a new provision to resolve the impasse where the President refuses to signify his assent or that he withholds such assent. In our view, this will strengthen legislature’s authority for good governance.”
In the recommendation, Diaspora voting system was also rejected against the backdrop that it would be counter productive to extend the responsibilities of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC abroad without the requisite capacity.
Life salary for NASS officers
The Committee recommended that former Senate Presidents, Deputy Senate Presidents, Speaker, House of Representatives shall be entitled to pension for life at a rate equivalent to the annual salary of the incumbent President or Deputy President of the Senate, Speaker or Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives.
The Committee also recommended Financial Autonomy for local governments as the existing State-Local Government Joint Account was expunged from the Constitution.
It was also recommended that “where the persons duly elected as President and Vice President die or are unable for any reason whatever to assume office before the inauguration of the National Assembly, the Independent National Electoral Commission shall immediately conduct an election for a President and the Vice President.
“Where a person duly elected as President dies before taking and subscribing to the Oath of Allegiance and oath of office; is for any reason whatsoever unable to be sworn in; dies while holding such office, resigns from office or otherwise ceases to hold office in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution, the Vice President-elect shall be sworn in as President and a Vice President appointed in accordance with the provisions of this constitution and in the case of(c) above, the Vice- President shall hold the office of President and shall complete the remaining term of office of the President.”
According to Ekweremadu, devolution of powers, creation of states, recognition of geo-political zones, local governments, fiscal federalism, mayoral status for the FCT and executive immunity were some of the issues highlighted, adding that “those recommendations were derived from the views of Nigerians as expressed in memoranda submitted to the committee. Since then, the committee has systematically aggregated and analyzed all proposals, comments and experiences and translated them into constitutional review recommendations informed by international good practices.
According to the report, “to guarantee the independence of the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and the Attorney-General of the State, the office is accordingly separated from that of the Minister of Justice or Commissioner for Justice.
“Section 162 – Removal of State-Local Government Joint Accounts. To make for accountability, and an effective Local Government system, the State-Local Government Joint Account is expunged from the Constitution.
“Section 302 – An Elected Mayoral System of Administration for the FederalCapitalTerritory. Accordingly, a Mayoral status to the FCT is not only in keeping with the practice in many capital cities of the world, but it is also to ensure efficient administration of the FCT.
“Section 6 of the 1st Alteration Act. Direct funding from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation is made for the Attorney-General of the Federation, the Auditor-General of the Federation, Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission; and the National Human Rights Commission.
According to the Second Schedule, Part 1 – Devolution of Powers of the States: States can now constitutionally carry out such responsibilities that were exclusively for the Federal Government, adding, “the Exclusive list under part 1 of the Second Schedule to the Constitution is congested, cumbersome and unwieldy. There is therefore, the need to decongest the exclusive list by maintaining only items of utmost importance to the federation as a whole, while transferring items of concurrent interests to the concurrent list. The Committee therefore substituted “Posts and Telegraphs” with “Posts and Telecommunications “, removed Prisons, Railways, Stamp Duties and Wages from the Exclusive Legislative List and also added new items to the Exclusive and Concurrent lists namely: (Concurrent List) Arbitration, Environment, Healthcare, Prisons, Railways, Road Safety, Stamp Duties, Wages, Land and Agriculture, Youths, Public Complaints and Aviation and (Exclusive List) National Security.
In the third schedule of the constitution, section 6 of the second alteration act, section 14 of the third alteration act, sections 150, 174,195 &211 which is on judicial reforms, the Committee “recognizes the singular role of the judiciary as the final arbiter over all disputes in the nation. Thus, the recommendations seek to reinforce the independence of the Judiciary; provide for the elaboration of rules, regulations and administrative processes that enhance quick and affordable access to justice.”
On remuneration of past Presiding officers of the National assembly according to section 84 (5), the Committee recommends that “past presiding officers of the National Assembly should be remunerated (provided that such officers were not impeached) just as it is the case with certain past judicial and executive officers.”
The committee’s proposals
“In its deliberations and painstaking analysis of the proposals, comments from stakeholders and strategic partners, reports of experts, feedbacks from the National and Zonal Public Hearings and the Bills referred to it, the Committee observed as follows:
(a)While most proposals and forwarded Bills were widely popular with the citizenry and advanced strong arguments for constitutional amendments, the Committee was constraint to assess not only the popularity of the proposals, but also their value and workability in the context of Nigeria.
Of course, citizen’s views have been carefully integrated into every recommendation contained in the draft bill. It must be underlined, however, that these views were appraised in the context of their compatibility with the Constitution as a whole as well as with democratic principles and national unity in general.
“Some of the bills referred were not as comprehensive and were rife with ambiguities, some do not promote the spirit of separation of powers in a Presidential system of Government, while some proposals are better treated as conventions rather than codified in the Constitution.
“Senate Bill 96 which is a proposal seeking to establish State Courts of appeal in the six geo-political zones, introduce State Legislative list, adjust and modify the legislative powers of government between the Federal and State Governments and provide for the recognition of the six geo-political zones in the Constitution. The Committee is of the view that the present structure/arrangement should be sustained.
(ii) Senate Bill 136 – Constitution (Alteration Bill). This Bill seeks to provide for the implementation and or execution of the National Assembly resolutions and or approve report of investigations conducted by the National Assembly.
This proposal good as it may be to assert the authority of the National Assembly does not promote the spirit of separation of powers in a presidential system of government and it apparently encroaches on the powers of the executive arm of government.
“Senate Bill 139 – Constitution (Alteration Bill) 2012. This Bill seeks to provide for more responsibility to the State by transferring some legislative items from the Exclusive legislative list to the Concurrent list. It also provides for the creation of the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation as distinct from the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federal Government of Nigeria. The scope of the transfer of items in the Exclusive list is too wide especially considering the fact that the Committee has already transferred and included more items into the concurrent list. It is necessary to maintain a strong federal government that can hold the country together.
In the case of the Auditor-General, the present constitutional provision is good and wide enough. What is required is financial independence which has now been provided for.”
On the President attaching portfolios to list of Ministerial nominees, the Committee said, ‘’this seeks to make provision that will enable the National Assembly to be more effective in the screening of Ministerial nominees by ensuring that portfolio is attached to each nominee.
Assigning portfolios should remain the prerogative of the President for reasons of flexibility. Besides, it has been shown that professional qualification does not necessarily approximate to performance in practical terms.”
On rejection of State Police, he said, ‘’We recommend that the preferred approach at this time is to critically look at the current federal police system with a view to sanitizing and strengthening it.”
No special status for Lagos
On Special Status for Lagos, the Committee concluded that ‘’While the Committee appreciates the peculiar needs and challenges of Lagos, it is our considered opinion that according such special status should be a matter of political decision which should be kept out of the Constitution.”
On Ministerial Slot for “Indigenes” of the FCT, the Committee noted that: “This seeks the inclusion of the FCT in the proviso to section 147 (3) of the Constitution as it relates to ministerial appointments so as to ensure that an “indigene” of the FCT is appointed as a minister. Desirable as that may be, we are of the view that the provisions granting mayoralty status for the FCT will go a long way in ensuring equitability and is sufficient to ensure efficient administration of the Federal Capital.”
For rotation of Executive Offices, it said: “We rejected this proposal on the grounds that the Constitution should not make Nigerian leadership subject to ethnic or regional considerations. This should be a matter of consideration amongst the various political parties.
For Prohibition of Foreign Accounts (Section 3 Of Part 1 of the Fifth Schedule), the Committee noted that, “we recommend that the status quo be maintained in this regard. Making any alteration is most likely to be received with misgivings and outrage by Nigerians as it may portray the National Assembly as self serving. This may affect the entire legitimacy/credibility of the Constitution amendment exercise.”
On Diaspora Voting (S.77 (2)), the Constitution review Committee said: “INEC is still grappling to strengthen its capacity to conduct elections within the country. It would be counter-productive to extend INEC’s responsibilities abroad without the requisite capacity.
For State Creation, it said: “The under-listed 61 requests for state creation were made to the Committee. However, none of those requests complied with the entire provision of section 8(1).
“The Committee, therefore, recommends that, provided the House of Representatives received same, henceforth, the Clerk of the National Assembly should be directed to forward any memoranda that complied with section 8(1)(a)(I, ii &iii) to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct a referendum which itself is still half of the journey towards state creation. This can be done at anytime, whether or not there is a constitution amendment exercise going on.