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Constitution amendment: AGF, Governors shun Reps hearing

Source: africanexaminer.com

Abuja Thu. Feb. 18, 2010 African Examiner -State governors and other key stake holders

on Wednesday shunned the much anticipated public hearing organized by the House of

Representatives on the amendment of section 145 of the 1999 constitution.

Section 145 of the Constitution reads: "Whenever the President transmits to the President

of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives a written declaration that he

is proceeding on vacation or that he is otherwise unable to discharge the functions of his

office, until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary such functions shall be

discharged by the Vice-President as Acting President."

The House of Representative intends to amend section 145 to make it mandatory for the

President to officially hand over to his deputy anytime he is on vacation or medical treatment

abroad for more than twenty one days.
Chairman of the amendment Committee, who is also the Deputy Speaker of the House,

Usman Nafada, visibly unhappy with the development, announced the cancellation of the

hearing for lack of quorum, the hearing is rescheduled for next week.

Nafada explained that "The reason behind amending section 145 was as a result of the

public outcry that there was a vacuum created by the absence of the President; and civil

societies, eminent personalities, state governors and so many other interest groups came to

the National Assembly to see the leadership about how we can salvage this country. And we

were able to resolve the problem temporarily through a resolution. Now, we are looking for a

permanent solution to the problem and what is expected is that those who have been calling

for that should have been here to present their memoranda, their positions and opinion on

this matter. It is not just for the House to sit down and do it.''

Reports have it that apart from three state governors namely : Bauchi, Kwara and Taraba

who sent in representatives, other thirty three governors simply ignored the Committee's

invitation to the hearing.
Other key government stake holders that failed to attend the hearing are Chairman of the

Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Maurice Iwu and the new Minister of

Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Kayode Adetokumbo (SAN).

Seven other sections of the constitution are intended to be amended to empower INEC to

conduct elections six months before swearing in of winners.

Meanwhile, the Senate has concluded debate on a similar bill. The senate's bill seeks to

amend two sections of the 1999 constitution to empower INEC to be truly independent and

make room for independent candidature in the 2011 general elections.

The proposed amendment of sections 156 and 221 of the 1999 constitution was sent to the

Senate on July 17, 2009 by the Presidency.
In his comment on the bill, the senate Majority Leader, Teslim Folarin said the nation's

democratic experience of over ten years has exposed inadequacies of certain provisions of

the constitution which require amendments to conform with democratic realities.

While some Senators welcome the idea of independent candidacy saying it will create sanity

in the conduct of parties primaries where unpopular candidates are imposed on their

members, others warned that Nigeria democracy might not be strong enough to

accommodate such idea.
The bill which eventually scaled through the second reading has been referred to the

Senate Committee on the review of the 1999 constitution where a hearing is expected to be

held for members of the public as well as key stake holders.

The Deputy Senate President is the chairman of the Committee on the review of the 1999

constitution.

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