Why Sovereign National C onference can't work now, by Mark
Senate President David Mark has ruled out any prospects of convening sovereign national conference.
According to Mark, such a conference is not possible until the section on Constitution amendment is reviewed.
He spoke at the 53rd Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) in Calabar, Cross River State.
The senate president was represented by Senate Leader Victor Ndoma-Egba (SAN).
He said, 'The 1999 Constitution (as amended) made provisions for its alteration. It did not make provisions for any new constitution.
'It is in answer to the clamour for a new constitution by vocal sections of the polity that an amendment to make provisions for how a new constitution can come about is being contemplated.
'In making these calls, suggestions for the process of making a new constitution have been made. These range from a constitutional conference to a 'Sovereign' National Conference.
'The National Assembly recognises the right of Nigerians to aggregate, assemble or meet in any legitimate form or manner to discuss the affairs of their country and indeed encourages such fora as it is a constitutional right.
'A mark of such encouragement is the elaborate public hearings that have become part of our constitutional amendment process.
'We, however, have difficulties with the calls by certain sections of the polity for a 'Sovereign' National Conference.
'The 1999 Constitution (as amended) with all its imperfections, including its debatable origin, remains our grundnorm, our supreme law from which all other laws derive and expresses our sovereignty.
'It creates all the powers, institutions and authorities of the State to which we have all submitted. We have challenged its provisions in courts of law established by it and obeyed the decisions of these courts. We have therefore ratified the constitution by our conduct. The 1999 constitution (as amended) is a reality.
'Consequently, where will the 'Sovereign National Conference' be deriving its sovereignty from, and under what framework? How will the conference be convoked and by whom and under what terms? I have been confronted by the argument that sovereignty derives from and belongs to the people. This is certainly beyond argument.
'How then do we get the people to confer sovereignty on such a conference? There are intractable issues to be addressed by the agitations for the 'Sovereign National Conference' and that is why I subscribe to the proposal for an amendment to the 1999 Constitution to provide for the making of a new Constitution.'
Also on the occasion, House of Representatives Speaker Aminu Tambuwal, who spoke on the state of the nation, said Nigeria faces serious challenges of nationhood.
According to him, despite being blessed with intellectual and material resources, the gap between the rich and the poor continue to widen.
'In the face of stupendous wealth, resources and potentials with which we could build a united nation of prosperous people we are indirectly but gradually building two nations in one: a nation of prosperity and affluence on the one hand and another nation of poverty and squalor on the other, yet our desire and expectation is nation building,' he said.
'We are, no doubt, a people divinely gifted with intellect and wisdom, but the receiver of a gift is at liberty to apply it in the manner he chooses.
'When we look around us and behold how bountifully we are blessed as a nation, we cannot help asking the question: Is it in our stars?'
Former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar decried what he called a consistent and progressive marginalisation of the vast majority of Nigerians.
The discrimination, he said, is as a result of policies which encourage 'inequitable interpersonal and inter-regional distribution of opportunities.'