CONSTITUTION REVIEW: N' ASSEMBLY PRESENTS REVIEWED BILL TO STATE SPEAKERS
As part of efforts aimed at ensuring the final passage of the amended clauses to the 1999 Constitution, the National Assembly on Tuesday formally handed over the constitution to the Speakers of the 36 states of the federation preparatory to concluding the ammendment process.
This was even as Coalition of Civil Society Organizations created a mild stir on the occasion as they called on the states Houses of Assembly to reject some aspects of the amendment made by the National Assembly.
The coalition, under the aegis of Constitution Reform Dialogue Mechanism, criticised the deletion of the section which hitherto provided for the disqualification of candidates on account of indictment by a judicial or administrative panel of inquiry by the National Assembly.
The coalition made up of Citizens Forum for Constitution Reform; Gender and Constitution Reform Network; Joint National Association of People with Disabilities; Nigerian Labour Congress; Nigerian Union of Journalists; Peoples Constitution Advocacy Group; Nigerian Bar Association and Electoral Forum Network and led by the Executive Director, African Centre for Leadership, Strategy and Development, Dr. Otive Igbuzor, stressed that if such an amendment by the National Assembly was allowed to stand, it would legitimise corruption in the country, adding that what the the National Assembly ought to have done was to put in place measures aimed at checking the abuse of the section as against expunging it.
Dr. Igbuzor equally condemned the amendment of Section 689 (1) (g) that forbade a member of the National Assembly from defecting from the political party under which platform he/she was elected to another unless there was division in the party.
According to Dr. Igbuzor; 'this is, to say the least, legitimisation of political prostitution. In a country where we need to encourage politics of principles, ethics, ideology and issues, this amendment will be counter productive.'
The leader of the coalition, therefore, called on the states Houses of Assembly to reject the amendments, stressing that the challenges before them were to either rubber stamp the position of the National Assembly or make history by rejecting the unpopular amendments as well as introduce popular and far reaching amendments that would contribute to the consolidation of the electoral process in Nigeria.
'We urge the state Houses of Assembly to make history by rejecting the provisions in the amendments proposed by the National Assembly,'' Dr. Igbuzor said.
In what appeared like a response, President of the Senate, David Mark said while democracy allows citizens to air their views, such views should be weighed against others, adding; 'don't insist that only your views are right and must be taken.'
Senator Mark further said it was too late at the present stage to call for the rejection of the amended provisions as proposed by the National Assembly, stressing that what was not captured in the amendment process, would be taken into consideration during a second amendment.
According to Senator Mark. 'Views and perspectives on the other issues may not have been reflected in the bill that was passed by the National Assembly.
This is to be expected. The business of Constitution review is not a one off enterprise. It is continuous. I will therefore urge all those who feel that the present amendment to the constitution has not captured their concerns to show understanding and wait for the next phase of the amendment,'
The Senate President said the National Assembly Committees on the Review of the constitution made sure that the speakers and other relevant stakeholders participated fully in the process particularly during zonal public hearings and the various retreats of the committees.
Senator Mark explained that Section 9 of the 1999, Constitution empowers the National Assembly to alter the provisions of the constitution and also provide the procedure, adding that the amendment of any of the provisions of the 1999 Constitution with the exception of Section 8,9 and Chapter IV) requires that a bill be proposed and passed by at least two-thirds majority of the members of the National Assembly supported by a resolution of two-thirds of the state Houses of Assembly.
The Senate president equally said in spite of the powers conferred on the National Assembly, the process of amending the constitution would be incomplete without the State legislature playing a critical role of approving what the National Assembly had carried out.
Mark said; 'The Nigerian public has played her part, we in the National Assembly have played our part, it is now left for you in the State Assemblies to play your part.'