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Senators Reject Six-Year Single Term

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ABUJA, July 09, (THEWILL) -The recommendation of a six-year single term tenure for the President and State Governors as contained in the Senate report on the Review of the 1999 Constitution met a brick wall at the floor of the Senate on Tuesday.

Senators took turns to disparage the recommendation chorusing that it will not only encourage corruption but is starkly undemocratic.

A new dimension was introduced when Senator Ali Ndume (Borno/PDP) suggested for mid-term elections after two years for every elective office, even as he insisted that immunity for the president and state governors must only cover civil maters and should not cover criminal acts.

Similarly, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe (PDP, Abia) queried why there should be an unending amendment of the constitution when the problem is the non-adherence and implementation of the law by its operators

These were the major highlights of the commencement of debate on the report of the revised constitution as presented last June.

However, the Senate President, David Mark, announced that the electronic voting on the recommendations of the report submitted on June 5 by the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, who chairs the Senate Constitution Review Committee is scheduled for Thursday.

Also, Senators, except Gbenga Ashafa (Lagos/ACN), supported the report's recommendation calling for Local Government autonomy as well as first line charge for state Houses of Assemblies. Many lawmakers called for the scrapping of State and Local Government joint accounts.

Again the report's omission of proposals for state police received the nod of lawmakers except Senator Victor Lar (Plateau/PDP). Lawmakers fear a state police structure will be subjected to gross abuse.

The report's proposal seeking life pension for National Assembly leaders was also turned down by Senators Enyinnaya Abaribe (Abia/PDP) and Victor Lar (Plateau/PDP), among others.

Some of the Senators’ positions include the following:

Isa Galaudi (Kebbi North): “No Local Government has been able to solve their challenges and are compelled by their governors to fund pet projects that has no bearing in their Local Governments. I oppose the single six-year tenure, we should retain the current tenure. The six-year single tenure is retrogressive because it will not give the motivation and punishment for good and bad behaviour respectively.”

Ahmed Lawal (Yobe North): “There is no way the Local Governments will perform without the state Houses of Assembly performing. The state House of Assembly should perform their oversight function. I support the joint account. On the six year single term, it is an investment in disaster. It is anti-democratic, in a democracy the people should be free, power should always be with the people to elect and reject, we should throw away the single term.”

Ali Ndume (Borno South): “I believe democracy is the interchange of ideas. The Local Government is supposed to be for grassroot development, their money should be given to them directly. I think democracy is down to the people. We should even start thinking of mid-term elections and our people should pass a vote of no confidence if we are not performing. It will help in strengthening our democracy. People cherish democracy but hate elections. Immunity clause in the cases of criminal act should be expunged from our constitution.”

Adamu Gumba (Bauchi South): “We should thread with caution to ensure that when a constitution is amended, it stays. Removal of immunity clause is not supported by me. So also rotation of executives, it has been argued and we should support that the rotation be rejected. Local Government autonomy, it is the operators of the system that messed it up. If there was control and discipline, the present system would have been alright but we have practiced it for long, let us try it this time and see. On the State creation, it is bad that of all the applications, none was approved because it was wrongly done. I hope our applications would be considered next time. Traditional rulers should have a role in the constitution because whenever we have a problem, we run to them. Six year-single term has been rejected by my people and I think we should reject it. Removal of some laws from the constitution such as the NYSC, Land Use Act, we should allow this because the NYSC Act has been there for about 40 years, it should be reviewed and improved upon.”

Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta North): On health care in the concurrent list, I need to propose some changes. In trying to understand the issue, I want us to note that all tiers of government are involved in health care. States can establish secondary health care institutions but regulation of tertiary health care is done by the organ of Federal Government.”

Victor Lar (Plateau South): “My people rejected the proposal for six years single term because it enthrones dictatorship and institutionalises corruption. It will entrench impunity in elected officials. A lot of people have argued that abolishing joint state and Local Government account would jeopardise payment of Local Government workers but as genuine as the argument sounds, it should still be abolished. On the issue of devolution of power, my people agreed that more power be granted to the state but opposed to the removal of Land Use Act and scrapping of NYSC.”

Thompson George Sekibo (Rivers): “Having gone through, I therefore ask, whether the alteration amendment is in tune with the people of the Local Government and whether it erases ambiguity or not, whether there is any omission in the report. Having said this, I want to take the issue of six-year tenure. If we are making a law with person in our mind, we will make a mistake. We should remain the way we are. The issue of the Local Government getting direct funding, the performance of the Local Government is not proportional to the amount released to them, yet, direct funding is better. But there must be adequate supervision or monitoring, else, the money would not be judiciously utilised. How many of them have been able to effectively manage the little one given to them. Planning board should be inaugurated at the Local Government level to plan their economy.”

Solomon Ewuga (Nasarawa North): “The first is to correct the boundaries of FCT and Plateau to read Nasarawa, two terms as against single term. On the Attorney General, let us not create circumstance that will create problem for us. His term should be determined by the discretion of president’s approval or disapproval. He is not an elected officer and there is no constitutional basis for that. He works at the discretion of the President subject to the appointment of the President and this should be extended to the state level. On the Local Government autonomy, the way I see Local Government operate frightens me. Before, Local Governments are seen in very constructive role, now, no it is as if no responsibilities are attached to their position and there don’t seem to be any virtue. However, we must not throw the baby and the bath water. I think as presently constituted; it is like the case of a devil and the deep blue sea.”

Gbenga Ashafa (Lagos East): “There is the need to grant Lagos a special status. There is nobody who does not have a part in Lagos State. Also, Local Government autonomy should be rejected.”