No Court Order Can Stop Constitutional Amendment - Senate

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ABUJA, Oct 07, (THEWILL) - The Senate today blew hot against the court ruling in Lagos ordering it to stop further amendment of the 1999 Constitution. It unequivocally declared that no court in the land has the power to stop the process as it is the exclusive function of the legislative arm of government to make laws.

Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu told a press conference in Abuja in reaction to the ruling, that the first amendment is irreversible as it constitutes the status quo that is to be maintained, going by the order of the court.

A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos had on Wednesday ordered that the status quo with regards to the constitutional review be maintained and further amendments be put on hold.

The contention was the propriety or otherwise the need for a Presidential assent to be appended on the revised constitution. The suit was instituted by former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Chief Olisa Agbakoba, SAN.

But Senator Ekweremadu who is also Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Review of the Constitution said the National Assembly would proceed with the second amendment based on the request made by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) since lawmaking is the constitutional prerogative of the legislature.

"So we are proceeding with our law making functions, we are proceeding on doing that and I don’t think that people should misinterpret what the court said, the court never said we should stop and we are not stopping any way," he said.

On the court order for maintenance of status quo, the Deputy Senate President said it could not have included the concluded process.

"The first constitutional amendment has since being completed, the law gazetted, so it is in operation, so when the court says it was ordering that the status quo should be sustained or be maintained, as far as I am concerned the court is just saying that the amendment that has since been completed is in order.

"So if there is anything to be sustained it is the operation of the law, because as far as I am concerned that is the status, the status quo means that the position as at today should be maintained. Besides, what is the issue is whether the President will sign the amendment to the constitution or not, so it is not whether we have power to amend the constitution, that is not the issue in the court.

"The court ruling as far as I am concerned has nothing to do with the constitution, but rather on whether the President should accent to the bill or not. So if they are asking for the status quo to be maintained, they are simply saying that the position as at today should be sustained and the position as at today is that the law has been gazetted and is in operation, so it is not stopping us from doing our work, at any rate the court knows as all of us do that the parliament cannot be stopped from exercising its constitutional functions, so if we make laws, all the court could do is to declare null and void what we have completed, so as long as the law making power of the parliament is concerned it is settled in the Supreme Court that court will not interfere in such a manner as to stop the parliament from exercising its legislative functions, so I am sure the judge knows as much as that," Ekweremadu added.

Nonetheless, Senator Ekweremadu declared: "I have not received the order myself, I don’t know whether they have served the National Assembly or not, so I am not aware. We hear about the order as others are hearing it. It is in the news I heard that there was an order that the status quo be maintained. So we are looking at what is in the status quo and what is the issue, but for the purposes of the constitutional amendment, the purposes of making our laws, you can see that we sat today, so nobody has stopped us from doing our work and the issue of constitutional amendment is making progress so that there will be elections in 2011.

"In any case we are convinced that the amendment to the 1999 constitution does not require presidential assent, we have said this severally and we stand by that until the court rules otherwise. And the reason is quite simple," he stated.