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State Assemblies Approve Second Constitution Amendment

Source: EMMA UCHE -
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ABUJA, Nov 22, (THEWILL) - The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was today fully mobilized constitutionally with the near unanimous endorsement by the State House of Assemblies of the Second Alteration to the 1999 Constitution which extended the timeline for the conduct of the 2011 general election.

The 36 state Assemblies short of three did not drop any section in the second alteration which was transmitted to them a fortnight ago by the National Assembly.

Chairman of the Conference of Speakers of State Houses of Assembly, Hon. Istifanus Gbana, returned copies of the amendment to the National Assembly saying majority of the State Assemblies adopted all the clauses.

“Substantially, majority of the state assemblies adopted the clauses sent to us by the National Assembly,” told reporters.

The state Assemblies are the last endorsement authority of any review process as provided for in the 1999 constitution and two-third of them must acquiesce. The effort marks the conclusion of the process.

Nonetheless, Honourable Gbana who also supports the position of the National Assembly on the validity of the amended constitution without the assent of the President and Commander-In-Chief, disclosed that only three states voted against some sections of the second amendment.

The main aim of the second constitution alteration was first; to provide new timelines for the conduct of general election by INEC and secondly, to reinstate the governorship elections tribunal which the first alteration abrogated, and extend appeals arising from such cases to the Supreme Court.

The latest amendment gives the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) a space of four months within which to conduct the next general elections and subsequent ones; between January and April to conduct the 2011 general election.

Following the amendments, the elections tribunals have got a new time limit of 180 days (six months), from the filing date, within which to deliver their ruling on any election case. Both the appeal court and Supreme Court have 60 days each to dispense of such cases.

According to Hon. Gbana, it was the second part of the second constitutional amendment that suffered some scratch. “That is the area where we had two to three states voting against it but majority of the states voted in support of that. The essence being that there is a time frame within which appeal emanating from the tribunal can go to the Court of Appeal and also the Supreme Court, so by virtue of those clauses, the provision was secured.”

Receiving copies of the state Assembly votes, Senate President, David Mark, expressed satisfaction with their mastering of the process of amending the constitution. He also commended the state lawmakers for expeditiously voting on the constitution. He however, declared the National Assembly is not selfish with the 2010 electoral act amendment bill which proposes to give most of the lawmakers a seat on the National Executive Committees (NEC) of their various parties. He said the bill is not yet ready, adding that the public still has a chance to make their input in the bill, during the public hearing on it.

“How can it be self serving? Does it mean that after the tenure of this National Assembly, the Act would be thrown away? No, when passed into law, it would be a law that will outlive all of us. There is no need for people to castigate members of the National Assembly. We will always abide by superior argument. I advise all Nigerians to come in public hearing ahead of the Electoral Bill. Whatever the majority views are would be binding on us. There is nothing secret,” he said.