Constitution review: Senate okays 4-year single tenure for president, govs

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By Ezrel Tabiowo Abuja

In what appears a sweeping change, the Senate, yesterday, amended a section of the constitution, voting out the twoterm of eight years for elected president and governors. In its place, it ratifi ed single four-year tenure for holders of the two offi ces. Similarly, the lawmakers also cut down on the number of years for a vice president or deputy governor who serves out the tenure of his or her principal in offi ce, in the event of the latter’s death or permanent incapacitation. Th e bill, tagged Restriction of Tenure of the President and Governor Bill, got 88 votes when it was considered and passed. No lawmaker voted against it, but only one person abstained.

Th is bill seeks to restrict a person who was sworn-in as President or Governor to complete the term of the elected President from contesting for the same offi ce for more than one term. Also, the bill seeking to phase out the State Independent Electoral Commission and that guaranteeing autonomy for the local government administration, as well as state legislature, also scaled the hurdle, while that separating the Offi ce of Attorney General from the Minister and Commissioner of Justice for the federal and state respectively, was also ratifi ed.

Similarly, the red chamber, in its amendment, also seeks the establishment of the Accountant General of the Federal Government as distinct from the Accountant General of the Federation. However, the Bill seeking the deletion of the Land Use Act from the Constitution could not sail through. Th ese were some of the highlights of the voting on amendment of the Constitution at the Senate yesterday. In July, 2011, former President Goodluck Jonathan, proposed a Constitution Amendment Bill to the National Assembly which would have provided a single tenure for the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Governors of the 36 states of the Federation.

Jonathan had argued that his commitment to a single term was borne out of a patriotic zeal, after a painstaking study and belief that the constitutionally guaranteed two terms for Presidents and Governors is not helping the focus of governance and institutionalisation of democracy at this stage of our development. He also said the tenure extension of elected offi cials will help reduce the cost and acrimony associated with contesting for public offi ces.

Th e concern, Jonathan further said, was about the acrimony the issue of re-election, every four years, generates both at the Federal and State levels. And at yesterday’s plenary, the upper chamber approved a single tenure of four years for both the president and governors, a development Senate President Bukola Saraki, who presided, said, had laid a solid foundation for future generations. He said by the passage of the amendment bills, issues, which hitherto, hampered the development of the country, will be resolved. Saraki said: “Let me thank you for the maturity and manner this exercise was conducted.

Th is is an exercise we gave a promise and we have kept to it. Th e exercise was carried out on time. We have laid the foundation for a farreaching reforms and political developments. “We have addressed the issues that have disturbed us down for many years. We have made provision for compulsory savings. We have made laws to strengthen our anti-corruption laws. We have passed a law to allow our young people to vie for elective offi ces. We have laid a good foundation for a new Nigeria that will place us among comity of nations. I want to thank you for making the Eight Senate for this history possible.” In all, about 95 senators were present and voted.

Suspended former Leader of the Senate, Ali Ndume was not present. Anambra Central Senatorial District is yet to be fi lled and at the moment, there is no representative in the Senate from that area. For any section of the constitution to be amended, twothird majority of 109 senators must vote in the affi rmative. For Section 9 of the Constitution to be altered, twofourth majority of 109 senators must vote as well. Th ese are the procedures adopted in the National Assembly during constitution amendment exercises. List of the items for amendment On the issue of Composition of Members of Council of State, 95 members voted in favour of the bill. Authorisation of Expenditure Bill got 93 votes, while one senator voted against it and another abstained. On Devolution of Powers Bill, which deals with restructuring, 46 senators voted in favour of it, while 48 voted against it, with one other abstaining. Financial Autonomy of State Legislatures Bill got 90 favourable votes, while 5 voted against it. No senator abstained. Local Government Bill which seeks to strengthen local government administration in Nigeria, got 88 votes, 7 senators voted against, while another lawmaker also abstained. On State Creation and Boundary Adjustment Bill, 47 lawmakers voted in favour, 48 against with none abstaining.

Th e Legislature Alteration Bill got 93 votes, with just one lawmaker against the and none abstained. Political Parties and Electoral Matters Bill which seeks to provide suffi cient time for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct bye-elections got 90 votes. No lawmaker voted against it, although some abstained. Presidential Assent Bill got 95 votes, one senator voted against it and none also abstained. Timeframe for submitting the Names of Ministerial or Commissioner Nominees Bill, got 75 votes, 19 rejecting and none also abstained. Appointment of Minister of the FCT Bill got 77 votes. 12 senators voted against and three abstained. Separation of the Offi ce of Accountant-General Bill got 89 votes, no lawmaker kicked against and none abstained either.

Offi ce of the Auditor-General Bill which seeks to make the offi ce fi nancially independent by placing it on fi rst-line charges in the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation and the States got 95 favourable votes. None voted against or abstained. Separation of Offi ce of Attorney-General of the Federation and of the State from the offi ce of the Minister or Commissioner of Justice Bill got 95 votes. Only one person voted against and one other abstaining. Judiciary Bill, which seeks to alter the composition of the National Judicial Council and empower Justices of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal to hear certain applications in chambers, got 97 votes.

None voted against or abstained. Civil Defence Bill, which seeks to refl ect the establishment and core functions of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps got 79 votes. About 15 voted against it, while one lawmaker abstained. Citizenship and Indigeneship Bill which seeks to guarantee a married woman’s right to choose either her Indigeneship by birth or by marriage for the purpose of appointment or election, got 49 votes. 46 voted against. None abstained. Procedure for overriding Presidential veto in Constitutional Alteration Bill, got 92 votes, four persons voted against it, while no lawmaker abstained. Th is is the only aspect of the amendment that requires one-fourth of votes to be passed. Th e controversial Reduction of Age Qualifi cation Bill, which was initially rejected by lawmakers during their retreat in Lagos, got 86 favourable votes, with just 10 persons dissenting and one abstaining. Authorisation of Expenditure Bill which seeks to provide for the time, within which the President or Governor should lay the Appropriation Bill before the National or State House of Assembly, got 94 votes.

No one voted against it and none abstained either. Deletion of the National Youth Service Corps Decree from the Constitution Bill, got 88 votes. 3 lawmakers voted against it, while none abstained. Also, deletion of the Land Use Act from the Constitution Bill, which many lawmakers believe will transfer ownership of natural resources to states, got only 46 votes, 44 senators voted against it, while none abstained. Th e last item on the list, Deletion of State Independent Electoral Commission from the Constitution Bill, got 73 votes, which is the exact fi gure needed to pass an amendment. Only 1 person against it, while 2 abstained. As soon as the House of Representatives passes alteration bills and a conference committee meets to harmonise the diff erences, the document will be sent to the 36 State Houses of Assembly for concurrence. Twenty four Houses of Assembly, out of the 36, must concur before the fi nal document can be sent to the President for assent.

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