The move by the Senate Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution to include an amendment that would empower the president to initiate a new constitution for the country, which might have emerged from the referendum on the proposals of the ongoing National Conference, suffered a setback yesterday, when the committee withdrew the proposal.
The proposal, which sought to amend Section 9 of the constitution with a view to enabling the president kick-start the process of evolving a new constitution through the initiation of a bill, was one of the six fresh amendments to some sections of the constitution presented by the committee last week.
But the proposal came under severe criticism from senators predominantly from the North, who described it as a move to transfer the role of the legislature to the executive, moreso that the committee had last year presented an amendment to Section 9 of the constitution which provided that any new move to produce a new constitution for the country would be the exclusive preserve of the National Assembly.
After intense debate last week, the parliament resolved to vote on the entire six proposals yesterday.
However, after the motion to commence voting on the proposals was moved yesterday, Deputy Senate President and Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Review of the Constitution, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, quickly announced the withdrawal of the controversial proposal, observing that it might not survive the voting process.
Ekweremadu said the decision was the resolution of the committee after last week’s presentation.
His decision was accompanied by a commendation from Senate President David Mark, who described it as a bold statement that the committee was very sensitive to the feelings of both the senators as well as the entire nation.
Nevertheless, voting on other proposals could not take place yesterday as Mark observed that attendance at the session did not make up the two-thirds majority required by the Senate to vote on constitutional amendment proposals.
He described constitutional amendment as a serious national task that required serious commitment. Consequently, the chamber postponed the voting sine die.
Other proposals by the committee included amendments to Sections 134 and 179 of the constitution seeking to extend the conduct of governorship and presidential run-off elections from seven days to 21 days and a clause to empower the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to de-register any political party which fails to win any seat from local government to presidential elections.
The committee also proposed to confer the exclusive jurisdiction to try offences relating to violation of Electoral Act on the High Court; moves to make former Senate presidents and ex-speakers of House of Representatives members of National Council of State; and a proposal to mandate the clerks of the National Assembly and state houses of assembly to notify INEC of the existence of vacant seats in the legislature arising from death, resignation or vacation of such seats within seven days of the vacancy.