Why Jonathan, National Assembly Failed To Agree On Constitution Amendment (DETAILS)

Why Jonathan, National Assembly Failed To Agree On Constitution Amendment (DETAILS)

By News Desk | The Trent on June 1, 2015
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President Goodluck Jonathan (State House Photo)

Details have emerged as to why former President Goodluck Jonathan and the National Assembly failed to reach an agreement on the proposed constitution amendment despite agreeing to an out of court settlement.

According to The Nation, Jonathan did not sign the amendment by Thursday, May 28, 2015 because the National Assembly failed to meet the terms of the said agreement between both parties.

More so, the legislators failed to meet the requirements necessary for the former president to have signed the amendment.

The Federal Government had requested the following:

•the sections removed by the National Assembly ought to be ratified by the Committee of the Whole and not a few members of the Assembly negotiating with the government;

•there must be substantial compliance with the threshold specified in Section 9(3) of the 1999 Constitution on amendments;

•alteration to constitution cannot be valid with mere voice votes, unless supported by the votes of not less than four-fifths majority of all members of the National Assembly and two-thirds of all the 36 State Houses of Assembly;

•the involvement of few members in the clean-up was illegal because the process was irregular and improper;

•the fresh amendments made available to the former President should also be presented to the 36 State Houses of Assembly for scrutiny and endorsement;

•the review of the amendments through mere agreement with the Federal Government is subject to challenge in court and could be declared illegal; and

•it was too late in the day for the ex-president to sign the amendments

According to the report, a source who spoke anonymously said: “The Deputy President of the Senate, Chief Ike Ekweremadu, tried unsuccessfully to mobilize the Constitution Review Committee to clean up the amendments on Thursday.

“But by the time the ‘clean copy’ was taken to the Presidential Villa on Thursday for assent, the National Assembly leaders were told that Jonathan had given his handover note to President Muhammadu Buhari and he could no longer sign any bill into law.

“The Assembly leaders were also made to realise that Jonathan did not include the controversy over the amendments in the handover note.”

Another source enthused thus: “The former Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Mohammed Bello Adoke (SAN), was of the view that since the report of the National Conference had been sent to the National Assembly, the 8th National Assembly will do a better job to effect the constitutional amendments.

“The development made National Assembly leaders to leave the Presidential Villa dejected and disappointed.

“In fact, Ekweremadu openly complained that Adoke deceived the National Assembly into out-of-court settlement.”

Also speaking on the condition of anonymity was a member of the legal team that formulated the agreement. He said: “Our deal collapsed because the National Assembly did not clean up the amendments on time.

“The Assembly leaders retained some of the amendments opposed by the Federal Government. And time was not just on the side of the National Assembly to fulfill the requirements for constitution amendment.”

Now the lawmakers believe it will be difficult to override Jonathan’s decision and pass the amendment into law.

A Senator further said: “It will be difficult for the Senate and the House of Representatives to now sit and claim that they are overriding the veto of a former President.

“There is no way President Muhammadu Buhari can be liable for the veto exercised by his predecessor. This is the challenge at hand.

“The National Assembly can also not present the amendments to Buhari to sign into law. With five working days left, we are really helpless.

“The worst aspect is that we cannot go back to the Supreme Court because time is no longer on our side.”

Jonathan had rejected about 12 of the 65 amendments proposed by the National Assembly.

They are:

•non-compliance with the threshold specified in Section 9(3) of the 1999 Constitution on amendments;

•alteration to constitution cannot be valid with mere voice votes unless supported by the votes of not less than four-fifths majority all members of National Assembly and two-thirds of all the 36 State Houses of Assembly;

•right to free basic education and primary and maternal care services imposed on private institutions;

•flagrant violation of the doctrine of separation of powers;

•unjustified whittling down of the Executive powers of the Federation vested in the President by virtue of Section 5(1) of the 1999 Constitution; and

•30 days allowed for assent of the President.

The others are:

•limiting expenditure in default of appropriation from six months to three months;

•creation of the Office of Accountant-General of the Federation distinct from the Accountant General of the Federal Government;

•empowering National Economic Council to appoint the Accountant-General of the Federation instead of the President;

•allowing the National Judicial Council (NJC) to appoint the Attorney-General of the Federation rather than the President;

•unwittingly whittling down the discretionary powers of the Attorney-General; and

•Life pension scheme for principal officers of the National Assembly.

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