President Goodluck Jonathan’s refusal to ascent to the constitutional amendment based on 12 errors he raised in a seven-page letter to the Senate has angered the National Assembly and there are indications that the lawmakers may ignore the President’s position.
The President’s 12 errors 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. Others are, the 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 .
Senator Sadiq Yar’Adua (APC) Katsina Central who raised the point of order for the senate to debate the letter when the Senate President, David Mark read the letter during plenary today said that the National Assembly will go ahead to override the president’s assent.
He said the President had the time to raise the objections before the amendment bill was passed by the National Assembly and even the States Houses of Assembly but he refused to make any input, adding that it was after the legislature had taken pains to ensure that the exercise was a success that the president was raising such points.
One of the principal officers who spoke to newsmen on condition of anonymity said that there were two options before the National Assembly on the matter, saying that either the National Assembly accepts the position of the president or go ahead to override it.
“We don’t know why he (Jonathan) decided to go this way. It is something that Nigerians having been looking forward to and as we managed to break the Jinx, we thought it was a legacy the 7th Senate is going to leave behind.”
Also Senator Ita Enang from Akwa Ibom state said the president should have raised the issues during the various public hearings held by the National Assembly and not wait until after it was approved by the parliament.
Senator Kabir Marafa (APC Zamfara), said that decisions on the matter would be taken today as the Joint Committee on Constitution Review met yesterday evening to study the president’s letter.
Senator Marafa said he was not going to comment much on the matter because during the plenary yesterday copies of President Jonathan’s letter were not made available to the members.
“I hate talking from uninformed position. Copies of the letter were not made available to us at the plenary. I think it is a very straight forward thing in the sense that we are playing by the rules now.
“The law says that if there is anything the president did not like, he should bring it back at a stipulated time, failure to do that, senate will veto him, he has just done that.
“The Joint Committee on Constitution Review called a meeting, they will give us information on the outcome of their meeting and we will read the letter constitutionally and if there is any breach anywhere, after the plenary, we will be able to comment.”
However, the Senate Leader, victor Ndoma-Egba (SAN), when contacted for comment on the matter said that both houses were meeting to study the letter and that it was after that decision could be taken. [myad]