Reject calls for Sovereign National Conference
Constitution amendment not on Senate card yet, says Mark
A BILL for an Act to amend Section 315 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) yesterday passed through second reading in the House of Representatives.
The Bill seeks to amend Section 315 (2), which gives the executive arm of government at both the state and federal levels powers to modify existing laws.
Section 315 (2) of the 1999 Constitution stipulates that “the appropriate authority may at any time by order make such modifications in the text of any existing law as the appropriate authority considers necessary or expedient to bring the law into conformity with the provisions of this constitution.’’
Also, the House of Representatives yesterday told those calling for the convocation of a Sovereign National Conference (SNC) to perish the thought and instead strengthen their belief in the National Assembly.
At a media briefing in the National Assembly, Spokesman of the House, Zakari Mohammed, described the called as “retrogressive.”
Mohammed charged: “Nigerians should believe in the National Assembly. On what aegis is it (SNC) going to hold? SNC does not look nationalistic; it is dragging us backwards.”
The lawmaker also admitted that the House ad hoc committee probing the fuel subsidy regime had been under pressure to compromise but assured that the panel would not cave in to pressure.
He stated that the House would take all necessary steps to ensure that the report of the committee was not swept under the carpet.
And, the House of Representatives yesterday rejected a motion seeking to stop contractors and companies from using kerosene in road construction.
The House ad-hoc committee on the fuel subsidy regime was recently told that these companies have been mixing kerosene with bitumen in road construction, which situation has created a scarcity of the product.
Meanwhile, Senate President David Mark yesterday stated that the upper chamber of the National Assembly has not initiated a process to amend the 1999 Constitution.
Mark spoke in Lagos at the public presentation of a book, Mamora, Years of Legislative Activism: A Memoir of Senator Adeleke Olorunnimbe Mamora, in honour of Mamora.
The Senate President made the disclosure in response to Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi’s claims at the event that the Senate was on the Second Reading of a Constitution amendment process.
Mark said: “Once we start we will go round the country. Nobody has amended the constitution yet.”
Amaechi had stressed that any attempt to amend the Constitution without the governors’ involvement would be scuttled by the latter through their state assemblies.
The governor stated that while some sections of the country yearned for constitutional amendment, “people must be widely consulted. It should not be amended like a piece of paper.”
Mark also assured that the Senate would not rewrite the Constitution in its entirety, stressing that “if there is a need for that we will get people to specifically do that.”
However, the Senate President faulted the stance of some who contended that the National Assembly has no rights to amend the Constitution, wondering “why people who ‘merely elected themselves’, as against those of us that were elected by the people should think they are the ones with the responsibility of amending the Constitution? They have to be elected to speak for the people”.
But a former Senate President Ken Nnamani cautioned against frequent amendment of the Constitution, as this, according to him, might turn the Constitution into “nothing better than the minutes of a village meeting.”
Nnamani stressed that while there was nothing wrong with drafting a new Constitution, a Constituent Assembly would be the best instrument to execute the task.
Leading the debate on the general principles of the proposed legislation, Deputy Majority Leader, Leo Ogor, said Section 315 (2) usurped the lawmaking function of the legislature and violated the principles of separation of powers.
He argued that it was the responsibility of the lawmakers to defend their powers as lawmaking arm of government.
“This section 315 (2) is totally undemocratic and makes a situation where parliamentary work is usurped,” he stated.
House Minority Whip, Samson Osagie, said the amendment sought by the proposal was vital to the workings of separation of powers.
He maintained that the act of making laws rested on the National Assembly, stressing that “this is one section (135) that we must expunge from the Constitution.’’
In his contribution, Emmanuel Jime commended Ogor for drawing the attention of the lawmakers to that part of the Constitution. He submitted that Section 135 could pose a problem for democratic processes if not amended.
Sadiq Mohammed in his submission said it is trite that legislative power is vested in the Legislature and that it would be unheard of that an authority amended existing laws other than the legislature.
Others members who supported the bill included Albert Sam–Tsokwa, Tajudeen Yusuf, Nnenna Ukeje and Orker Jev.
The bill passed second reading when the Speaker, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, put it to a voice-vote. Subsequently, it was referred to the Special Ad hoc Committee on review of the 1999 Constitution for further input.