Belgore committee revisits Abacha draft constitution •Supports rotational presidency, 5-year single tenure

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Written by Olawale Rasheed and Ayodele Adesanmi, Abuja Thursday, 19 April 2012

ShareSEVERAL provisions of the 1995 draft constitution prepared under the late General Sani Abacha may have resurfaced as the 21-member Presidential Committee on the Review of Outstanding Constitutional Issues under Justice Salisu Alfa Belgore is reported to be revisiting the document.

Nigerian Tribune reliably gathered from the committee that the 1995 draft constitution, which was dumped on the advice of the Justice Niki Tobi Committee set up by the government of General Abdulsalami Abubakar, was revived because it addressed most challenges facing the nation now.

The 1995 draft constitution was a product of the 1994-1995 National Constitutional Conference attended by key political figures in the country but boycotted by the South-West geopolitical zone due to the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election.

Insiders close to the workings of the committee told the Nigerian Tribune that while all other previous constitutional reports are being reviewed, “many provisions of the Abacha constitution are being lifted directly as they appear very relevant to issues on the ground now.”

Provisions reportedly being lifted include the endorsement of rotational presidency with clear provisions that the offices of the president of the country should rotate among the six geopolitical zones, which are also being recognised as units in the proposed amendments. The rotational principle is also proposed to be extended to the states and local governments.

Alongside the rotational principle is the provision for a five-year single tenure for president, governors and local government chairmen with a related provision that bars whoever had been elected to such office at an immediately preceding election.

Other provisions being lifted, according to the source, include provisions for multiple vice-presidency with one of the vice-presidents expected to come from the zone of the president to serve as a replacement in case of sudden death or incapacitation of the president.

Another version of the Abacha draft said to be under consideration is as follows “Subject to the provisions of sub-section (2) of this section, if any vacancy occurs by reason of the death or resignation or the removal of the president from office (impeachment) in accordance with section 144, 145 or 340 of this constitution, the vice-president shall hold the office of president for the period of not more than three months, during which there shall be an election of a new president from the same zone, who shall hold office for the unexpired term of office of the last holder of the office.”

The committee is also said to be fascinated by the Abacha draft provisions on resolving the winner takes all syndrome in the electoral process with the introduction of proportional representation in the composition of the federal and state executive councils.

The said provision is as follows: “Any political party which wins not less than 10 per cent of the total number of seats in the National Assembly or of the total number of votes cast at the election, shall, subject to the provisions of subsection (7) of this section, be entitled to representation in the Federal Executive Council in proportion to the number of seats won by the party in the National Assembly.”

Other provisions on the table from the Abacha draft include recognition of constitutional court, recognition and possible transformation of the six geopolitical zones into regions, whittling down of Federal Government’s dominance through the creation of state legislative list and others.

A member of the committee, who was contacted, however, declined to comment on the reports, explaining instead, that only the committee chairman, Justice Belgore is mandated to talk to the press after the conclusion of its assignment.

President Jonathan had, while inaugurating  the committee on July 22, 2011, charged it to take a special look at the political and constitution review conferences, judicial reform efforts, charter on human and people’s rights, environment and natural resources, local government joint accounts and revenue sharing formula of the country.

He said: “I am inaugurating this committee to develop draft bills on previously agreed issues that would go a long way to strengthen the bonds of our union. These settled issues include strong recommendations from past constitutional and political reform conferences; on national security, human rights and social security, people’s charter and social obligations; environment and natural resources, models and structure of government, public service, power sharing, local government reforms and the economy.

 “In that regard, the task of this committee is to study and deliberate on the resolutions, recommendations and implementation guidelines of the last National Political Reform Conference; as well as any relevant aspects of the 1994/95 Constitutional Conference,” the president had said.

Members of the committee are Belgore, Senator Udo Udoma, vice-chairman; Chief Ebenezer Babatope; Mr Ledum Mitee; Dr Abubakar Saddique; Ms Comfort Obi; Mr Peter Esele; Professor Oladapo Afolabi; Professor Jerry Gana and Tessy Ikimi.

Others are Mr G.O.S. Miri; Ambassador Babagana Kingibe; Ambassador Jibrin Chinade; Alhaji Abubakar Mustapha; Professor Anya O. Anya; Dr  Chukwuemeka Ezeife; Alhaja Salimot Badru; Hajia Najatu Mohammed; Mr Ferdinand Agu; Alhaji Wakil Mohammed and Halima Alfa.

Meanwhile, barring any unforeseen circumstance, the Senate will, in July 2013, conclude the fourth amendment and review of the 1999 Constitution.

The Deputy Senate President and chairman of the Senate Committee on the Review of the Constitution, Senator Ike Ekwere-madu, also informed that the committee held its maiden meeting on Wed-nesday and agreed to streamline the areas that needed amendments.

Ekweremadu told newsmen that the amount allocated to the committee could not be ascertained, saying that the National Assembly received its allocation on first line charge in lump sum.

He assured that after the budget analysis, the amount allocated would be made known, adding that the Senate committee and that of the House of Representatives would work together to expedite action on the exercise.

“We will articulate what we consider the burning issues that will help to make our democracy workable and put our country on the part of political progress. We are going to make allowance for the input of the executive. You are aware that that they have set up this Belgore committee. We hope that shortly, they are going to send whatever their recommendations are,” he said.

It was gathered that most of the issues that would top the amendment agenda would include fiscal federalism, state creation, state police, local government system, devolution of powers, revenue allocation, state INEC and a uniform minimum wage.

The committee chairman, however, said all comments he made before were his personal opinion, adding that he would, henceforth, be speaking on the exercise on behalf of the Senate and the committee.

Continued here:
Belgore committee revisits Abacha draft constitution •Supports rotational presidency, 5-year single tenure

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