‘Parliament Should Not Be Sidelined’ Over Amendment Of Entrenched Provisions

A suggestion has been made to the government and Parliament to ensure that attempts to amend the entrenched provisions of the Constitution follow the right precedents.

Therefore the plan by the Speaker of Parliament, Mr Edward Doe Adjaho, to deny Parliament the opportunity to make and propose changes to the entrenched provisions was ill-conceived.

These were the highlights of an analysis of the Proposed Amendment Process by Civic Forum Initiative (CFI) and Coalition of Civil Society Organisations

The two organisations are working to promote transparency, accountability and responsiveness in the 1992 Constitutional Review process.

The two organisations were of the view that since this was the first ever attempt to amend the entrenched provisions of the Constitution, it was important that “we set the right precedent.”

According to the two organisations, the memorandum accompanying the Bill mandated the Speaker of Parliament to refer the Bill to the Council of State.

The memorandum further directed that after the Council of State’s advice on the bill, it was to be published without being introduced in Parliament.

The two groups, however, were of the contrary view that amendment procedure for entrenched provisions contemplated more than a passive role for Parliament in the process.

They stressed that Parliament was empowered and required to consider any bill for amending an entrenched provision after the Council of State had had the opportunity to review and advise on it.

The two organisations explained further that originally, the Committee of Experts proposed that the Council of State, upon receiving a bill for amendment of an entrenched provision, was free to decide “whether or not the bill shall proceed to be passed and its decision on the bill shall be final.”

Had this proposal of experts survived, the two groups said, the advice of the Council of State’s on the bill would have sufficed as well as prevailed over Parliament’s job of considering the bill.

According to the two organisations, this proposal, however, did not make it into the adopted Constitution and as it now stands, it is for the Council of State to render its advice on the bill for Parliament to consider in the light of the advice rendered by the Council of State.

They explained that each of the two parts of article 290(2), namely Parliament’s mandate to consider the bill and the Council of State’s duty to render advice on the bill to Parliament negated any notion that Parliament could not make, propose and consider amendments or revisions to the bill.

They explained that the fact that the Constitution contemplated secret voting by members of Parliament as part of acts or steps Parliament ought to undertake in considering a bill to amend the Constitution underscored the point that legislative consideration of amendment bill entailed active participation by Parliament in the amendment processs and not passivity.

The two groups said the authority of Parliament to consider and make amendments to the entrenched provisions bill was based firmly on the letter and spirit of the applicable constitutional provisions.

They said the contrary notion that Parliament must merely shepherd the bill through the amendment process without any opportunity to make any substantive input into the bill was clearly not in consonance with either a plain purposive reading or the entire relevant provisions of the Constitution.