Constitution Amendment: Group threatens NASS over N4 Billion refund

By Post Nigeria June 8, 2015 14:57

Constitution Amendment: Group threatens NASS over N4 Billion refund

The 7th Assembly must refund the N4 billion expended on the failed 1999 constitution amendment bill to the national treasury or forget their severance pay.

An advocacy group, known as Friends in the Gap Initiaves, in a statement by its Executive Director, Mr. George Orji made this assertion in a statement, insisting that the rejection of the amendment by former President Gooldluck Jonathan was the failure of the lawmakers to adhere to strict constitutional provisions on the amendment.

Jonathan, had in the letter, said he would not assent to the amendments because they did not satisfy the strict requirements of Section 9(3) of the 1999 Constitution.

Orji queried the decision of the National Assembly to whittle down some Executive powers of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Jonathan made his position known in a seven-page letter to Senate President David Mark and House of Representatives Speaker Aminu Tambuwal, listed 12 errors in the statement.

They were 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 were, 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.

The group, in a statement by its Executive Director, Mr. George Orji, said the amendment finally became a failed venture last Thursday when the seventh National Assembly came to an end.

The statement read in part; “Now that the seventh National Assembly has formally wound down all its legislative activities and adjourned indefinity, it follows therefore that the processes for the fourth alteration of the 1999 Constitution has now died a natural death.

    “The constitution amendment process started way back in 2011 shortly after the pronouncement of the seventh National Assembly and it was not until early this year that the constitution amendment committees of both chambers of the parliament submitted the document to the then President Goodluck Jonathan for his assent.

    “It is also history that Jonathan raised about ten objections against the document and subsequently withheld his assent to the amendment.

    “One of the very fundamental objections the former President alleged was that contrary to the provisions of Section 9 of the constitution, which prescribed absolute majority of four-fifths of National Assembly members and two-thirds of State assemblies, the National Assembly members used voice vote to approve the constitution alteration.”

The statement further urged President Muhammadu Buhari to withhold the severance pay due to the lawmakers if they fail to refund the N4 billion.

    “From available information, this last constitution amendment exercise cost the country about N4 billion. Friends in the Gap Advocacy Initiative (FGAI), a parliamentary watchdog, demands as follows:

    “That members of the National Assembly should be made to refund the N4 billion expended for the constitution amendment exercise because the said amount constitutes Nigerian tax payers’ money.

    “In the alternative, we call on President Muhammadu Buhari to direct the withholding of the severance allowances for members of the 7th National Assembly.

    “We believe that if prudently deployed, the said N4 billion will go a very long way in addressing some of the nation’s infrastructural needs or generate sizable employment for the growing number of unemployed Nigerian youths.

    “It is our position that the failure of the constitution amendment exercise was precipitated by the shoddy, negligent and unserious attitudes of the lawmakers.

    “For the lawmakers to hold it against the former President that he ought to have raised his objections to the constitution alteration exercise at the public hearing stages is to say the least very unfortunate.

    “It is our further position that the legislature has failed Nigerians in the constitution amendment exercise and they must be humble enough to accept this unjustifiable fact and not turn around to blame the executive for their failures.”