New Constitution: CONFAB secretariat lobbies Northern delegates

Indications have emerged that intense pressure is being mounted on selected prominent Northern delegates to adopt a new constitution at the conference.

Daily Trust gathered that the deputy chairman of the conference Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi is at the fore front of consultation with Northern delegates with a view to convincing them to accept a new constitution.

A source privy to the moves said Akinyemi met with the delegates about a fortnight ago, trying to convince them so that the conference can adopt a new constitution for the country.

But it was not clear whether Akinyemi is acting at the instance of the Presidency whose political operators inside the conference are already working purportedly to actualise its agenda under the platform of Unity Forum convened by Senator Ibrahim Mantu.
It was learnt that Akinyemi spoke to the co-chairman of Northern Delegates Forum (NGF) and chairman of Arewa Consultative Forum former Inspector General Ibrahim Coomassie but Coomassie nominated a delegation to meet with the deputy chairman.
The delegation comprised Professor Auwalu Yadudu, Dr Iyorchia Ayu, Mohammed Kumalia, Alhaji Bashir Dalhatu and Senator Khairat Gwadabe.

At the meeting with the delegates, Akinyemi spoke of the need to write or adopt a new constitution but the delegation reportedly voiced their reservations.

Our source said the Northern delegates gave him four reasons why they cannot accept his proposal.
One, they said that the conference itself lacks the powers to amend or change the constitution, saying its membership is selected not elected representatives of the people.

Two, they said by the composition of the delegates to the conference, the North was deliberately under-represented. Therefore, they won’t accept that proposal.

Third, the delegates said that they didn’t come to the conference to change the constitution. Rather, they are there to make recommendations to the relevant authorities on policy issues.

Lastly, the delegates said the mechanism in which the new constitution, if drafted, would be presented to the public [referendum], is alien to the constitution. And also, what would be the content of the new constitution, is it the conference recommendations or a draft already prepared by someone?

The source told Daily Trust that when the delegates confronted Akinyemi with these pointers, he seemed to back out.

But it wasn’t clear whether the idea was shelved or not. Although the Mantu group was seen last week inviting some select members of the conference for a meeting, it was not clear whether the issue of a new constitution was part of the issues the group discussed.
Already there is a proposal to empower President Jonathan to come up with a new national constitution. It came in form of a Bill  but senators opposed giving the president the same latitude as the National Assembly in proposing a new constitution.

This forced chairman of the committee and Deputy Senate President the Senate Ike Ekweremadu to withdraw that aspect of the bill to avoid a negative vote.

Daily Trust learnt that there is now a plan to bring back the proposal, and senators are being lobbied to tone down their opposition.
The plan, sources in the Senate said, is to give President Goodluck Jonathan the powers to introduce a new constitution which may be drafted by the on-going National Conference.

The National Conference comprises mostly appointees of the president, the Federal Government and state governors.
Sources said already the president has identified key provisions that he would want in the new constitution.

They include abolishing of the 774 local government areas as the third tier of government; stoppage of Federal allocation to the local governments; setting aside 50 per cent of oil revenues for the Niger Delta; creation of an additional state for the South-East; and provision of six-year single term for the president.

Meanwhile, Daily Trust has learnt that President Jonathan has been lobbying interest groups to support his bid to introduce a new constitution.

The president has been meeting with various groups, where he has been personally pleading with them to see reason with him on the need for a new constitution, sources told this newspaper.

Few months ago Daily Trust reported that Professor Ben Nwabueze and a small committee that he handpicked would be commissioned by the Presidency to draft a Constitution for Nigeria which would be tabled as the main working document at the proposed National Conference.

The controversial constitutional lawyer himself demanded in a letter to President Goodluck Jonathan to convert a small committee that is already meeting in his house into a Presidential Committee to draft a constitution. He similarly asked Jonathan to insert a clause into the proposed National Conference’s enabling law for his draft constitution to be laid before it and to “form the basis of its deliberations and decisions and to be piloted through the conference by the members of [Nwabueze’s] committee, just as was done in 1977/78 in the making of the 1979 Constitution.”

The demands were contained in Prof Nwabueze’s latest letter titled ‘Nature and Character of the Proposed National Conference: Its Primal Purpose and Modus Operandi.’ In it, he recalled the process adopted by the Obasanjo military regime in the 1970s to fashion out the 1979 Constitution. He recalled that a 49-member Constitution Drafting Committee [CDC] chaired by Chief Rotimi Williams drafted a constitution in 1975-76 which was then tabled before the 1977-78 Constituent Assembly. He recalled also that Williams and CDC’s six sub-committee chairmen, including himself, piloted the draft through the Constituent Assembly.

Culled from DailyTrust

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