Senate proposes life pension for its leaders, cuts powers of presidents, governors

Nigerian Senate: Strengthening the law against rape

The Senate will still deliberate the proposals.

The Senate president and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and their deputies, would be entitled to life pensions once they quit office; and presidents and governors, as well their deputies, will no longer be eligible for twin four-year terms, according to constitution amendment proposals submitted by a Senate review committee Wednesday.

Under the law, a single six-year term will replace the current double four-year terms for chief executives; but serving president and vice, Goodluck Jonathan and Namadi Sambo, and serving governors, will not be eligible for the provision.

However, Senate President David Mark, and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu; as well Speaker Aminu Tambuwal and deputy, Emeka Ihedioha, will be the first beneficiaries of the life pension, provided they are not impeached from office.

The current 1999 constitution only allows life pension for the president and vice.

The far-reaching recommendations proposed by a review committee headed by Mr. Ekweremadu are far from becoming laws as they are yet to be debated and approved by the senate plenary, concurred by the House of Reps and assented to by at least 24 state Houses of Assembly.

But the proposals detail sweeping changes to Nigeria’s law books that if all approved, will touch on nearly all key sections of the executive, legislature and the judiciary arms of government.

The senate’s submission will be considered when the chamber resumes from a two-week break, and the House said it will receive and debate its report when it reconvenes.

The senate committee said the single term clause was necessary for chief executives, to deal with the “distraction” often associated by re-election bids.

“Considering the financial expenses often associated with the re-election and to ensure that executive heads are freed from the distractions to be able to concentrate on public policy issues, a provision for a single term of six years for president and governors is made,” Mr. Ekweremadu said.

The committee’s review focused on limiting the often overbearing powers of presidents and governors.

Under the new constitution, governors will no longer be able to control local government funds or refuse elections at the third tier as the shared account between local governments and states will be abolished to allow local governments to receive direct payments from the consolidated account.

Benefiting councils will be those democratically elected, a stipulation that targets governors’ penchant for foisting caretaker committees on the councils for years without elections.

The law also separates the office of the Attorney General of the Federation from that of the Minister of Justice, with provisions that insulate the Attorney General from the influence of the president.

If passed, federal attorney general, as well as states’, will have powers to order investigations.

The attorneys general will serve for seven years single term maximum and funding to that office will be drawn on first line charge- not subject to the appropriation of the National Assembly or respective state assemblies.

Under the proposed constitution, while the president and governors retain their rights to sign or withhold their assents to bills coming from the national or state assemblies, such discretion must be communicated to the respective legislature within 30 days otherwise, the passed bill becomes law automatically.

The provisions also detail clear procedures for a vice president or a deputy governor to succeed a late president or one incapable of taking the oath or discharging the requirements of the office- an effort targeted at avoiding a repeat of the controversies of the late Umaru Yar’Adua presidency and the transition to President Jonathan.

The senate said under exigencies of death, incapacitation, or others, the vice president or deputy governors will ascend to power and complete the term, but will no longer be qualified to stand for election to the office of the president or governor.

If such provision had been in place, President Jonathan would be ineligible for election in 2015.

The review also replaces the word “Force” in the Nigerian Police Force wit “Service”.

The president’s powers were further nipped with the establishment of the Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Abuja, an office that will be independent of the president and will be elective.

Offices to benefit from first line charge funding, also rose from the present three-National Assembly, Independent National Electoral Commission, and the Courts – to include Attorney-General of the Federation; Auditor-General of the Federation; Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal, Commission; and National Human Rights Commission; efforts directed at stripping the offices of influence of the president.

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