Nigerian Senate withdraws amendment empowering President to initiate new constitution

Senate chamber

“When we debated the other day there was a very controversial issue. The committee wisely met and advised themselves that they should withdraw it.”

The Senate on Wednesday in Abuja withdrew its earlier proposal to amend Section 9 of the 1999 Constitution to empower the President to initiate the process of drafting a new Constitution.

The reversal followed the adoption of the application for withdrawal of the proposal by the Chairman, Senate Committee on Constitution Review, SCRC, Ike Ekweremadu.

Mr. Ekweremadu explained that the SCRC resolved that the proposed amendment be withdrawn in view of the controversy it generated during debates on the floor of the Senate.

He, however, announced that all the other proposals for amendment would still go through the voting process.

“During debates on the proposed amendment to Section 9, there were some issues that arose. And the Committee on Constitution Review, yesterday, reviewed some aspect of our proposals.

“The committee resolved and mandated me to seek the indulgence of the Senate to withdraw further amendment to Section 9.

“But every other item would remain. So, on behalf of the committee, I make this solemn application,” Mr. Ekweremadu said.

In his ruling, the Senate President, David Mark, said the committee’s withdrawal of the proposal showed that it was sensitive to the feeling of Nigerians.

“When we debated the other day there was a very controversial issue. The committee wisely met and advised themselves that they should withdraw it.

“It is the right thing for the committee to do. Again that shows that the committee is very sensitive to the feelings of not only senators but the feeling of Nigerians.”.

Many Nigerians had condemned the proposal, saying it was empowering an already too powerful presidency

Mr. Mark also announced that voting on the proposals for amendment of the 1999 Constitution, which was earlier scheduled for Wednesday, had been deferred indefinitely.

He said the postponement was because the number of senators in attendance was too low for an important issue such as voting on constitutional issues.

Mr. Mark said: “We want many more senators to be in the chamber to be able to vote. The number at the moment is too close to the margin. It means many senators are not around.

“The constitutional amendment is a serious issue and it is proper and important that we all participate in it.

“A senator’s stand on a constitutional issue should be very clear. I think when we have so many absentees it doesn’t look nice. So, I have no objection to deferring it.”

Voting is expected to be done on the proposal for inclusion of past Senate Presidents and Speakers of the House of Representatives as members of the Council of States.

It also includes a proposal empowering INEC to de-register any political party that fails to win presidential, governorship, chairmanship of local government areas or a seat in the National/State Assembly.

The senators will also decide on a proposal which seeks to confer exclusive jurisdiction on Federal High Court for trial of offences arising from violation of the provisions of the Electoral Act.

(NAN)

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