Senate says national conference will cause anarchy

Senate chamber

The Senate says it is opposed to calls for a sovereign national conference,  which has gathered momentum in recent weeks, as it fears the demand might stir severe unrest across a nation that is teetering on the brink security troubles mount.

A spokesman, Enyinanya Abaribe, senator representing Abia South said on Tuesday that writing off the National Assembly, and urging for broad talks that will reconsider Nigeria’s structure and her constitution is asking for trouble.

“What is it you want to discuss in Nigeria that you cannot bring to your representative in the National Assembly to put forward for discussion by everybody that is,” he said.

“Anybody who says he doesn’t have confidence in the present democratic set up is asking for nothing, but is seeking anarchy.”

Calls for national talks to decide on a new constitution and structure for the country have grown recently from the opposition parties and civil society groups, but major backers of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party have vowed to resist its convening.

President Goodluck Jonathan and the senate president, David Mark, have both opposed the idea, arguing that the call was unnecessary since the National Assembly can exercise the needed function.

The senate’s remarks came amid a failure by federal lawmakers to forge a common position over the agitation, with mainly opposition legislators distancing themselves from the position of the senate and the House of Representatives, to back calls for the conference.

Last Thursday, the House of Reps Action Congress of Nigeria caucus disowned the position of the House spokesperson, Zakari Mohammed, who had earlier, on behalf of the house, dismissed the clamour.

The caucus, led by House Minority leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, described the comments as Mr. Mohammed’s personal opinion since the matter had not been discussed by the House.

The group said the National Assembly lacked the powers to overhaul and initiate a fresh constitution as demanded by those advocating a change.

 

“If the national consensus is to write and produce a new constitution, then such will be outside the purview and the mandate of the National Assembly,” the group said in statement.

“But if however what we are talking about is the amendment of the constitution, then it falls squarely within the mandate given to the National Assembly by the electorate and indeed the 1999 Constitution declares that it is only the National Assembly that can amend it.”

 

The senate spokesman, said such calls, could throw an already tense nation into crises.

 

“Whatever you want to do to amend aspects of the constitution you must do it through your representatives in the national assembly,” he said.

 

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