Senate Committee on Constitution Amendment chaired by the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, some weeks ago, began consultation visits to Lagos in a bid to amend the constitution of the country again. The journey is bound to cost taxpayers billions of naira, as it was the case not too long ago with nothing to show for it. From the day the 13th and 15th amendment clauses passed second reading in the eighth Senate, Nigerians started raising eyebrows knowing that the exercise is a futile one just like those before it. Question that will likely arise is will President Muhammadu Buhari assent to it bearing in mind that former President Goodluck Jonathan had withheld his assent to the amendments of the 1999 Constitution, which made the then attorney-general of the federation to institute a suit against the lawmakers. The lawmakers agreed to amend the act in an out-of- court settlement which never happened till the end of that administration It would be recalled that in a seven-page letter to the former Senate President, David Mark, and former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, Jonathan queried the decision of the National Assembly to whittle down some executive powers of the president. He faulted some amendments which gave executive powers and duties to the legislature and judiciary. In a letter, he explained his position on the amendment and why he declined to sign the document into law. “In view of the foregoing and absence of credible evidence that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (Fourth Alteration) Act 2015 satisfied the strict requirements of Section 9(3) of the 1999 Constitution, it will be unconstitutional for me to assent to it. I therefore withhold my assent and accordingly remit the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (Fourth Alteration) Act 2015 to the Senate/ House of Representatives.” However, the National Assembly said after 30 days, it would override the veto of the president. But in an originating summon filed by a former Attorney- General of the Federation, AGF, Bayo Ojo, on behalf of the then AGF, Mohammed Adoke, the federal government posited that the purported Fourth Alteration Act 2015 passed by the federal legislature does not have the mandatory requirement of four- fifth majority of lawmakers. The originating summons was supported by an affidavit deposed to by Theophilus Okwute, a lawyer in Ojo’s chamber. It said the requirement was mandated by relevant sections of the extant Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended. The government requested the Supreme Court to give an order nullifying and setting aside Sections 3, 4, 12, 14, 21, 23, 36, 39, 40, 43 and 44 of the Fourth Alteration Act, 2015 purportedly passed by the legislature. It also asked the Supreme Court to ‎determine the following two questions: — “Whether the proposed amendment to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (hereinafter referred to as the Constitution) by the defendant through Sections 3, 4, 12, 14, 21, 23, 36, 39, 40, 43 and 44 of the constitution (Fourth Alteration) Act 2015 (herein after referred to as The Fourth Alteration Act 2015) which purportedly altered Sections 8, 9, 34, 35, 39, 42, 45, 58, 84, 150, 174 and 211 without compliance with the requirements of Section 9(3) is not unconstitutional, invalid, illegal, null and void? “Whether in the absence of compliance by the defendant with the mandatory requirement of Section 9(3) of the Constitution in the passage of the Fourth Alteration Act, 2015, the defendant can competently exercise its powers under Section 58(5) to enable the purported Act to become law?‎” The government requested the court to hold that ‎the proposed amendments to the constitution through Sections 3, 4, 12, 14, 21, 23, 36, 39, 40, 43 and 44 of the Fourth Alteration Act, 2015 which purportedly altered Sections 8, 9, 34, 35, 39, 42, 45, 58, 84, 150, 174, 211 and passed by the defendant without complying with the mandatory requirement of Section 9(3) and (4) of the said constitution stipulating the passage by at least four-fifth majority of all members of each House specified in Sections 48 and 49 is unconstitutional, invalid, illegal, null and void and of no effect whatsoever. The government prayed the Supreme Court to ‎declare that in the absence of compliance by the defendant with the mandatory requirements of Section 9(3) of the Fourth Alteration Act, 2015 which purportedly altered Sections 8, 9, 34, 35, 39, 42, 45, 58, 84, 150, 174 and 211, it is unconstitutional for the National Assembly to exercise its powers under Section 58(5) of the Constitution to enable the purported act become law. Okwute said Adoke told him that the purported Fourth Alteration Act 2015 was not passed with the mandatory requirement of four-fifth majority of members of the defendant and the mandatory due processes provided under the relevant sections of the extant Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended. According to him, the defendant is making moves, with the tacit consent of all State Houses of Assembly, to employ certain provisions of the constitution to pass the purported Fourth Alteration Act, 2015 into law. Okwute also said the Fourth Alteration Act 2015 contains many proposed amendments inconsistent with the spirit of federalism, separation of powers and checks and balances, all of which constitute the hallmark of the constitution and democracy. ‎ He said most provisions of the purported Fourth Alteration Act 2015 are contrary to public policy and good governance. The eighth Senate early in the year had constituted
last committee In the same vein, the House of Representatives constituted a 47-member ad-hoc committee for the review of the 1999 Constitution (as amended). The first attempt to amend the constitution commenced in 2002 during the fifth Assembly, but the process was stillborn because of the opposition to the alleged third term ambition of former President Olusegun Obasanjo. The process which was started all over again in 2007 was partially successful. The course of action which was completed in 2010 was the first time since Nigeria’s independence in 1960 that the legislative arm successfully amended the constitution. A total of 35 sections were altered; three sections were deleted, while two others were substituted. In all 40 sections were tinkered with one way or the other. Though many State Houses of Assembly failed to agree on all the 40 sections forwarded to them for endorsement, some key sections got their approval. However, the quest by the last National Assembly to again amend the constitution ended in confusion. The last attempt, which was said to have cost the country N4 billion never became law because former President Jonathan returned same to the National Assembly without his assent. Areas of contention were the creation of the office of the Accountant-General of the Federation distinct from the Accountant-General of the Federal Government,
a 38-member committee to begin afresh processes for the amendment of the 1999 constitution as amended. The committee, headed by the deputy Senate president would gather facts from stakeholders across the country as part of the process which is what the Lagos trip was all about. According to the Senate president, the eighth Senate has made the amendments of the constitution its major priority. “With the composition of the committee, the Senate has set the stage for activities leading to the delivery of a new constitution to our people.’’ He asked the committee to concentrate on issues that would de-emphasize recurrent expenditure that had been substantially agreed upon by the Economic Council to appoint the accountant-general of the federation instead of the president, Allowing the National Judicial Council, NJC, to appoint the attorney-general of the federation rather than the president and the right to free basic education, primary and maternal care services imposed on private institutions. Following the refusal of the lawmakers to effect the changes he suggested and their threat to override his veto, Jonathan was forced to drag the parliament to the Supreme Court for non- compliance with constitutional provisions. Will Buhari not do the same thing, thereby wasting all the money that will be spent your guess is as good as min


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