President of the Senate, David Mark
IN an arrangement that may put a stop to the 2015 ambition of President Goodluck Jonathan, the Senate Committee on the Review of the Constitution has recommended non-renewable single six year tenure for the office of President, Vice-President, governors and their deputies.
The Senate panel’s recommendation also disqualifies Jonathan and incumbent governors from benefitting from the new arrangement if the recommendation becomes law.
The PUNCH learnt on Monday that members of the committee, who held a three-day working retreat which ended in Lagos on Sunday, arrived at the decision after a heated debate.
A National Assembly member who was privy to the recommendation confided in one of our correspondents that, “We thought hard before arriving at this decision. We considered the current heating up of the polity by those interested in running for office in 2015.
“We also looked at what normally happens each time we are about to enter into an election year.
“If the recommendation scales through, none of the current office holders from the President down will benefit from it.
“It is couched in such a way that if someone is elected as Vice-President for instance and he becomes President for the reason of the removal from office of the President, either through ill health, impeachment or death, he can only serve out the term of the President even if it is just one month.
“He or she, as the case may be, will be ineligible to present himself for election as President in subsequent elections; the same applies to the office of the governor and deputy governor.”
The source revealed further that the committee also recommended autonomy for Review administrations and if the recommendation scales through the legislative process, local government councils will collect their monthly allocations from the federation account.
“There is a caveat. Only local government councils with elected council chairmen and properly constituted councils will receive such payments,” the source added.
There is however fear that the ruling Peoples Democratic Party and the Presidency will oppose these recommendations.
Jonathan had in the past expressed his preference for a seven-year single tenure for elective officers.
This he justified during his first media chat on assumption of office.
He had said, “The issue is that in Africa, elections create social unrest and we need to manage this. In a situation where you elect a governor and that governor has not sat down, another election is around the corner.
“Every four years you conduct elections, you create so much tension in the political environment. As we are talking, some people are busy holding meetings for the 2015 elections.
“It creates series of confusion in the political environment. I am not saying that single tenure, alone, will bring one hundred per cent stability.
“There is no political system that is one hundred per cent stable, you must have some tension. That was why I came up with that.”
The President had also on November 17, 2011 empanelled the Justice Alfa Belgore-led committee, officially designated as Committee to Review Outstanding Issues from Recent Constitutional Conferences.
The committee was mandated to identify gaps in the current constitution and propose amendments as adopted by previous constitutional conferences.
The committee was, however, limited in scope as it was only required to making suggestions on issues adopted by consensus by the previous constitutional conferences.
The Belgore panel did not delve into the issue of tenure as earlier proposed by the President.
Public opinion weighed heavily against the item following fears that the President was interested in tenure elongation.
When asked to confirm the Senate committee recommendation, the Clerk of the Senate Committee on Constitution Review, Mr. Innocent Mebiri, did not deny the development but said details would be made available to the Senate at plenary.
“Don’t bother yourself, when it gets to the Senate at plenary, you will know whether it is true or not,” he told one of our correspondents.
The report of the People’s Public Sessions conducted on the constitution by the House of Representatives indicated that Nigerians massively supported autonomy for local government councils.
More than 90 per cent of voters in the 360 federal constituencies where the sessions were held supported abolition of State/Local Government Joint Account in order to grant financial independence to the councils.
But, they opposed a single term of five, six or seven years for the President, state governors and other political office holders.
Rather, they voted in support of retaining the present two terms of four years each.
The public sessions were held on November 10, 2012.
The results of the sessions will be incorporated into bills on constitution amendment to be passed by the House