Constitution Amendment or Legislative Coup? Our Legislators Have Gone Mad Again

Nigeria's National Assembly

In April 2015, former President Goodluck Jonathan declined assenting his signature on the 2015 proposed amended 1999 Constitution citing irregularities in its passage, whittling down the powers of the President by the legislators, and transferring some of these powers to themselves (and to the judiciary).

Three items featured in the 2015 Constitution amendment. They are;

  1. LIFE PENSION for the Senate President, Speaker of Representative, Deputy Senate President, and Deputy Speaker of the House.
  2. Immunity for the aforementioned office holders from arrest and criminal prosecution
  3. Stripping of the President the power to assent or veto any constitutional amendment. Meaning, they (legislators) should be both the only players in the process.

Nigerians were lucky that the former President not only refused to assent his signature but also approached the Supreme Court through the Attorney General of The Federation to halt the proposed bill, which the court did in May 2015.

Now it appears that the legislators have ‘gone mad’ again by reviving such items in the ongoing constitution review.

THEIR IMMORAL DEMAND FOR LIFE PENSION

As at today, many states are having difficulty to meet financial obligations to state workers and execute projects, yet they are still mandated by their state laws to pay huge money to former Governors and their Deputies in the name of pension irrespective of the offices these former state executives occupy after leaving office.

It is even funny that some of these Senators like Senate President Bukola Saraki, Sani Yerima, Muhammed Goje, Godswill Akpabio, George Akume etc were not only exGovernors but are heavy beneficiaries of the pension largesse at their respective state level chiefly due to the immoral pension that they proposed and signed into law when they were in office. Yet, they still want more money in the name of life pension to add to their already bloated financial war chest at the masses expense.

The non former Governors among them like Sen Ike Ekweremadu, who is the Chief leader of the proposal seem to want to join the train of those that are feeding fat (for life) on government resources.

Is it not immoral and wicked that after enjoying fat salaries and allowances while in office, the legislative leaders want to keep feeding fat outside office just like the former governors?

THE IMPLICATION IF PASSED

Should the legislators have their way, it means that SP Saraki will be entitled to DOUBLE life pension from Kwara state and federal government.

It also means that people like Governors Aminu Mansari and Saminu Tambawal of Katsina and Sokoto states respectively will be entitled to fat salaries/allowances as Governors, Life pension as Former Speakers, and life pension as former governors when they leave office.

This will also attract more outgoing governors to seek solace in the Senate and fight for SP or DSP offices to ‘enlarge their coast’. This will also attract more former speakers and Deputies to seek election to be Governor or Deputy in order to legally enlarge their financial powerhouse. How sustainable is this?

Let us imagine that a former Speaker/deputy is elected to serve his state as Governor. After serving the state, he was further elected to go to the Senate and eventually made Senate President or Deputy Senate President. Then he moved up to emerge Presidential candidate or running mate to a candidate, and emerge victorious. What is the implication with respect to the controversial proposal?

It simply means the man will be entitled to a life pension as former President/Vice, Governor/Deputy, Speaker/Deputy, and Senate President/Deputy. Who says politicians are not smart?

I’m sure that if this is allowed, it won’t take long for Speakers and Deputies at the state level to ‘help themselves’ out.

ON ISSUE OF IMMUNITY FOR NASS LEADERS:

In the first instance, the concept of immunity for governors and their deputies is irresponsible and absurd. Even the United States whose democracy we look up to don’t have such arrangement. While we are calling for the stripping of Governors and Deputies of immunity, the legislators are coming with their own immunity demand.

Already, these legislators enjoy immunity from prosecution on anything they say or do on the floor of their respective chambers, why are they seeking for more if not that they have to protect their skeletons?

STRIPPING THE PRESIDENT ASSENT POWERS:

I think the legislators need to be reminded that the concept of democracy demands checks and balance. Stripping the President the power of Assent simply means introduction and promotion of legislative coup. They want to be the people to make laws and shove same laws down the throat of Nigerians via the instrument of the law. This is highly irresponsible of them, and won’t be allowed to stay.

This is tantamount to legislative coup.

SECTION 9 OF THE CONSTITUTION SHOULD BE AMENDED:

Section 9 of the Constitution that deals with the process of amendment of the 1999 CFRN need to be amended to give the masses role to play in the amendment process.

Specifically, sub sections (2) and (3) that vest power to amend constitution on at least 2/3 members of both Chambers of the National Assembly, and resolution of at least 2/3 States Houses of Assembly should be amended by stripping the state legislators of such of power, and vesting same on the people through INEC organised and well monitored referendum.

This is the only true way Nigerians can be said to be part of the process.

HYPOCRISY OF SOUTHERN LEGISLATORS:

I shall end this piece by expressing disappointment in legislators from the southern region, specifically the southsouth and southeast.

Before the amendment kicked off, majority of these legislators including DSP Ike Ekweremadu, Senator Ben Murray Bruce of twitter fame, and several others were always quick to shout how restructuring and true federalism is best for the country. Instead of these people to be the chief promoters of restructuring and true federalism in this ongoing amendment, they preoccupy themselves with only amendments that would favor them. Very unfortunate…

May God Bless Us All and Bless Nigeria

About the Author

Tonye Barcanista
Tonye Barcanista is a public relations professional, activist, politician and socio-political analyst. Tonye can be reached on Twitter @TonyeBarcanista

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