Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Constitution Amendment: We’ll resist attempts to frustrate it – Ekweremadu

ABUJA – The Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu yesterday said that no amount of propaganda from any quarter would deter the National Assembly from going ahead with the constitution amendment even as he said that NASS, has not been served with any court process stopping the amendment.

The presidency recently returned the the constitution amendment bill passed by the National Assembly that was sent to it for his assent, alleging constitutional breached and usurpation of executive powers by the legislature.

The presidency also proceeded to the Supreme Court to seeking for an orde to stop the National Assembly from going ahead with the constitution amendment or overriding him by vetoing the bill.

Speaking yesterday at the induction certificate course on legislative studies for new legislators, Senator Ekweremadu who was the Chairman, Constitution Review Committee, said the the National Assembly read on the papers the suit filed by the presidency stopping the constitution amendment, stressing that there was no court process served to it.

He said, ” As I speak to you, there is no court process that has been served on National Assembly. So, as far as I am concerned, there is nothing in court.

“We also read in the papers that Bayo Ojo wrote a letter on behalf of the government, asking us not to deliberate on the matter pending the matter in court. I want to also say that no letter was received from Bayo Ojo or anybody whatsoever. It’s just share media propaganda. But I want to assure Nigerians that we will resist it.”

On the leadership of the National Assembly, he said, “I am here to speak on the leadership at the National Assembly. I believe everybody should be interested in it because we are potential leaders at the NASS.

“The concept of leadership is the same everywhere and it is about positive influence, transformation and goal actualisation.

In the past some Nigerians tried to impose principal officers on the National Assembly, we recall that when Ghali Na’abba was having issues in the House, they were able to resolve it because there was no external influence.

“But we had a running battle with the executive when Patricia Etteh was speaker because of the support of the executive and we saw what happened. So it is advisable to allow the legislators to elect their principal officers without interference.

In the National Assembly, we have laid down provisions for principal officers and one is the issue of ranking. As a new legislator you have to accept this provision, that ranking officers are elected because tomorrow you may be a beneficiary, so it good for this provision to be sacrosanct.

“Parliament is as good as the leadership and it is an indicator of the stability of that institution determines the stability of govt and this is because if the leadership of the National Assembly is having any problems, it will affect the country as a whole.”

The Senate President, Senator David Mark noted that previously, the National Assembly conducted the induction of new members in the six get-political zones but was constrained by finances as a result of the the fallen price of oil in the international market.

The Senate President said, ” As you may be aware, the format of the induction for the 8th National Assembly is slightly different from previous ones. On this occasion, we have brought our Distinguished Senators-erect and Honourable members-erect together in order to encourage wider interaction amongst all parliamentarians.

“this is different from the previous model when NILS (National Institute for Legislative Studies) would conduct the induction in the six geo-political zones. This new model also makes more economic sense in the wake of the dwindling revenue brought about by the fall in oil prices.”

Senator Mark further noted that a quick analysis of the just concluded elections into the National Assembly showed that the turnover rate was unacceptably high.

According to him, “On average, since 2003, we have witnessed a high turnover rate of National Assembly members. The Average return rate of National Assembly members is in the region of 30 per cent.

” I have stressed this point because from my experience you will find that this will impact on our discussion, deliberations and debate over the next four years.”

On the induction of newly elected Senators and members of the House of Representatives, he said, “It is very important. First of all people will get acquainted and the interaction between the legislators is very important as a foundation to running a very stable National Assembly.

“But more importantly of course is that they will learn the procedures and the various things that happen within the National Assembly.

“Obviously, when people are new to a system, it takes time for them to adjust, learn the procedure and even find their way round the National Assembly building. So it will be a very slow start obviously.

“If the members returning are more, things will start a lot quicker but it will be slow because it will be a learning process for about 70 per cent of the members are new.

The Senate President also commented on the number Bills assented to by the President, adding, “President will sign the bills that he wants to sign, the ones he doesn’t want to assent to, he will return to us and we will do the needful.

“The President has taken a Bill to the court. It is a Bill at the moment, unless it is signed, I really don’t see why they are in court but anybody can go to court, so I can’t stop you.”

Also speaking, the Minority leader,of the senate, Senator George Akume said the induction was for new and re-elected legislators and that there was always a need for renewal.

He said, “It is expected to expose all of us to the workings of the legislature and the constitution and respect to the Judiciary and the executive because we are expected to work together for the promotion of the welfare of the people and security. The programme has always been very beneficial.”

On the leadership tussle for the 8th Senate, Senator Akume explained that though going by convention and tradition in developed countries he was supposed to be favoured, he was not a man of vaulting ambition, adding that what he had achieved in life was made possible by divine intervention.

He said it was left for the party leadership and his colleagues to decide whether to respect the internationally recognised tradition and convention or not.

Senator Ahmad Lawan said the induction was to introduce the legislators into the nitty gritty of the work of the National Assembly.

He said, “Even though most of it will be based on theories and case studies , It always gives especially the new people, the opportunity to understand what the challenges are and how to about facing the challenges.

“I am worried on the high level of turnover but then, this is the decision of Nigerians and we must respect it.

“Ordinarily, we should have more members of the National Assembly re-elected because many who were here for four years and are longer here, so much resources were invested in them in building their capacity to discharge their responsibility but now that they are out.

“It means new ones would have to go through the same process and that would take additional resources that shouldn’t have been spent.

“As democracy progresses in the country, my only prayer is that we should be able to keep re-electing the members of the National Assembly so that we will have members who are experienced in tackling the challenges of legislation in Nigeria.

“It has been like this from 1999 to date, which is inimical to the development of the legislature. What is important is for us in the National Assembly and those who know the workings of the National Assembly to continue to inform Nigerians that it is better they maintain their legislators because changing legislators every four years would affect projects and legislations that will affect the lives of Nigerians.

“For me, the 16 years I have spent as a legislator has given me some leverage over some senators who spent only four years.”

It was gathered that only about 33 Senators out of 109 members are returning for the 8th senate.

Source: Vanguard News


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