At the Mercy of Lawmakers

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Kutigi

President Goodluck Jonathan is being faulted for his decision to send the report of the national conference to the council of state and National Assembly for endorsement instead of taking it to Nigerians in a referendum

By Vincent Nzemeke  |  Sep. 8, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT

OFFICIALLY, the national conference ended its assignment on Thursday August 21, 2014 when it handed a 21-volume report of the conference to President Goodluck Jonathan. While receiving the report from Justice Idris Kutigi, chairman of the conference, in Abuja, federal capital territory, President Jonathan promised to take the report to the National Council of States and the National Assembly for passage.

But the president’s decision is generating some controversies among the stakeholders. Femi Falana, SAN, who was a delegate to the conference wondered why the report should be sent to the NCS, insisting that the council is merely an advisory body and has nothing to do with conference.

In a recent article he wrote on the matter, Falana argued: “The first stage has to do with policy implementation and that is for the executive; the second one involves amending certain laws while the third one pertains to rewriting the Constitution. For the second and the third stages, the president has to present bills to the National Assembly for them to pass them into law after which the Constitution would be presented to Nigerians for a referendum.”

Debo Adeniran, chairman of the coalition against corrupt leader, also faulted the decision to send the conference report to the National Assembly.  He said sending the report to the lawmakers would defeat the purpose and essence of the conference. “Even as faulty as the conference was with Jonathan nominating majority of the delegates, the final decision should rest with the people. The outcome should be ratified by the Nigerian people through a referendum; anything short of this is no longer a conference of the people, but an imposition. Subjecting the report to the whims and caprices of the National Assembly shows that they had already written a report they now want to adopt,” Adeniran said.

Holding a similar position is Wesley Agbonsemi, a political science lecturer at the Delta State University, who said that sending the recommendations of the conference to the National Assembly would not be in the interest of the country. He told Realnews: “It may be politically correct to send the report to the National Assembly but we all know what the outcome will be. What do you think will happen to recommendations such as part-time legislature, removal of fuel subsidy, creation of more states and other important but controversial recommendations? The lawmakers will kill such proposals.”

Despite the fears, some Nigerians are optimistic that National Assembly would adopt the conference report without any equanimity. Victor Ndoma-Egba, leader of the Senate, recently as assured that the National Assembly would expedite action on the recommendations from the national conference if President Jonathan should send a bill derived from the report to the lawmakers. “Whether you call it draft or not, they will still have to submit it to the President who appointed them. What he (President) does with the report is left to him. If he sends it to the National Assembly, we will deal with it with the dispatch and importance it deserves,” Ndoma-Egba said.

Also Ibrahim Mantu, a former deputy senate president, who was also a delegate at the conference, assured the nation that the report of the confab would be adopted and approved by the National Assembly in the interest of the country. He expressed confidence that unlike the reports of the previous conferences, the current crop of lawmakers was eager to make a change.

“I have no doubt that in my mind that when the presidency receives the report, it will forward it to the National Assembly to begin the process of turning it to an act of parliament. So, I believe that the report of the National Conference will not go in the way of previous ones which ended up in the dustbin of history. It will see the light of the day,” he said. Mantu pledged that as a former ranking senator, he would personally speak with some of his friends in the National Assembly to fast-track the process of implementing the report.

The president seemed to have surprised and disappointed some of the audience when he said that contrary to popular opinions, the conference report would not be subjected to a referendum. Rather, President Jonathan said: “We shall send the relevant aspects of your recommendations to the Council of State and the National Assembly for incorporation into the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

He also assured Nigerians that recommendations would be properly implemented by the executive. “As I receive the report of your painstaking deliberations, let me assure that your work is not going be a waste of time and resources. We shall do all we can to ensure the implementation of your recommendations which have come out of consensus and not by divisions,” Jonathan said further. Whatever eventually becomes the fate of the national conference report is of great interest to a lot of Nigerians.

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