National Assembly to Drop Jonathan’s Single-Term Proposal

National Assembly to Drop Jonathan’s Single-Term Proposal

The Constitution Review Committee (CRC) of the National Assembly may drop the single-term proposal, a pet project of the Presidency, on account of its perceived unpopularity among Nigerians.

A team of consultants, The Nation gathered authoritatively yesterday, has advised the CRC not to dissipate energy on the proposal for now.

The majority of the 36 governors are also believed to be strongly opposed to the single-term proposal.

However, the committee may devolve more powers to the states with a view to ensuring true federalism in the country.

The committee members have visited the United States, Canada and India to study how federalism operates in those countries.

They are likely to also visit Brazil not later than next month on the last leg of their tour of nations practising federalism.

Investigation showed that the committee will begin collation of its report after the proposed trip to Brazil.

After consultations in 109 senatorial districts and 360 constituencies, the CRC developed a template of 36 issues which are rated as likely amendments to the 1999 Constitution.

Some of the issues are: possibility of a single tenure of 5, 6, 7 years for president and governors, rotation of the presidency between the North and the South; creation of one new state from each of the nation’s six geopolitical zones; state police; inclusion of the six geopolitical zones in the constitution, independent candidacy, tenure for local government chairmen, 50 per cent control of resources by states; possibility of a unicameral legislature and abolition of state joint local government account.

Others are: should Nigeria continue with the presidential system or return to the parliamentary system; abolition of the State Independent Electoral Commission(SIEC); funding of LGAs from either the Federation Account or by the states from their allocations; abolition of indigeneship or citizenship for residency; amendment of Section 308 to limit immunity for president, vice-president, governor or deputy governor to cover only civil proceedings; rotation of governorship among the three senatorial districts in each of the 36 states; reservation of certain percentage of elective offices for women; lowering the qualifying age for contesting various elective offices; judicial reforms as proposed by the CJN, among others.

Voting is in progress online on the template with statistics being compiled.

The single-term option has drawn attention from those in and out of government.

It was gathered that there are fears that the controversy surrounding single term might becloud the ongoing constitution review if not well-handled.

Some consultants hired by the CRC have also advised the panel against the single-term option.

A reliable source said: “Even though voting is ongoing on the 36 issues, preliminary indications have shown that single term is not popular among Nigerians, including critical stakeholders like state governors. They prefer the present two-term structure being managed by the nation.

“There is a strong suspicion that the single-term policy is being promoted by the presidency as a kind of soft-landing for President Goodluck Jonathan to extend his tenure.

“This ill-will meaning is overshadowing the intention behind the single-term proposal. The distrust is there. That is why the CRC may drop the issue to avert a repeat of the 2006 experience when the third-term agenda frustrated the constitution review process.

“As a matter of fact, some consultants have asked the CRC to set the single-term offer aside for future consideration.

“So, the CRC may eventually drop the single-term issue. If it pushes ahead, the governors are waiting in the wing to prevail on the Houses of Assembly to kill the proposal.

“Most of the governors prefer a two-term of eight years to a single tenure. And you know, we require two-thirds of the 36 Houses of Assembly for any amendment to the constitution to sail through.

“These governors are virtually in control of the state Assemblies. They will not allow the single-term proposal to succeed. The signs are already there for the CRC.

“Whatever it is, the CRC will make recommendations to the National Assembly. It is left to the two chambers (Senate and House of Representatives) to take a final decision on every item in the template.

On other issues, the CRC member said: “Voting is ongoing online and very soon, the statistics will be out. We have contentious issues like state creation, rotational presidency and amendment of Section 308 to limit immunity for president, vice-president, governor or deputy governor to civil matters and so on.

“I think we will start collating our results as from February. So far, members of the CRC have visited the US, India and Canada. Between January and February, we will complete the four-nation study tour with a trip to Brazil.

“Nigerians are really yearning for true federalism and our members went on tedious study tours to see federalism in practice and how to apply these experiences to the Nigerian system.

“I think there will be more devolution of powers. Some items on the exclusive list might now be on the concurrent list.

“Unlike other federal states, the centre is too powerful in Nigeria. What we are trying to do is to make states and local governments more functional because they are closer to the grassroots.”

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