Northern delegates allege ‘third term agenda’ plot for Jonathan, others
Delegates to the National Conference from the 19 northern states, under the aegis of Northern Delegates Forum, NDF, have accused leadership of the confab of harbouring a third term agenda for President Goodluck Jonathan and other present political office holders with the introduction of a supposed new constitution for Nigeria.
The leader of the northern delegates and a former Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Coomassie, who addressed a press conference at Gombe Jewel Hotel, Abuja on Tuesday evening, said the NDF became suspicious of the confab leadership and its agenda when a June 30 front-page report of a national daily newspaper alleged that a member of the leadership of the conference had been lobbying members of the Northern Delegation to smuggle in a “new constitution” at the conference.
Coomassie, who was apparently angry with the emergence of the draft new constitution, recalled that a delegate drew the attention of the Conference to a new constitution under matters of national importance, adding that when the confab leadership was asked to make a categorical statement on the issue, the leadership claimed ignorance of any such document.
Confab delegates were on Monday given copies of the conference report and a new draft constitution seeking to replace the existing one.
The secretary of the Conference, Gloria Azinge, who stood in for the chairman, Idris Kutigi as well as his deputy, who were both absent, told delegates that there would be no plenary discussion as earlier scheduled.
She informed them that the secretariat would distribute copies of the confab report, a draft of the constitutional amendment suggested by the conference, as well as a draft new constitution and a bill to introduce the amendments.
The former police chief said ordinarily, the matter of a “new constitution” should have died a natural death after the pronouncement by Mr. Kutigi.
His words, “But that was not to be. The issue was brought over and over again in the course of plenary sessions, but each time it was overwhelmingly rejected by the delegates.
“And when attempts were made to bring in the issue of “referendum”, as a means of actualising the outcome of the conference, it was always strongly and painstakingly explained that the operating Constitution does not have any provision for such a referendum”, he said.
Coomassie added that the only instance when a referendum can be held is in relation to the creation of new states or boundary adjustment, per the provision of Section 8 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution 1999.
He pointed out that delegates were surprised, shocked and disappointed by the sudden appearance of a “New Draft Constitution 2014”, among other documents distributed to delegates on Monday.
“We, Northern Delegates to the Conference wish to assure patriotic Nigerians, and all lovers of democracy, that we are neither privy to, nor were we accessory to the emergence of the controversial “New Draft Constitution 2014”.
“We, therefore, unequivocally disown it, and emphatically disassociate ourselves from it. Accordingly, we will have nothing to do with it, for the following legal, moral and political reasons”, he said.
Explaining reasons for the protest, the NDF, through Coomassie, stressed that delegates to the conference were not elected, and therefore lack both legal and moral authority to draft a new constitution for Nigeria.
“Rather, we were constituted to serve as an adhoc advisory mechanism to the President, as representatives of broad interests across the federation, and cannot, therefore, legally arrogate ourselves the far-reaching function of making a “new” constitution for the Federal Republic of Nigeria”, he said.
He posited that a new constitution can only be done by an appropriately constituted Constituent Assembly, adding that the Secretariat of the Conference has indicated in chapter seven of the draft Report Vol. 1 that the ‘new Constitution’ is to be brought into effect through a national referendum to be specifically held for the purpose.
“To this we say, without any fear of contradiction, that there is no legal provision in our Constitution for the holding of such a referendum”, he said.
He further noted the reference to a referendum by President Jonathan in his inauguration address at the National Conference on March 17, was purely speculative, as it was predicated on the National Assembly introducing a provision in the Constitution that will permit the holding of referendum.
“We want to say, with authority, that such a proposal has since been turned down by the National Assembly”, Mr. Coomassie said.
He also revealed that inquiries at both the Senate and House of Representatives have revealed that efforts at tabling the case for referendum, through private member-bills, were rejected twice, and therefore, cannot be reintroduced in the life of the present Senate.
Coomasie submitted that in the opinion of the NDF, adopting a new Constitution was targeted at enabling incumbent elective office holders, who are statute-barred from going for third term at both Federal and State levels, to run for offices again under the guise of running under a new Constitution, noting that; “If not arrested, the 3rd Term agenda, as in the past (2005), is capable of plunging Nigeria into another circle of political chaos with potential of violence and anarchy.”
The ex-police chief was joined in Tuesday’s briefing by former FCT Minister and Co-Chair of the NDF, Jerry Useni, Iyorchia Ayu, Bashir Dalhatu, Muktar Mohammed, Awwalu Yadudu, Jonathan Temlong, alongside many others.
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