- Category: Politics
- Published on Tuesday, 11 January 2011 09:17
- Written by Punch
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Jonathan, while appending his signature to the 1st and the 2nd amendments to the constitution, announced that he would send more executive proposals to the National Assembly this year to amend the constitution.
The first amendments deal with the election timetable by Independent National Electoral Commission; age limits of elective officers; and the direct funding of INEC from the first line charge.
The second amendment includes the revised election timetable by INEC, and petitions for governorship elections.
The ceremony was witnessed by Vice-President Namadi Sambo, the President of the Senate, Mr. David Mark, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Dimeji Bankole.
The National Assembly had, in 2010, opposed any need for the President to sign the new constitution on the grounds that there was no legal backing for his signature.
Hinging its argument on Section 9 of the same constitution, the National Assembly insisted that all that was required for the new constitution to come into effect was two-thirds majority support of the members of its two chambers.
Its insistence, in spite of arguments by some Senior Advocates of Nigeria, prompted a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. Olisa Agbakoba, to take the matter to a Federal High Court in Lagos.
The court, which was presided over by Justice Okechukwu Okeke, had on November 8, 2010, decided the case in favour of the presidential assent.
The National Assembly appealed the judgment.
However, the surprise presence of the leadership of the National Assembly at the signing of the amended law on Monday have led to speculations that the appeal may be discontinued.
Speaking after signing the constitution, Jonathan expressed hopes that he would still be in office to inaugurate the next National Assembly.
He said, “Today (Monday), we have formally signed this amendment, we will amend more.
“When we inaugurate the next National Assembly this year, by God’s grace, I will be there. One of the first executive bills I will send will be for further amendments to other aspects of the constitution; so that we will run the local, state and federal governments the way we should run them.”
The President noted that despite the principle of separation of powers, the executive and legislative arms of government worked together to ensure the success of the amendment to the constitution.
He said, “For us to have reached this level, it means the National Assembly and the executive must have been working together. Even, with the concept of the separation of powers, you cannot separate the parliamentarians from the executives.
“You can separate the judiciary but the executive and the legislature belong to the same political party. On Thursday, all of us will sleep at the Eagle Square, Abuja to see how the next President of Nigeria will emerge.
“So, how can you separate such people? They must work together for the country to move forward.
“Even with those controversies about signing, we all agree that the laws of the land have to be followed not necessarily for this set of people but for the subsequent generation.”
Making a case for further amendments, Jonathan explained that he had garnered adequate knowledge of the flaws of the 1999 Constitution, having been a Deputy Governor in Bayelsa State in 1999.
Jonathan said the amendment process would continue until Nigerians get “a constitution that reflects their aspirations, not the one that was handed to them by the military.”
He noted the importance of the amended constitution and thanked the leadership of the National Assembly for concluding the process.
“This is a huge day, and that is why I am making comments after the signing. Ordinarily, I am not supposed to make comments because this is part of my normal responsibility as the President to sign the amendments to the constitution, but since 1999 till date, this is the first time that we concluded amending some parts of the 1999 Constitution,” Jonathan said.
In a brief chat with journalists after the event, Mark said the lawmakers decided to move democracy forward.”
He said, “You don’t know when so many things are resolved and this is not an exemption but we have been discussing and we feel that there is need for us to move democracy forward and entrench it.
“Every democracy will be based on the culture of the people and we are building it up and I think this is the right step for us to take.”
Bankole, who was with him, simply said, “We thank God for everything.”