Posted by By Emmanuel Aziken, Ben Agande & Ayodele Adegbuyi on
THE Senate yesterday turned down consideration of the altered Constitution Amendment Bill providing for a third term for governors. Members of the House of Representatives were, yesterday, working out their strategy on frustrating the inclusion of the tenure extension for governors
* Reps in fresh strategy to frustrate 3rd term
* Presidency woos Senators
ABUJA— THE Senate yesterday turned down consideration of the altered Constitution Amendment Bill providing for a third term for governors.
Members of the House of Representatives were, yesterday, working out their strategy on frustrating the inclusion of the tenure extension for governors
The Senate decision conveyed by Senate President, Chief Ken Nnamani, was upon a tumult in the Senate chambers instigated by anti-third term Senators protesting what they called the alteration of the original bill laid before the Senate, and at that, after the first reading.
Also yesterday, the Senate resolved to collaborate with the government’s anti-graft agencies in the probe of local government allocations to Imo State following a motion to that effect sponsored by Senator Arthur Nzeribe.
Besides, the Senate resolved to delegate its Committee on Special Duties to undertake an enquiry into reports of renewed violence in parts of Plateau State.
The Senate’s decision not to consider the altered Constitution Amendment Bill was conveyed by Senator Nnamani at the beginning of the session yesterday. On entering the chambers, Senator Nnamani met an uproar with a number of anti-third term Senators chorusing on top of their voices shouting against what they alleged was an alteration of the original bill as presented to the Senate two weeks ago.
The bill which was read the first time penultimate Tuesday did not make a specific provision for a third term for state governors. However, following alleged threats by governors to dump their support for the constitution amendment process, the bill was allegedly altered to provide for a third term for state governors last week. The new version as reported by Vanguard last Wednesday in making room for a third term clearly provides that governors would be limited to three terms of four years each.
Before the commencement of sitting yesterday, Senators reconvening after the Easter break gathered in twos and threes within and outside the legislative chamber discussing the issue. As the procession of the Senate President entered the chambers, they raised their voices even more and one of them, Senator Sule Yari Gandi, moved forward to the front row taunting some PDP leaders.
After taking his seat, the Senate president, irrespective of the continuing chaos, proceeded to read the prayers and consulted with some of the anti-third term Senators notably Gandi and Ben Obi (PDP, Anambra Central). Following his consultations, Senator Nnamani ruled that the original copy of the amendment bill as presented and read the first time would be used during the forthcoming deliberations on the Constitution Amendment Bill.
He said: "I observed a journal of the National Assembly in circulation and it seems to have created a confusion. I recommend that the journal be set aside and the old one be used. I do not want to be seen as if we are being manipulated from outside or we are manipulating something. If we are distinguished, we should be seen as acting as one. If one is talking in anger, we cannot say something reasonable and the amendment if any can be done later."
The decision was immediately hailed by Senators Uche Chukwumerije (PDP, Abia North), Saidu Dansadau and Gandi, activists in the anti-third term coalition.
Senator Chukwumerije said the presentation of the altered version was an indication that proponents of the third term agenda were prepared to break every law to achieve their goal. "The authors of third term are bent on using weapons of illegality to achieve their goal and they have no respect for due process, morality or law," he said.
Senator Dansadau while lauding the Senate President for his willingness to uphold the rule of law said the anti-third term coalition was prepared to use existing laws to terminate the third term agenda in the National Assembly.
Reps move to frustrate 3rd term
Meanwhile, opponents of the third term in the House of Representatives were yesterday strategising on how to frustrate the inclusion of a tenure extension for state governors which was not included in the first Bill on the amendment of the 1999 Constitution that was distributed to members two weeks ago.
In an interview with Vanguard, one of the opponents of the third term agenda, Alhaji Haruna Yerima, said the "smuggled" bill with the controversial provision would not be debated in the House as it was not only fake but a product of one individual.
However, a member of the Unity Forum of the House which is championing the elongation of the president’s tenure, Mr Anthony Aziegbemi, told Vanguard that the "few members opposed to the elongation of the tenure of the president would be shocked on the day of the voting as nothing would stop us."
Reacting to the circulation of another bill which included the state governors as beneficiaries of the tenure elongation, Mr Yerima said "it shows the desperation of the people behind the scheme to perpetrate fraud to carry on with their acts. We are not going to rest and we will ensure that the third term is killed. We will not allow the second illegal Bill to be debated."
RMAFC insists on monetisation
However, plan by the authorities of the National Assembly to buy cars for all the senators is now generating a fresh controversy as the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) has insisted that the monetisation policy of Federal Government had not changed.
The National Assembly leadership was said to have ordered for 257 of 407 Peugeot cars for legislators with the claim that the cars were being purchased as official cars to facilitate their committee works.
Under the monetisation policy of the Federal Government, the National Assembly members are paid all allowances, including car allowances and allowed to utilise it as they wish, rather than what obtained in the last dispensation when Federal Government bought and maintained a car for each of them.
In a reaction, Chairman of the Excess Crude Oil Account Sub-Committee of the revenue commission, Alhaji Yakubu Shehu said "as far as the commission is concerned, it has not reviewed the package. It only allows for official vehicles, not for somebody saying he is a Permanent Secretary and so can just buy cars for himself. If you decide to purchase a few official cars, that is a different thing."
Alhaji Shehu briefed the press in Abuja, yesterday, where he denied reports of misdeeds in the drawing of funds from the Excess Crude Oil Account by the Federal Government to pay the $12.4 million to the Paris Club of creditors in order exit the claws of the creditors.
Presidency woos Senators
Also, Presidency officials, yesterday, were said to have started wooing Senators ahead of Tuesday’s commencement of deliberations on the proposed constitutional amendment to allow a third term for the President.
Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senator Florence Ita-Giwa, who is leading the effort was last night scheduled to meet with some Senators on the issue at a meeting at the Abuja Transcorp Hilton Hotel.
Vanguard sources disclosed an upbeat but yet desperate mood in the pro-third term lobby in the Senate with apprehensions that the required 73 votes might be impossible to achieve. As at yesterday, there were suggestions that the pro-third term lobby might have accumulated over 60 Senators in support of the amendment.
The difficulty in achieving the required number of votes, according to some sources, may have led to the continued postponement of deliberations on the bill which was presented by Senator Ibrahim Mantu to the Senate penultimate Tuesday.
That difficulty was expected to be the subject of the deliberation at the Hilton Hotel meeting where Ita-Giwa, herself an immediate past member of the Senate, was expected to woo yet undecided Senators on the issue. Response to the invitation was mixed with some pledging not to attend.