National Assembly Complex, Abuja
By Onwuka Nzeshi and Dele Ogbodo
The National Assembly Thursday asked the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) to forget about subjecting the forthcoming constitution amendment to a referendum as that was not part of the process prescribed by the 1999 Constitution.
It noted that the recommendation of the NBA was unconstitutional and extra legal, adding that resorting to referendum cannot be substantiated nor justified.
Reacting to NBA’s suggestion, the Senate Majority Leader, Senator Victor Ndoma Egba (SAN) while briefing journalists in Abuja Thursday, said the Constitution specifically states how it is to be amended; adding that to go outside it will further compound the crisis.
He said: “Which law will guide such a referendum? On which law are we going to find such a referendum? How will the referendum be regulated? Who will conduct it? How do you determine the outcome? Which law will guide that? We don’t have any law right now to back such a request.”
Expressing disappointment over the suggestion by NBA, the Senate Majority Leader, said: “So, for me, it is a big surprise that the NBA will be suggesting an extra-constitutional method to validate constitution amendment when the constitution that we have has prescribed how it should be amended and how the process should be validated.”
On his part, the Chairman House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Hon. Zakary Mohammed, at a media briefing on the forthcoming public hearings scheduled to hold in the 360 federal constituencies of the country, stated that the nationwide public hearing, an initiative of the House, was designed to elicit mass participation in the ongoing process to amend the 1999 Constitution.
Mohammed said the proposed public hearings would go on as scheduled because the House believes that it was the best option in getting the people at the grassroots involved in the process of transforming the constitution.
He said it was unfortunate that the NBA which had in the past stood firmly against anything unconstitutional was advocating for the inclusion of a referendum, an item not prescribed by the constitution.
He allayed the fears in some quarters that the process was hasty, wasteful and designed to fail. Mohammed explained that apart from the public hearings holding simultaneously through out the country, the memorandum that will be generated will be further distilled to get the consensus opinion of Nigerians on all the issues.
Mohammed said the House was working on a special model that would enable the public hearings hold in the high risk zones such as Yobe and Borno States in the North-east geo-political zone.
Although he did not give further details of the proposed model, Mohammed assured that much as the House desired to get the views of all segments of the Nigerian society, it will not want to expose people to unnecessary danger in the name of public hearings.
On the vexed issue of flooding and the incidence of internally displaced persons in some states of the federation, Mohammed disclosed that the House was working on the projection that the floods that ravaged many constituencies would have receded before the public hearing.