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Tenure elongation splits Belgore c’ttee

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By Lawrence Olaoye



As the Justice Alfa Belgore led Constitution Review Panel reconvenes today, there are strong indications that the proposal for inclusion of single term tenure for the President and governors in the Constitution would split the ranks of the members.

Similarly, our reporter reliably learnt that attempts by some of the panellists to push for inclusion of rotational presidency among the six geopolitical zones of the country had failed during the committee’s past sittings.

The Belgore Committee, which reconvenes today after weeks of recess, is expected to begin debate on the equally thorny issue of local government reforms, a member of the panel told our reporter yesterday.

The source disclosed that the committee would be appraising the performance of the current local government administration in the country and come up with far-reaching recommendations aimed at repositioning the local government for more proactive service delivery.

On the proposed amendment to the term of political office holders, especially the President and the 36 state governors, we learnt that some of the panellists are determined to kick vehemently against the proposal by President Goodluck Jonathan for amendment to sections 135 (1,2and) as well as 137 (b), among other relevant sections, to provide for a single tenure of six years.

The President had in July last year confirmed his plan to propose for an amendment to the above section to prolong the tenure of office of the President, governors as well as senators and members of the House of Representatives. But his proposal was for the lawmakers’s tenures to be made renewable while the President and governors enjoy only single longer terms of office.

“President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan is to send a Constitution amendment Bill to the National Assembly that will provide a single tenure for the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the governors of the 36 states of the federation.

“In the envisaged bill, the tenure of members of the national and state Assemblies will also be a little more than four years, although lawmakers will still be eligible for re-election as their constituencies may determine.

“President Jonathan’s commitment to a single term for the President and governors is borne out of a patriotic zeal, after a painstaking study and belief that the constitutionally guaranteed two terms for presidents and governors is not helping the focus of governance and institutionalisation of democracy at this stage of our development. A longer term for lawmakers would also help to stabilise the polity”, said a statement signed by Jonathan’s Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs, Reuben Abati.

The statement, which was intended to douse the tension created by the rumours about the President’s real motive, ended up heightening the controversy.

Although the President later set up the Belgore Committee to deliberate extensively on the matter, among other delicate national issues, our findings show that tenure elongation, on which the panel would open debate tomorrow, is likely to polarise the members as some are already suspicious of the moves by their colleagues “to pander to the issues of President Jonathan”, disclosed our source.

“This surreptitious move”, the source said, “will be vehemently opposed”, stressing that, any attempt to impose an unpopular view on Nigerians would not augur well for the committee and the reputation of its members.

The source affirmed that the arguments against the single term proposal were weightier in view of its disadvantages.

Those opposed to the proposal were of the opinion that should a person get a single tem, he may become “irresponsible” since he needs not go back to the electorate for the renewal of his mandate.

Those who hold this view among the panellists also argue that majority of countries which had toyed with the idea of single tenure in the past have returned to a system of two terms. The source argued that only six countries in the world currently practice single term and these include Paraguay (5-year single term); Mexico (6-year single term) and Philippines (6-year single term).

The member added that in the past, Brazil, Argentina and Chile had practiced the single term system only to revert back to two terms.

In what appears to be a curious coincidence, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has scheduled meetings of three of its key organs, the National Caucus, Board of Trustees (BoT) and National Executive Committee (NEC), which are to deliberate on among others proposed amendments to the party’s Constitution, for today, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, coinciding with the resumption of sittings of the Belgore Committee.

The PDP has indicated that it would ensure the insertion of the zoning clause into its amended Constitution, ahead of its congresses scheduled to commence next month.


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