Renewed efforts by the National Assembly to review the 1999 Constitution may gulp a whopping N6billion, LEADERSHIP SUNDAY checks can reveal.
Key among the over 42 items listed for overhaul by the Parliament, it was learnt are the controversial six-year single tenure as proposed by The Presidency, rotational presidency and the creation of more states.
Though an official budget of N1 billion was released for the 2010 review of the organic document, LEADERSHIP SUNDAY gathered that more than N3billion was spent on the exercise.
A Deputy Director in the office of the Clerk of the National Assembly, who sought anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the matter, also told LEADERSHIP ON SUNDAY that, “I cannot really say how much will be required for this new exercise, but we can not expect anything less than double the amount that was used in the last exercise, because the items required for review now are more”.
“Take the issue of state creation, you have to go to all the states in the Federation to get their nod on each state, and all that can consume a lot of money and time”.
But another top bureaucrat however, warned that the exercise might take “the entire four years of this administration or the tenure of this National Assembly”.
A senior bureaucrat at the National Assembly and one of the clerks of the 2010 constitution review exercise also informed our correspondent that, “Though it was officially announced that each of the arms of the National Assembly will spend N500million each, it was later discovered that the money was not enough and we ended up spending over
He said, “You know better than I do that, the JCCR idea was later abandoned, each chamber House of the National Assembly decided to carry out the exercise on their own. That also upped the initial budget, because the ad hoc staff and lawmakers that would have been involved in the exercise were increased”. It would be recalled that either chamber of the National Assmbly was regenerated by 44 members.
Though section 9(1) of the 1999 Constitution as amended, says, “The National Assembly may subject to the provisions of this section, alter any of this Constitution”, the National Assembly bureaucracy however, controls the budget for the function.
The most contentious on the tentative list of items for review when the two chambers resume, remains the six-year single tenure proposal by President Goodluck Jonathan.
The Chief Whip of the House of Representatives, Mr. Ishaaku Bawa, in an earlier interview with LEADERSHIP SUNDAY, described the six-year single tenure proposal by The Presidency as distractive and retrogressive.
But the proposal has continued to attract criticisms due its timing and desirability. A former Military President General, Ibrahim Babangida, has even described it as a “stupid idea”.
Though Jonathan had said that the proposal was not his idea alone, he later said the issue would be taken to the National Assembly as soon as it resumes in September.
But a principal Officer of the Lower Chamber, Mr. Bawa, in an exclusive interview with LEADERSHIP SUNDAY was piqued that The Presidency will be distracting the attention of the National Assembly and Nigerians in particular with such an unnecessary idea.
“But at this time, I am of cthe opinion that it is not what we are supposed to focus on. As we are resuming after the Ramadan break to continue our representation of the people, we must be focused on more serious issues. We need to look at the infrastructural decay in the country. The problem of this country is not tenure-based. It is a problem of infrastructure.
“We cannot ignore the continuous degeneration of our infrastructure and concentrate on the unnecessary and contentious issue of tenure. Everything is collapsing in Nigeria. If you look at the industries we had in this country in the 70s and 80s, they are nowhere to be found today. Whether in Lagos, Kano, Ibadan and other cities in Nigeria that had functional industries, you will be depressed”, he said.
Despite his caution, the lawmaker advised that as representatives of the people, whatever the the House would grant what people wanted.
“Well, I think a single-term proposal by the Presidency is an offer to the people of Nigeria. If the people of Nigeria accept the single tenure through a constitution amendment, so it will be. If Nigerians decide that they want to migrate from two terms of four years to a single term of six years, then we would look at it,” he added.