Constitution Amendment: House Report Kills 6-year Single Term

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As the House of Representatives' Committee on the review of the 1999 Constitution submitted its report Thursday, it has emerged that the proposed six-year single term for the president and governors may have been killed.

The Senate Committee on the Constitution Review chaired by Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu had proposed the six-year single term for both the president and governors, but left the commencement date of the proposal, if approved, in abeyance.

But in contrast, the House Special Ad hoc Committee on Constitution Review chaired by Deputy Speaker Emeka Ihedioha threw its weight behind the retention of the present four-year two terms for both the president and governors in the constitution.

For a proposal to be listed in the final bill for constitution amendment, both chambers must agree to it. When listed, two-thirds of all the members of each chamber of the National Assembly must vote for the amendment backed by two-thirds of the state houses of assembly and assented to by the president before such an amendment can become law.

The six-year single term proposal has begun to generate controversy as the Senate gears up to begin debate on the report of the Ekweremadu committee. Even at the level of the committee, the recommendation and its take-off point, if approved, had emerged contentious.

Opinions were divided over whether President Goodluck Jonathan and the first term governors warming up to contest the 2015 election should have their present tenures extended to six year and barred from contesting in 2015 or 2019 should be the take-off point.

The controversy had started to engender echoes of the tenure debate that led to the outright killing of the Ibrahim Mantu Constitution Review committee in 2007 because of its provision of Third term for President Olusegun Obasanjo.

The Senate and House Constitution Review Committees, however, agreed on a number of proposals, which included fiscal autonomy for local councils and state houses of assembly, removal of immunity on criminal matters for president and governors, separation of the office of the Accountant-general of the Federation from that of office of Accountant-general of the Federal Government and exclusion of the President's assent in constitution amendment.

Following the House report, which THISDAY obtained, both review committees are also in synch in respect of their recommendations on creation of new states, as they failed to recommend the creation of any new state in spite of overwhelming requests for the creation of additional states both committees received.

Submitting the House committee report, Ihedioha had said the entire report was a reflection of members bills referred to the committee after the second reading and results of the Peoples’ Public Sessions on the Review of the Constitution.

House Speaker Aminu Waziri Tambuwal who received the report during plenary session said the leadership of the chamber would consult with members for possible consideration of the report before they embark on recess in a fortnight.

Other highlights of the House report include the recommendation on independent candidacy in future elections and the one seeking to bar unelected local government chairmen from getting funding from government purse.

For instance, in Section 7 of the report, the Committee relied on the recommendation of the people's public sessions, which clearly underscored the need to grant  independence and autonomy for local government councils and give the councils their deserved role as catalysts for development at the grassroots level.

Accordingly, the committee created a fixed uniform term of four years for local government councils and prescribed denial of appropriation to council's chairmen that are not democratically elected.

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