Senators Tuesday vehemently opposed the six-year single term proposal by the Senate Committee on the Review of the Constitution as debate on the reports submitted to the parliament by the committee last month took off.
The senators’ rejection coincided with a similar view held by the Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola (SAN), who also expressed an aversion to the centralisation of the value added tax (VAT), national lottery, policing and security, among others, all of which he said, should be decentralised under an ideal federal system.
The senators’ overwhelming rejection of the single term proposal was surprising as none of the 21 members of the upper chamber who spoke on the committee’s recommendation supported it.
Instead, they all rejected the recommendation, with most of them describing it as anti-people, anti-democratic and a move capable of creating anarchy in the system.
Most of the senators, who spoke Tuesday, said the single term proposal did not reflect the wishes and interest of the people as some senators queried how the committee came about the proposal.
Some other senators said if at all the single term proposal would be considered, it should have paved the way for the incumbent president and governors to participate in the proposal instead of shutting them out and thereby creating the impression that the move was deliberately targeted at stopping some people.
Other senators, who said the recommendation lacked justification, also argued that if Nigeria’s democracy was patterned after that of the United States, operating a single term of six years would be a total deviation from well-known norms.
“The six-year single tenure does represent the interest of Nigerians. A single term could lead to ulterior motives by those in government. It will distort everything. It will aid the looting of treasuries. Nigerians are totally against it,” Senator Abdulmumuni Hassan said.
However, the proposal for local government autonomy received the overwhelming support of the senators with only a few opposing it.
Supporters of local government autonomy argued that granting autonomy to local governments would help to foster developments at the grassroots.
They also said the move would put paid to the notion of governors hijacking the State-Local Government Joint Account and doling out peanuts to the councils.
According to them, unless autonomy is granted to the councils, it would be impossible for council authorities to execute projects that can benefit the masses at the grassroots, noting that the local government is the closest government to the people.
There were also submissions that unless the fund from the federal government is well monitored, merely granting autonomy to local councils might amount to an exercise in futility as some suggested that the councils should first be put on a first line charge before the joint local government account is abolished.
Other issues, which were opposed, included the move to separate the Office of Attorney General from that of the Minister of Justice as some senators advised on the need to tread with caution.
According to the senators, there was no notable reason now why the offices should be separated, advising instead that the status quo should be maintained.
Many senators also spoke on the need to remove items such as power generation from the Exclusive Legislative List and put on Concurrent List so that state governments, which invest in independent power projects, can get their states connected to the national grid.
Other issues advanced by senators included the proposal to allow a retired Supreme Court judge to head the National Judicial Council (NJC), instead of the committee’s recommendation that it should be headed by a former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN).
Some others also advocated the assignment of a constitutional role to traditional rulers, while others wanted the interest of indigenes of Abuja duly protected in the constitution.
The debate, which was smooth and devoid of rancour, will continue Wednesday and Thursday when the senators will vote on each of the issues.
Meanwhile, Fashola also opposed the proposal to institute a six-year single term limit for the president and state governors under the ongoing review of the constitution.
He also expressed aversion to the centralisation of value-added tax (VAT), national lottery, policing and security, among others, all of which he said, should be decentralised under an ideal federal system.
He spoke on these issues during a private meeting with renowned constitutional lawyer, Prof. Ben Nwabueze, at the Lagos House, Alausa, on Monday, where the latter presented his autobiography titled, ‘Ben Nwabueze: His Life, Works and Times’ to the governor.
But at the meeting, Nwabueze expressed his belief in the six-year single term limit for political office holders, saying it would provide more opportunities for those seeking elective offices than the present four-year two term limits.
The scholar reiterated his belief in an indivisible Nigeria that should be transformed and where everybody would be happy, adding that corruption in Nigeria is pervasive because it is committed with impunity.