The Justice Alfa Belgore Committee on Constitution Review has avoided the contentious issue of single tenure for President and governors, investigations have shown, Punch reports.
It was learnt on Friday that the committee recommended increased allocations to states and local government councils.
A reliable source in the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, told one of our correspondents in confidence, that the committee would round off its activities in April.
The source said, “I can tell you that the committee has started compiling its report and that the tenure issue is not even mentioned.
“But states and LGs are going to have at least five per cent increase in their allocations, if their recommendations are accepted.”
He explained that the committee avoided the single tenure issue because of the allegation that it was being used by President Goodluck Jonathan to pursue an alleged tenure elongation agenda.
“They (committee members) did not take any decision on tenure. But their action or inaction on the issue won’t affect the chances of Mr. President. Whether he can contest or not is a question of the interpretation of the constitution and the judiciary will do that.”
Jonathan had in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, on July 25, 2011, said he would send a bill on single tenure for the President and governors to the National Assembly.
The statement had explained that the bill was aimed at reducing the cost of conducting primaries and general elections every four years, which it said was harmful to the economy.
It added, “The proposed amendment will not have anything to do with him (the President) as a person; what he owes Nigerians is good governance, and he is singularly committed to this.
“Besides, it is trite law that the envisaged amendment cannot have a retroactive effect. This means that whatever single-term tenure that is enacted into law by the National Assembly will take effect from 2015.”
The President set up the 21-member constitution review committee in November 2011.
The committee is expected to review the outstanding issues arising from the 2006 Political Reform Conference under President Olusegun Obasanjo and the National Constitutional Conference held between 1994 and 1995 by the late military dictator, Gen. Sani Abacha.
Members of the committee include Senator Udoma Udo Udoma; former Minister of Information, Prof. Jerry Gana; ex-Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Ambassador Baba Gana Kingibe; Prof. Anya O. Anya and Mr. Ledun Mitee.
But the Coalition of Northern Leaders had in a communiqué after a meeting in Abuja on March 15, alleged that the Presidency was using the committee to pursue Jonathan’s tenure elongation agenda.
The group had, in the communiqué signed by its convener, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, said, “The main effort by Belgore and other hirelings of the Villa has been to create a so-called new constitution that paves the way for Jonathan to again contest the presidential election in 2015 for a single term of seven years, that is, in addition to his current four years to the nearly two years he had served of the Yar’Adua Presidency.”
Abati, in an interview with journalists, denied the group’s allegation.
He explained that Jonathan was still in his first term in office.
He had said, “It also appears strange to me that a group of people, who would otherwise be described as distinguished Nigerians, would claim that the President is looking for a third term.
“Every intelligent man in this country knows that President Jonathan is in his first term in office, so how have they suddenly jumped from first term to third term? From the point of view of arithmetic, even their claim cannot stand, so that claim is weak, it is unacceptable.
“If their concern is about the seven-year term, President Jonathan has made it clear that his proposal is out of patriotic concern about the amount of wastefulness, greed, tension, conflict that go into the obsession for the search for second term.”
Our correspondents learnt that Abati’s statement that Jonathan is still in his first term fuelled speculation among the Peoples Democratic Party members that the President would contest the 2015 presidential poll.
The PDP governors had at the party’s meeting held on August 13, 2010, agreed to support Jonathan for a single term of four years.
Briefing journalists after the meeting, former National Publicity Secretary of the party, Prof. Rufai Alkali, said the President was to spend another four years in office to enable him to complete the joint ticket with the late President, Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua.
The source said, “The members are aware of the controversy over whether the President can contest in 2015. They don’t want to be dragged into that. …(read more)