President Goodluck Jonathan’s letter to the National Assembly rejecting amendments to the 1999 Constitution was received with shock by some members who openly expressed surprise at the reasons given by the President to veto the bill.
The letter was read on the floor of Senate on Wednesday by the Senate President, David Mark.
Consequently, the Chairman, Senate Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution (4th Alteration Bill 2015), Senator Ike Ekweremadu, announced that his members would hold a two-day retreat to review the development. The retreat, which started on Wednesday, would end on Thursday (today).
Efforts by members to subject Jonathan’s letter to debate were frustrated by the Senate President who said there was the need for them to have a copy of the letter each before they would be able to make meaningful contribution.
But Senator Abubakar Yar’Adua (Katsina Central) raised a point of order and insisted that the issue be discussed because of the serious fundamental issues raised by Jonathan which affected the integrity of the National Assembly.
Yar’Adua said, “I think it is important for us to discuss that letter and see whether there is need for us to consider the letter or not.
“I think the President has raised very serious fundamental issues, especially in terms of our conscience as lawmakers and his own position as the chief executive officer of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. That is why I am raising this point or order.”
Although Mark agreed with Yar’Adua that the letter should be extensively discussed, he maintained that the debate could only make meaning after members would have studied the letter.
Mark said, “Obviously, this letter is not like any other normal letter. We can’t discuss the letter unless you have a copy of it. So, the first reaction is for me to make copies available to everybody so that you can go and study it.”
One of our correspondents observed that the members had started the retreat and would come up with their position which would also enable the Senate to take appropriate action on the issue.
Jonathan had, in the letter, said he would not assent to the amendments because they did not satisfy the requirements of Section 9(3) of the 1999 Constitution.
He queried the decision of the National Assembly to whittle down some executive powers of the President.
He also faulted some amendments which would give executive powers and duties to the legislature and the judiciary.
Jonathan made his position known in a seven-page letter to the Senate President and House of Representatives Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal.
The President listed 12 errors in the amendments.