Senate says new constitution out in one month


THE Senate yesterday said that the amendment to the amended Constitution being sought by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to accommodate new time lines for the conduct of the 2011 elections would be completed in one month.
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Information and Media, Ayogu Eze who disclosed this at a press conference in the National Assembly, Abuja yesterday, said that the major ground work has been done by the major stakeholders and that the two chambers of the legislature would spend a maximum of three weeks to tidy things up and transmit it to the state Houses of Assembly for concurrence.
He stressed that the Senate would want to come up with a decision that would be devoid of controversy so that the elections could be conducted as planned by INEC.
“We will do the exercise within a short period because this is a national emergency. We will give it two or three weeks. I can assure you that it will not last more than two weeks in the National Assembly. We are not going to call stakeholders in an elaborate manner we did during the first amendment anymore”, he said.
The Senate spokesman further said that as part of efforts to ensure that the bill is not delayed, the president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, the leadership of both chambers of the National Assembly, and the state Assemblies have been putting heads together to work out a modality for expeditious passage.
“The President held a meeting with the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the governors and the speakers of the state Houses of Assembly yesterday (Tuesday) and these meetings going on are to ensure that the bill is not delayed. So, in a short time, this exercise will be completed because there is this understanding among stakeholders”, he said.
Meanwhile, in the bill sent to the legislature seeking amendment to the 2010 Electoral Act, INEC asked the lawmakers to allow political parties to determine the choice of delegates. The bill says that section 87 (70) should be amended to read: “A political party that adopts the system of indirect primaries for the choice of its candidates shall outline in its constitution or guidelines; (1) who shall be a delegate to the congress or convention (ii); in the case of democratically elected delegates, the procedure for the election of such delegates’’.
The commission also proposed that section 25 of the Act should be amended to read: “Elections into the offices of the president and vice president, governor and deputy governor of a state, and membership of the Senate, the House of Representatives and the House of Assembly of each state of the federation shall be held on a date or dates and in a sequence to be determined by the Independent National Electoral Commission’’ while subsection (3) of the section should be amended to read: “Provided that the said elections shall in the case of 2011 hold not later than April 30, 2011.”
Meanwhile, the resident INEC Commissioner in Jigawa State, Alhaji Ibrahim Bogobiri Mafara has described the forthcoming voters’ registration exercise as the rock upon which free and fair elections in 2011 can be built. The commissioner who spoke when he led other members of the commission in the state to pay a courtesy call on Governor Sule Lamido yesterday, said their visit was to harp on the importance of voters’ registration exercise, which he described as the livewire for achieving a credible election.
Mafara enumerated the necessity for a new voters’ registration exercise to include the fact that the previous register is irregular and susceptible to being manipulated for rigging of election, adding that the machines used for the exercise have become obsolete.
In his response, Lamido noted that there is nothing like a perfect election and urged INEC to improve on what is on the ground.
He said the problem is not with INEC but with some Nigerians who believe that INEC must do their biddings whether they win or not.
Also yesterday, the Freedom Party of Nigeria (FPN) said that current efforts to postpone the 2011 elections had vindicated it, as it had earlier canvassed for a shift in date to ensure more credible polls.
At a press conference in Abuja, the National Chairman of the party, Mr. Frank Ohwofa also called on Nigerians not to be in a haste to leave polling booths after casting their votes, but should rather stay back and ensure that the votes are well counted.
“However, as we approach 2011 elections, we call on the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) and the security agencies to ensure effective policing of our nation’s international borders to prevent politicians from importing foreigners to participate in the voters’ registration exercise in their bid to shortchange the will of the Nigerian masses to achieve free, fair and credible elections,” Ohwofa said.

IN terms of competence, capability and discipline required to lead and move Nigeria out of the woods, Gen. Aliyu Mohammed Gusau, believes he ranks tops among the aspirants for the presidential ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the 2011 election.
The Director-General of his campaign outfit, Chief Ben Ndi Obi, says the politician, who resigned only two weeks ago as National Security Adviser (NSA) to contest the PDP primaries is easily the least visible of the PDP presidential runners but he is perhaps best suited to manage the affairs of this country in its critical stage.
If Gusau flaunts competence, former military President and a PDP aspirant, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, is banking on the openness, internal democracy and transparency in the PDP to clinch its ticket at the party’s primaries.
He also believes that his Nigerianess and the pursuit of peace, unity and economic development in the country would continue to inform his actions.
To the Governor of Kwara State, Dr. Bukola Saraki, who is also a PDP presidential hopeful, the proposed amendment of the Electoral Act is his concern.
Yesterday in Gusau, the Zamfara State capital, Saraki appealed to members of the National Assembly to ignore a request by President Goodluck Jonathan to amend the relevant section of the Act that barred ministers, commissioners and other aides as part of delegates for the PDP congresses and conventions.
Obi was in Lagos at the weekend to explain to journalists Gusau’s mission in seeking to run for the nation’s highest office.
He said Gusau “knows the problems of this country and has the solutions,” adding that having been a member of the Supreme Military Council (SMC) in 1974, the then highest ruling body, Gusau had served in government longer than all other presidential aspirants, although mostly “from the perspective of security chief.
“May I introduce to you a courageous and disciplined leader who knows the problems and has the solutions,” he said, “I have seen various probes, but nobody can say this is where you find Aliyu Gusau.”
He repeated Gusau’s plan to serve for only one term of four years if elected and hand over in 2015.
He said Gusau would in 18 months of assuming office provide uninterrupted power supply for at least 18 hours daily.
Told that at 67, Gusau was too old to run a modern state, Ben Obi cited President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal, who is 82, saying what Nigeria needs is “someone who is competent, courageous and disciplined; it is not about age, Aliyu will build institutions, he knows them and he knows what to do.”
At the weekend in Kaduna, Babangida, who chaired the launch of a book, Broadcast Media and Development in Northern Nigeria: A tribute to life and times of Adamu Yusuf, a renowned reporter of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Hausa Service, attested to the potency of the mass media. He said: “There is no doubt that broadcasting is a veritable tool in the quest for sustainable national political reform in Nigeria”.
He argued that the media in Nigeria should be seen as “suitable agent for the promotion of communal peace and reconciliation and being the most potent organ for social and political mobilisation in the country”.
Babangida, who eulogised the late journalist who died in 2007, said, “Adamu Yusuf was a vital partner and indispensable comrade in nation building. The inspirer of hope, pride, unity and peaceful co-existence, always ensuring that Nigeria’s image both at home and abroad was not compromised in any circumstance. Such are the names that come to mind whenever broadcasting and media are discussed and such are the journalists required; always investigate and developmental.”
Babangida, who also visited the Governor of Jigawa State, said he is “not afraid of President Goodluck Jonathan and his incumbency advantage because the PDP is a party with an excellent internal democracy.”
He told reporters in Dutse that if the PDP Chairman, John Nwodo is serious about ensuring that internal democracy is restored back to the party, he (Babangida) is sure the processes will work out accordingly.
According to him, “PDP is an excellent party and it allows for internal process to take place. Remember what the chairman of the party said, he is going to ‘take the party back to the people’, and he is not doing badly. So, the question of incumbency doesn’t count because he has said he is going to take the party back to the people.”
On security in the country, Babangida said it is a serious concern for all Nigerians, adding that it requires a collective effort of the three tiers of government to tackle it once and for all.
Saraki, who took his campaign to Gusau described Jonathan’s request as a first step if it scaled through at the National Assembly, will lead to serious rigging for both PDP’s primaries and the forthcoming elections.
The aspirant told reporters at the Zamfara State Government House, shortly after visiting Governor Mahmud Aliyu Shinkafi, that the existing Electoral Act, which excluded ministers, ambassadors, and presidential aides in the case of President, and excluded commissioners and special advisers in the case of governors, should not be amended for any reason.
He maintained that the wisdom behind the law was to satisfy the yearnings of Nigerians, who believed that most of the elective political office holders could not win their primaries without having such assistance as part of the delegates to any convention.

NIGERIA’S federally-collected revenue has dropped by 42 per cent consistently over the last three years, the Auditor-General of the Federation (AGF), Mr. Samuel Okura, has disclosed.
Ukura, who raised the alarm at the weekend in Abuja at a one-day workshop on probity and accountability for auditors at the local council level, also declared that the three tiers of government shared a total of N11.015 trillion within the period under review covering 2007 to 2009.
He said revenue collection had dropped from N4.136 trillion in 2007 to N3.96 trillion in 2008 and further down to N2.919 trillion in year 2009, representing about 42 per cent drop.
Accordingly, he said allocation to the various tiers also dwindled in the following order: Federal: N1.867 trillion in 2007, N1.860 trillion in 2008 and N1.395 trillion in 2009, totaling N5.122 trillion.
In the same vein, the states’ allocation fell from N1.453 trillion in 2007 to N1.372 trillion and N978.071 billion in that order in 2008 and 2009, showing a total receipt of N3.804 trillion within the three-year period.
For the local councils, the revenue equally declined from N815.315 billion in 2007 to N727.397 billion and N545.703 billion in 2008 and 2009, resulting in a total collection of N2.088 trillion to that tier of government.
The AGF then called on auditors to be vigilant, transparent and accountable to ensure that leakages are blocked and achieve value for money, particularly at the local council level.
He said: “A critical look at these figures shows that the figures to the federal; states and the local governments have been on the decline. We must pay attention to the internally-generated revenue (IGR) at all levels.
“All leakages in revenue generation must be blocked. Failure to step up our IGR will negatively affect the capital projects in the local governments and consequently the so-called dividends of democracy.
“Consequently, in order to enhance better accountability, transparency and probity, and in order to ensure that these huge amounts of allocations given to local government councils do not go down the drain, it is expedient that there should also be a constitutional backing for the Auditors-General for Local Governments in the Federation.
“This office will support your efforts to ensure that this constitutional defect of not providing for the powers and functions of the Auditors-General for Local Governments in the Federation in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is properly addressed by relevant legislative bodies.”


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