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Agabi: ‘Draft Constitution’ Is FG’s Proposal

Posted by From Paul Ibe and Chuks Okcoha in Abuja on 2005/04/19 | Views: 604 |

Agabi: ‘Draft Constitution’ Is FG’s Proposal

Presidential Adviser on Ethics and Good Gover-nance, Mr. Kanu Agabi (SAN), yesterday said the draft constitution in circulation at the National Political Reform Conference (NPRC) is a proposal from the government.

* Kukah disowns document

Presidential Adviser on Ethics and Good Gover-nance, Mr. Kanu Agabi (SAN), yesterday said the draft constitution in circulation at the National Political Reform Conference (NPRC) is a proposal from the government.

But the Joint Co-Secretary of the national dialogue, Reverend Father Matthew Kukah, said that the conference secretariat has not received such document.

Media reports had weekend indicated the existence of an unsigned and undated draft constitution among select members of the conference. The draft constitution was said to have recommended a six-year tenure for the president and state governors.

But Agabi told newsmen yesterday that there was no “fake draft constitution” in circulation,” but a proposal by the government, as part of its input to the conference.

When asked the rationale behind government’s action, Agabi said: “Why not? The executive submitted a draft-amended constitution (and) no organ is more qualified to do this than the executive."

The Presidential Adviser said the draft constitution was borne out of the work of an All Party Committee that was empanelled at the inception of the Obasanjo administration.
“When this government came in, it set up an All Party Committee to take a second look at the constitution. That committee recommended a single tenure of six years; it was not recommended by (President Olusegun) Obasanjo,” he said.
But speaking to newsmen yesterday Kukah said the secretariat of the conference has not received any document of that nature from the Federal Government.

“I don’t deal with speculations,” the Conference Co-Secretary said when asked to confirm whether the conference had received a draft constitution from the government.

“I am…not aware that the secretariat has received such a document,” he said adding, “the documents (the conference) have received from the government are open and we have had no communication with the Federal Government.”

When pressed further, Kukah said, “I am sorry I have to go back to my file and check and clarify for you because I cannot tell you about every document that I have.”
The Cleric said since he is yet to read the alleged document in circulation, he will not “dignify that with any kind of response because (he has) not seen the original of the document; and if it is an original document, it should have somebody’s signature.”

He added that the Federal Government did not submit a memo to the conference and, “all that the government did on the day of inauguration was that it gave us basic materials, which we passed on to members of the conference."
“These documents are not secret, but are in the public purview. I am not aware that the Federal Government has attempted to submit any document to us beyond what we got,” he added
Asked if the secretariat of the conference is contemplating extension of time, he said it was too early to consider that since the April 28 deadline for the committees to complete their work is 10 days away.

Meanwhile, delegates to the Conference have continued to react to the alleged circulation of a draft constitution in Abuja, saying it is unnecessary distraction aimed at undermining the confidence Nigerians have in the conference.
Those interviewed on the subject also claimed they are not aware of the existence of the documents as the conference is yet to reach the stage of constitution drafting.

Former Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, said the draft constitution in circulation "should remain the views of those who wrote and circulated it, but certainly not the view of the conference.”
He said the conference is yet to get to the stage of formulating its views.

"Members of the conference are free to express their views, to that extent, the views expressed in the draft constitution should be seen as the personal private views of the authors, until the conference pronounces itself," he said.

Chairman of the Committee on Models and Structure of Government, Chief Richard Akinjide, said members of his committee have resolved not to comment on the circulation of the 'fake constitution'.

Former National President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Professor Attahiru Jega, described it as an attempt to distract the delegates.

"We refused to be distracted. It worries me a great deal that people are trying to create an unnecessary distraction from our noble efforts to find solutions to our national problems, but we will remain focused.

"I hope that the draft will remain mysterious because if it actually comes up at the conference, we shall fight it. People should not play with our intelligence," he said.

The President of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), Mr. Ledun Mittee, expressed worry that the draft constitution in circulation contains recommendations of some of the committees of the conference.

"I am quite worried on such developments. How come that some of the reports of the committees are already contained in the draft circulating, yet we have not submitted our committee reports to be debated at the plenary session?” he queried.

Senator Femi Okurounmu representing the Afenifere, the Pan Yoruba socio-political group, also denied seeing the draft constitution in circulation, saying he only read about it in the newspapers.
He, however, said the delegates would not be influenced by the contents of the draft constitution, explaining, "the decision of the conference would be taken at the plenary session before a constitution drafting committee is set up."
Okurounmu also described the content of the draft constitution in circulation as "completely strange to me."
A delegate from Imo State, Barrister Ziggy Azike, said the draft constitution in circulation is nothing but a fiction.

"The conference has not reached the decision of setting up a constitution drafting committee. We are still at committee stages, certainly, the documents that you are talking about is not a product of this conference," he said.
Former Chief of General Staff, Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe, a delegate from Abia State, dissociated himself from the draft constitution in circulation, saying "there is no way that a draft constitution will come out before the report of the conference."

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