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Immunity, Land Use, three others top Yar’Adua’s list

Posted by From Yusuf Alli, Managing Editor, Northern Operation on 2009/01/07 | Views: 342 |

Immunity, Land Use, three others top Yar’Adua’s list


There were strong indications yesterday that the Federal Government may favour a review of about five items in the 1999 Constitution.

There were strong indications yesterday that the Federal Government may favour a review of about five items in the 1999 Constitution.

But opinions are still divided in government circles over new states.

Investigations by The Nation revealed that the five areas had been identified as critical to the reform programme of President Umaru Yar’Adua.

The areas, which appear to be favoured by the Presidency, are:

•Review of immunity clause;

•Land Use Act;

•Prison Reform;

•Electoral Reform; and

•Commission of Enquiry Act.

A highly-placed source said: "The Presidency is concerned about how to review the Constitution without heating up the polity. The general thinking of the Federal Government is to have limited or restricted items for amendment.

"The shopping list is not closed but these five areas are what the President is passionate about. I think the National Assembly Review Committee is planning to reach out to the government to dialogue on the exercise."

On state creation, the source added: "It is not yet on the priority list, although the President has been receiving representations from some lobby groups.

"Actually, the Niger Delta Committee led by Ledum Mitte recently recommended creation of more states from the zone.

"But, the global economic meltdown is a major obstacle against state creation. Again, the politics of securing two-thirds in the 36 state Houses of Assembly will make intrigues over state creation complex for the Yar’Adua administration."

The source supported the anti-state stand, saying: "As liberal as ex-President Shehu Shagari was between 1979 and 1983, his administration avoided state creation. The then National Assembly could only receive proposals, some of which later guided successive military administrations that created states."

The source, who spoke in confidence, added: "State creation is still a contentious matter."

A newspaper had earlier reported that the National Assembly Review Committee might not be too keen on state creation.

The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mike Aondoakaa (SAN), confirmed these five priorities in an interview with our correspondent.

He also limited his comments to the five points.

Although he said the review areas are open, President Umaru Yar’Adua is passionate about the five points.

He said by the time the National Assembly Constitution Review Committee comes out with a list of items to be reviewed, the Presidency will also make its contributions.

Aondoakaa said: "It is a welcome development but we must see the areas that they want to review. It is an initiative by the National Assembly and, mind you, there is only one government, the others are just arms of government. Since another arm of government has taken up the review, with the doctrine of government; it does not look nice for two arms of government to do the same thing at the same time.

"So, we are looking at what they will come out with. If it is something that requires the input of the Federal Government, the FG will surely come in to make its own contribution. Of course, the Constitution needs a review in some areas, including the removal of immunity clause which the President is strong about.

"The government also wants to make sure that the Land Use Act, which has been entrenched in the Constitution, is reviewed to the extent that the issue of consent of mortgage is looked at to the extent that if you buy a house, the house should be a source of capital for you to do other transactions.

"But now, if you have this house, it becomes very impossible for you to do business because you have to get consent from a governor.

"Of course, the issue of prison, which is something very fundamental. As of now, prison is on the exclusive list but the people who send prisoners there are mostly states and local governments.

"The Electoral Act is also part of the areas we expect a review. The President has already taken the lead to create a credible electoral system in such a way that we will have a minimum standard of elections acceptable to all.

"Of course, the Commission of Enquiry Act. All along, the 1963 Constitution placed the Commission of Enquiry Act on the Exclusive List; the 1979 Constitution also made it so, but surprisingly the 1999 Constitution does not do so; yet the responsibility of the security of this country is that of the Federal Government. The Federal Government that has the responsibility of protecting the territorial integrity of this country should be able to act swiftly and constitute an enquiry."

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Fay(Katy, Texas, US)says...

Actually translates to bravehearted.