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Consider 1960, 1963 Constitutions, Clark appeals to NASS members

The former Federal Commissioner for Information and South-South leader, Chief Edwin Clark has appealed to the Senators and members of the House of Representatives to to consider the inclusion of Section 81(6 and 7) of the 1960 Independence Constitution and 1963 Republican Constitution which was made by Nigerians.

 

The Elder statesman said such consideration will ensure that quality Persons with capacity and true Representatives of the people are appointed Ministers.

In a letter to the Senators and members of the House of Representatives which was made available to Journalists in Abuja, the Leader of Southern and Middlebelt Leaders Forum, SMBLF said,“I sincerely appeal to the 10th National ASSEMBLY to consider the inclusion of Section 81(6 and 7) of the 1960 Independence Constitution and 1963 Republican Constitution which was made by Nigerians.

“These Provisions will enable the President of Nigeria to appoint capable, competent, men of integrity and capacity, and who are elected members of the National Assembly, as Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, who will be responsible to the people who elected them”.

The leader of the Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF regretted that it is unfortunate and most regrettable that since 1979 and 1999, the appointment of a Minister of the Federal government has not taken into consideration, the interest of the people, adding that the President normally appoints Ministers from among their friends, relations, party faithful, or from recommendations from Governors and others.

The Senator of the Second Republic congratulated the new President of the Senate, Senator Godswill Akpabio; the Speaker, House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abass, the Deputy Senate President, Jibril Barau; the Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Benjamin Kalu; Abdulaziz Yari and others who contested.

The letter read, “First of all, let me congratulate all members of the 10th National Assembly, for the successful election of their officers.

“I congratulate His Excellency, Distinguished Senator Godswill Akpabio, on his emergence as the President of the Senate, Barau Jibrin as Deputy Senate President. My hearty congratulations also go to Hon. Tajudeen Abbas, on his emergence as the Right Honourable Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Hon. Benjamin Kalu, as the Deputy Speaker, the House of Representatives. I also wish to congratulate Senator Abdulaziz Abubakar Yari, who also vied for the position of Senate President, and indeed all others who showed interest in the contest.

“It was a keen contest. Everyone who contested, I believe, did so, in the interest of the country and the good of all. We again, thank God for the peaceful conduct of the elections. It was a tense contest and it goes to show that democracy is growing in our country, and the era when people are forced on people by parties and godfathers, is over. Every Nigerian has a right to freely express their right of franchise. Congratulations to all again.

“As you set out to work, I want to indulge all Distinguished Senators that the country is currently on a crossroads. The situation in the country calls for deep and sober reflection; it calls for a re-examination of our lives and ourselves as people of this country.

“Since 1999 when Nigeria returned to full democracy, there have been serious agitations and demands by Nigerians that we should return to the 1960 Independence Constitution and 1963 Republican Constitution.

“It is important that we remind ourselves that, even though Nigeria came into being as a result of the Amalgamation of the northern and southern protectorates by the British Colonial government, the 1963 Republican Constitution was said to be the only Constitution drawn up by the Nigerian people themselves.

“It was the Constitution made by Nigerians alone without colonial government intervention and the military, in order to practice true democracy and for Nigeria to survive as one united country.

“It is unfortunate and most regrettable that since 1979 and 1999, the appointment of Minister of the Federal government did not take the interest of the people into consideration.

“The Presidents normally appoint Ministers from among their friends, relations, party faithful, or from recommendations from Governors and others. As I stated, in most cases, such Ministers do not owe allegiance to the people or even the President who appointed them, but to those who recommended them for appointment.

“The submission of the Minister’s name to the Senate by the President for screening, in most cases, is a mere formality, as the Senate seems not to have set out the standard to screen these nominees.

“So, most often, they will only tell them to take a bow and leave. There are equally some cases where former Governors or Ministers who are under probe by the anti-graft agencies will also be cleared. It must be appreciated that some of the Senate members are facing corrupt charges in courts for over ten years, where they are accused of having embezzled or looted their state government treasury during their period as Governor of such States.

“It has become imperative that as the 10th National Assembly is about commencing its duties, the nation should once again, look at some aspects of the 1963 Constitution, in order to re-introduce them into our constitution and in our way of life.

“The first of such areas is in the appointment of Ministers. It is to be noted that since the inception of the 1999 Constitution, people appointed as Ministers, seemed only to serve the interest of those who appointed them and their own personal interest. Even though currently, Ministers are appointed based on their States of origin, they clearly work in silos, they are insulated from the people. This is unlike what happened when we were operating the 1960 Independence and the 1963 Republican Constitutions when explicit provisions were made to reflect that Ministers appointed should be representatives of the people.

“For instance, Chapter VI of the 1960 Independence Constitution, in Section 81(6) states that: Subject to the provisions of sub-section (11) of this section, a person who holds office as Minister of Government of the Federation for any period of four consecutive months without also being a Senator or a member of the House of Representatives shall cease to be a Minister at the expiration of that period or, if that period expires at a time when parliament is dissolved and he does not in the meantime become a Senator or a member of the House of Representatives, at the date on which Parliament first meets after that dissolution.

“The 1963 Republican Constitution, also had a similar provision. Even though what we practice today is a presidential system of government we can adopt a similitude to what is done in Ghana where the Minister of State is appointed by the President of the country, with prior approval of the Parliament, and the President can also appoint a Deputy Minister to assist the Minister in the performance of their duties, of course with prior approval from the Parliament also. This combination is also practised in South Africa, where the President appoints Ministers from members of the National Assembly, and equally has the prerogative of appointing a few members from outside the National Assembly, as Deputy Ministers to assist the Ministers.

In addition, this is the practice in some other countries which practice the presidential system of government, like France

“By amending the 1999 Constitution or producing a new constitution whereby certain Sections of the 1960 Independence Constitution and 1963 Republican Constitution are entrenched in the new or amended Constitution, it will give a semblance of true federalism and it will work well for everybody.

“Under such Constitution, the President who is himself an elected member of the Parliament before being elected the Head of State, ceases to be a member of the parliament, once he is chosen President.

“However, the Vice President is required to remain in the Parliament to represent the President himself. In addition, the President is required to appoint; “a member of the Cabinet to be the leader of Government business in the National Assembly.

“This is meant to create more confidence between the Legislature and the Executive arms of government and enable members of the National Assembly to participate in debates in the Parliament. Also, in the United States of America type of presidential system of government, the Vice President is the President of the Senate. This automatically eliminates the unhealthy struggle for dominance among the distinguished Senators as to who is to head the Upper Chamber.

“I do not think there is any harm in including it in our Constitution in order to enhance the commitment of our Ministers as representatives of the people because they will then be voted for by the people.

“If the amendment is anything to go by, these Sections of the 1960 Independent Constitution and the 1963 Republican Constitution must be inculcated in the amendment exercise.

“I submit that the current reality of the Nigerian situation is such that we must restructure for our survival as one united country, and usher in a progressive and democratic nation.

“Some doubting Thomases, who call themselves notable politicians, and who want the status quo to remain, should re-examine their conscience in the interest of this country because from my own perspective, everybody whether from the South or North believes the country must be restructured.

“Immediate past President Muhammadu Buhari refused to restructure the country even when his own party, the All Progressive Congress, APC, under the chairmanship of former Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State, and other intellectuals of the party, issued a report which is similar to the report of the 2014 National Conference, which made 600 recommendations.

“I recall with nostalgia, what my friend, Prof Jubril Aminu, former Minister of Education and Petroleum, and former Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, who was one of the most respected learned men in Nigeria, said to me at the end of the Conference, and I quote;

“E.K., with the resolutions passed at this Conference, a new Nigeria has been born”

“Thereafter, we held our hands together, as he took me to meet His Majesty, the Lamido of Adamawa and we took a group photograph. During that joyous moment, I humbly said to him, we shall now stay together and you will not go and stay in your country in Cameroon.

“My late former respected IGP from Adamawa State, Alhaji Gambo Jimeta, Dr Haliru Bello Mohammed, former Chairman of PDP and former Minister of Defence, sat very close to me. Among those who also sat behind me were Mrs Aisha Aliyu, Dr. Fatima Adamu, Mrs. Josephine Anenih, Senator Musa Adede and Otunba Gani Adams. And seated on my left-hand side, were Chief Richard Akinjide, former Attorney General of the Federation, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Chief Ajayi etc. We all shook hands and rejoiced and most of them came to congratulate me on my sit where I sat because of my inability to easily move around.

“I sincerely appeal to the 10th National ASSEMBLY to consider the inclusion of Section 81(6 and 7) of the 1960 Independence Constitution and 1963 Republican Constitution which was made by Nigerians.

“These Provisions will enable the President of Nigeria to appoint capable, competent, men of integrity and capacity, and who are elected members of the National Assembly, as Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, who will be responsible to the people who elected them.

“It is with great honour and respect I offer this my advice to you as a Senator of the 2nd Republic myself, as to whom to be appointed Ministers by the President of Nigeria. We have for some time noticed embarrassment, invitations to Ministers to appear before the National Assembly, in furtherance of the assembly’s oversight functions. In answering these invitations, the Nigerian public is sometimes faced with embarrassment on the outbursts between such Ministers and members of the Committee of the Senate, leading to the intervention of the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House.

“Once again, I wish to reiterate that a cabinet minister who is elected either as Hon. Member of the House of Representatives or a distinguished member of the Senate, will not only enjoy the confidence of his former members but will improve the relationship between the Executives.

“I wish you all the most fruitful and successful tenure in the National Assembly.”

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