An advocacy group, Friends in the Gap Initiative Advocacy, at the weekend, demanded a refund of N4 billion expended on the failed constitution amendment by the seventh National Assembly to the national treasury.
The group, in a statement by its Executive Director, Mr. George Oji, said the amendment finally became a failed venture last Thursday when the seventh National Assembly came to an end, recalling that one of the reasons for the rejection of the amendment by former President Gooldluck Jonathan was the failure of the lawmakers to adhere to strict constitutional provisions on the amendment.
According to the statement, the lawmakers failed to provide any evidence of adherence to the provision of the constitution during the amendment process, saying instead, they claimed that Jonathan’s administration should have raised objection to the process during public hearings if it felt strongly about it.
The statement read: “Now that the seventh National Assembly has formally wound down all its legislative activities and adjourned indefinity, it follows therefore that the processes for the fourth alteration of the 1999 Constitution has now died a natural death.
“The constitution amendment process started way back in 2011 shortly after the pronouncement of the seventh National Assembly and it was not until early this year that the constitution amendment committees of both chambers of the parliament submitted the document to the then President Goodluck Jonathan for his assent.
“It is also history that Jonathan raised about ten objections against the document and subsequently withheld his assent to the amendment.
“One of the very fundamental objections the former President alleged was that contrary to the provisions of Section 9 of the constitution, which prescribed absolute majority of four-fifths of National Assembly members and two-thirds of state assemblies, the National Assembly members used voice vote to approve the constitution alteration.
“Subsequently, the then President approached the Supreme Court to compel the lawmakers to refrain from going ahead with the amendment exercise.
“Unfortunately, there was no clear statement by the National Assembly to contradict any of the objections raised by Jonathan only to resort to blackmail; threatening to invoke the constitutional veto powers available to them to override the former president’s assent.
“What was more regrettable was the statement by the leadership of the Senate that ‘the president had ample opportunities during the series of public hearings to have raised those objections but he failed to do so.’”
The statement further urged President Muhammadu Buhari to withhold the severance pay due to the lawmakers if they fail to refund the N4 billion was.
According to Oji, the exercise failed because the lawmakers took the nation for a ride by carrying out a shoddy amendment process just as it condemned what it described as the last minute arrangements with the executive in their bids to cover up their shortcoming.
The group further lamented that the whopping N4 billion wasted on the exercise, if well deployed, would have gone a long way in addressing various socio-economic problems confronting the nation notably employment generation.
Oji also condemned the continued justification of the failed exercise by members of the seventh National Assembly instead of admitting its failure in sobriety.
“From available information, this last constitution amendment exercise cost the country about N4 billion. Friends in the Gap Advocacy Initiative (FGAI), a parliamentary watchdog, demands as follows:
“That members of the National Assembly should be made to refund the N4 billion expended for the constitution amendment exercise because the said amount constitutes Nigerian tax payers’ money.
“In the alternative, we call on President Muhammadu Buhari to direct the withholding of the severance allowances for members of the 7th National Assembly.
“We believe that if prudently deployed, the said N4 billion will go a very long way in addressing some of the nation’s infrastructural needs or generate sizable employment for the growing number of unemployed Nigerian youths.
“It is our position that the failure of the constitution amendment exercise was precipitated by the shoddy, negligent and unserious attitudes of the lawmakers.
“For the lawmakers to hold it against the former President that he ought to have raised his objections to the constitution alteration exercise at the public hearing stages is to say the least very unfortunate.
“It is our further position that the legislature has failed Nigerians in the constitution amendment exercise and they must be humble enough to accept this unjustifiable fact and not turn around to blame the executive for their failures.
“We also condemn the last minute moves by some select lawmakers to engage the then President in underhand arrangements that was intended to lead to the surreptitious signing of the document by Jonathan, even as we commend the former President for rebuffing those unconstitutional moves and refusing to append his signature to the sham called constitution alteration.
“It is a globally accepted norm that the issue of constitution amendment is a very serious matter that is always approached with the seriousness it deserves. Nigeria will not be any exception,” the statement added.
Source: This Day