Minister: Why We Want Constitution Review
Sunday March, 15,2009
By Collins Edomaruse
A s the uncertainty surrounding the take-off of the
National Assembly-initiated Constitution Review
process thickens, more facts on why the exercise
appears a still-born project emerged at the weekend.
THISDAY investigations revealed that unknown to many
Nigerians, unseen hands from the Executive arm have
indeed been working assiduously to ensure that the
review exercise fails to take-off as planned.
Minister of Labour and Productivity, Prince
Adetokunbo Kayode (SAN), during an interview with
THISDAY last week gave an inkling into the
manipulation going on on the constitution review.
Kayode said the some of them in the executive have
insisted that the “purported” constitutional review
project should “stop”.
According to him,: “One of the most critical
recommendations by the Uwais Committee on Electoral
Reform which the government has accepted is the
unbundling of the Indepen-dent National Electoral
“When you unbundle INEC, it means the provisions of
the 1999 Consti-tution as they relate to the
Electoral Commission will be amended accordingly.
This means that a new law will be made to establish
the Political Parties Regulatory Commission; a new
law will be made to set up Electoral Offences
Commission. Then substantial amendments will be made
to the 2002 Electoral Act to capture all these
recommendations in the Uwais Report.
“This is why we have been insisting that the
purported constitutional review process at the
National Assembly should stop. At least action
should stay on it until this issue of electoral
reform is completed,” he said.
The minister also told THISDAY that government was
not also comfortable with doubts being expressed by
members of the public over the decision of the
Federal Executive Council to make the appointment of
chairman of INEC the responsibility of the President
in the White Paper on the Justice Uwais report.
He argued that it does not stand to sound judgement
for anybody to suggest that a nominee of the
National Judicial Commission (NJC) for the office of
INEC chairman would be more trusted than that of the
President for the same job.
He advised Nigerians to disabuse their minds of such
doubts. He said even appointments to the NJC were
equally made by the President.
“It was suggested that if the NJC appoints, it would
guarantee INEC’s independence. But I say with
emphasis that the Chairman of the NJC is appointed
by the President. So, if the President appoints the
NJC Chairman and you accept his authority, how can
you insinuate that the president cannot appoint a
reasonable person to head the INEC? It is the same
person that appoints them. How can a bad tree bear
good fruits with respect to NJC, but cannot bear
good fruits with respect to INEC?”
He appealed for patience and said: “The important
thing is that we should trust in our leadership,
especially this particular President. This provision
is not being made for him; it is being made for
whoever becomes President in this country. We should
trust our leaders that they will do the right thing
for us, especially if the constitution has given
them power to do so,” he added.
However, the Presidency’s position on the
appointment of INEC chairman may suffer another
hiccup at the National Assembly as lawmakers,
unhappy with the new twist in the recommendations of
the Uwais panel are perfecting strategies to ensure
that each of the three arms of government eventually
plays a role in the appointment of INEC chairman.
THISDAY source at the National Assembly said
following the on-going debates on the appointment of
INEC chairman, “the National Assembly, especially
the Senate, is of the view that all arms of
government should contribute to the making of the
next INEC boss. The Senate would prefer a situation
where the NJC recommends three nominees to the
President, who submits the name of one of the
nominees to the Senate for confirmation after a
rigorous screening exercise. In this way, the next
chairman will not be loyal to just one person,” he
*Read THISDAY Lawyer on Tuesday for Kayode’s full