Law News
Constitution amendment: Jonathan, senators’ rift deepens

The disagreement between the executive and the Senate over constitutional amendment deepened on Tuesday as the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Mohammed Adoke, and the leadership of the Senate sang discordant tunes.

Specifically, Adoke, who is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, said any step that might have been taken by members of the National Assembly on the amended constitution was of no effect.

Adoke, in an exclusive interview with our correspondent, was reacting to media report that the National Assembly had gazetted the controversial Fourth Alteration of the 1999 Constitution, despite the ruling of the Supreme Court that all actions on the review of the Constitution should be suspended.

The minister’s reaction came shortly after the Senate set in motion a process that would make the National Assembly pass into law the Fourth Alteration Act 2015, which seeks to amend the 1999 Constitution.

The National Assembly was said to have gazetted the document on Monday.

Adoke, however, said the action of the lawmakers was of no effect.

He added that he would refrain from taken issue with the lawmakers because the matter is a subject of an ongoing litigation.

Adoke said, “Whatever step they (the lawmakers) have taken is of no moment in the light of the clear order of court that status quo should be maintained.

I will not take issue with anybody and refrain from discussing it because it is sub judice.

“You cannot put something on nothing and expect it to stand. It will definitely crumble.”

But the Senate has already published the document and members have been informed that the issue will be exhaustively be debated upon at a closed session today (Wednesday).

President Goodluck Jonathan refused to give his assent to the document, citing irregularities in the process adopted by the federal parliament, among other reasons.

When the legislature protested his action, Jonathan headed for the Supreme Court, and the apex Court, in turn, asked the National Assembly to maintain the status quo, pending the determination of the president’s suit before it.

But rather than wait till June 17, which the court had fixed to start hearing on the case, the federal lawmakers went ahead to publish the amendments.

The debate on the document could not start on Tuesday because of the absence of many senators, including Senate President, David Mark, at the session.

The Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, presided over the plenary and responded to the request of the Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba, who sought the approval of the members to defer the debate till today (Wednesday).

Ekweremadu said, “I request all of us to make ourselves available tomorrow to discuss the amendments to the constitution and be able to respond appropriately to the development.

“Please, let those who are not available know that we will have a closed session tomorrow to discuss this item so that we will be able to fashion out the way forward.

A principal officer in the upper chamber told our correspondent on condition of anonymity, on Tuesday, that the National Assembly decided to override Jonathan to save the country the huge human and financial resources already channelled into the exercise.

The lawmakers argued that the adjournment of the Supreme Court suit till June 18 when the lifespan of the current 7th National Assembly will end was an indication that the bill would automatically expire and remain a wasted effort.

They, however, said they would be playing safe if the document becomes a gazette and is approved by both chambers because if the Supreme Court verdict favours the amendments, it automatically becomes law.

One of the lawmakers said, “If the Supreme Court eventually says the amendments are in order, we will know that a law is in place. But if its rules that they are unconstitutional, then we will abide by the ruling.”

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