* Senate Gets Report On Constitution Review This Week

SENATE Committee on Constitution Review has mandated its technical consultants to do extra work on the plan to have a revised Constitution.

This becomes inevitable as hopes of an early presidential election by November this year appears to be dimming.

However, it is getting clearer that the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) may opt for primaries this year as part of its efforts to be off the block ahead of other parties before the election.

It was gathered that the election might hold in the first quarter of 2011, going by snippets of information from the two committees on Constitution review in the National Assembly.

Lawmakers had initially opted for November this year in line with recommendations by the Justice Muhammadu Uwais Electoral Reform Committee (ERC) that elections be held six months to the swearing in of elected officials, so that litigants could have sufficient time to prosecute their cases.

“The idea was dropped because of a subsisting Supreme Court judgment,” a source volunteered last week.

And this week, the 44-member Senate committee on review of the 1999 Constitution appears ready to present a report to the full House on the work that has been done.

It is believed that “the report may offer an explanation on why the election is being moved forward.” Said a source: “It is becoming clearer that we may surpass the deadline that we set for ourselves to finish by the end of this month.”

“It remains unclear that the earlier proposed date of November this year for election will work.

“We are anxious to put what we have done before the plenary next week so we can close the chapter on the Constitution review exercise. But I can confirm that we are working on a date that will put the elections not earlier than January next year.”

Work on the actual review of the Constitution was reportedly completed two Saturdays ago in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, while the work on the proposed Electoral Act was substantially concluded in Abuja last week by the review committee.

The Chairman of the House Review Committee, Deputy Speaker Usman Bayero Nafada, said in an interview that the House would finish its work this month, adding that work on the exercise in the National Assembly and State Houses of Assembly would end by May.

The 44 members of the House of Representatives Review Committee were expected to be in Uyo two weekends ago with the Senators, but they kept away.

This emanated from the confusion over whether the Chairman of the Senate Committee, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, was presiding or he would share the function with Nafada as co-chairman.

The new Constitution may outlaw cross-carpeting among legislators, state governors and even the President once they are elected into office.

Besides, flowing from the Uwais Committee report, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the National Assembly were recommended by the technical Committee headed by Mr. Clement Nwankwo to be put on the first-line charge of the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF).

An area that will be tinkered with is independent candidacy.

The two committees of the National Assembly are expected to take the work of the retreats on the constitutional amendments to their separate Houses for passage.

“If this goes through in the State Assemblies, then we will have a new Constitution,Ó a source said last Friday.

“The Speakers are eagerly awaiting the National Assembly work. That is why we have been carrying them along with our work. The Speakers even have a committee on this matter,” the source added.

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