By John Alechenu:
Senators have canvassed for the removal of inherent ambiguities in Sections 145 and 190 of the 1999 Constitution.
They expressed this view at the resumed debate on the proposed amendment to the sections during their plenary session on Tuesday.
Some of the senators proposed a provision for a time frame within which a Vice-President or a deputy governor could act in the capacity of President or governor respectively before further necessary legislative action.
Senator George Sekibo, however, expressed reservations about some of the proposals being made by his colleagues.
He wondered why the nation or a state should wait for seven days before a vice- president or deputy governor could act in the absence of a President or governor who “absconds” from his duty post.
According to him, “I have a problem. This problem is, why must we wait for seven days before coming back to the Senate to get a motion or a resolution then mandate a vice-president to be the acting President?
“If a man absconds from his duty, are we supposed to punish him or give him grace? When a man does not transmit, he has defaulted the constitution.
“If a man stays away from his seat in the office for seven days he has defaulted.
“Are we going to give grace to a defaulting President or governor or are we going to give them a mandate that the vice- president should immediately act as President.”
He said those deputising for the two officials should be allowed to act immediately until their bosses resumed.
Senator Heineken Lokpobiri said with the passage of time, section 144 of the constitution would become inevitably implementable by FEC members whom he noted were currently basking in the euphoria of Nigeria’s fledging democracy.
Senator Bassey Ewa-Henshaw said section 144, which dealt with the powers of members of FEC to declare the President medically unfit after due investigation, was carefully crafted to provide for separation of powers and submitted that it should not be tampered with.
Besides Senators Smart Adeyemi and Tafida Argungu who argued that the seven days period provided for the President to transmit his vacation notice to the National Assembly in the proposed amendments was adequate, majority of the senators proposed between two and three weeks.
Senator Uzamere called for speedy approval of the proposed amendment, while Senator Ugbesia stressed the elimination of ambiguity from section 145, noting that “everyone is interpreting it according to his or her organic eccentricity.” The debate continues today.
Other senators also asked that the word “vacation” should be clearly defined so as to prevent abuse.
Tuesday’s debate brings the total number of senators who spoke on the proposed amendment to 61.
The President of the Senate, Mr. David Mark, announced that those who had not spoken would be given a time to do so on Wednesday after which each senator would be asked to vote.
In another development, the Senate spokesperson, Senator Ayogu Eze, announced that the Senate would pass the 2010 budget within the next two weeks.
Meanwhile, for the second time in two
weeks, the House of Representatives’ delegation which recently visited Saudi Arabia, failed on Tuesday to produce its report on the trip.
The five-man delegation led by the Deputy Majority Leader of the House, Alhaji Baba Shehu-Agaie, had embarked on a mission to ascertain the health condition of President Umaru Yar’Adua.
The ailing President has been on admission at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital, Jeddah since November 23, 2009.
The team got to Jeddah but was denied access to Yar’Adua reportedly on the orders of the First Lady, Turai.
The lawmakers returned to Nigeria two weeks ago after spending over four days in Jeddah.
Last Thursday, the Speaker of the House, Mr. Dimeji Bankole, had directed that the report of the trip should be submitted on Tuesday (yesterday).
The directive followed a protest by the Minority Leader, Alhaji Mohammed Ndume, who complained that the failure of the team to submit its report was embarrassing.
Ndume, a member of the All Nigeria Peoples Party, was also on the delegation.
The report was to have been laid on Thursday but the team’s leader failed to produce the document.
When he was asked for explanations, Shehu-Agaie claimed that two members of the team were yet to sign the report.
Those he said did not sign were Mr. Patrick Ikhariale and Mr. Jibril Adamu.
He had explained last week that Ikariale travelled to Spain, while Adamu reportedly stayed back in Jeddah to attend to pressing personal issues.
But, on Tuesday, Shehu-Agaie still did not produce the report, while neither Bankole nor Ndume raised the matter.
It was not clear whether Ikhariale and Adamu had returned to Nigeria as calls to their mobile telephones were not answered.
Our correspondent also made several attempts to get the comments of Shehu-Agaie, including forwarding a text message to him, but there was no response.
It was, however, gathered that there might be no report to lay as the delegation was buying time, hoping that the matter would fade out.
The PUNCH had reported exclusively on Monday last week that the thinking of the House was that the report was no longer relevant.
This position was said to have been taken owing to the fact that whatever the trip was intended to achieve had been overtaken by the elevation of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan as Acting President.
The Majority Leader of the House, Mr. Tunde Akogun, and the Chairman of the Committee on Rules and Business, Mr. Ita Enang, in separate interviews with our correspondent, had admitted that the report was no longer relevant.
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