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National conference must comply with Constitution – Senate

February 29, 2012  by Oluwole Josiah, Abuja
Senate President, David Mark 

The Senate on Tuesday clarified its position on the Sovereign National Conference, saying any national dialogue must be subjected to the provisions of the 1999 Constitution as amended.

It also said it was not against the holding of a national conference to discuss the way forward for Nigeria, but insisted that changes in the political configuration of the country must follow the stipulations in the Constitution.

Last week, the Senate, through its spokesman, Senator Eyinnanya Abaribe, disagreed with certain groups in the country who called for a Sovereign National Conference to resolve the problems facing the nation’s federation.

He said there was no need for a conference as the people had members of the National Assembly to deal with whatever national issue presented to it for dialogue.

His comments drew flacks from the public, which criticised the National Assembly for always turning against the people.

But speaking to journalists on Tuesday, Abaribe said the National Assembly was not evading the holding of a national conference, if it was the desire of Nigerians.

He said,  “The National Assembly is not against any forum where national issues are discussed and the National Assembly feels that we are all working under the 1999 Constitution and when you work under the 1999 Constitution, then it is necessary you must follow the stipulation of that constitution and the method of amendment to the constitution is also stated there.

“Section 9 of the Constitution stated clearly. So whatever you want to change in terms of amending the constitution to meet whatever reality you want, you have nowhere else to go except to bring it through your member in the House or your senator to the constitution review committees that have been set up by both houses.

“What we say actually is that if you say there are some persons somewhere who will write something else as constitution, then what obtains is that the person has no confidence in the present democratic set up and anybody who says he does not have confidence in the present democracy is nothing but seeking for anarchy.”

Abaribe also said Section 9 of the 1999 Constitution made provisions for its amendment. However, he called on all groups to use the National Assembly to push for the amendment of the Constitution to meet the yearnings of Nigerians.

“We don’t understand the clamour. If there is something else, we put a challenge across. What is it that you want changed? Can’t you bring it through your senator or your Representative?” he said.

Reacting to questions on James Ibori, who pleaded guilty of money laundering in a London court, Abaribe said the judiciary in the UK and in Nigeria work under different environment.

He said the outcome of Ibori’s trial was not an indictment of the nation’s judiciary, arguing that there would have been justice if he was tried here in Nigeria.


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