Nigerian Senate proposes a procedure for the introduction of a new constitution.
On Wednesday, the Senate committee on review of the constitution introduced a proposal than included a range of possible amendments of the main law of Nigeria.
The proposal was presented by the committee chairman Senator Ike Ekweremadu.
It is coming at the time when the necessity of a new constitution is debated at the ongoing National Conference.
The committee proposes to allow the president to initiate a process of developing a new constitution.
The proposal also includes amendments to Sections 134 and 179 of the 1999 constitution seeking to extend the conduct of governorship and presidential run-off elections from seven to 21 days.
Next, the senators suggest alterations of sections 68 and 109 to mandate the clerk of the National Assembly and State House of Assembly to notify the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in writing within seven days of the vacancy arising from the death, resignation or vacation of seat of a member of the National or State Assembly.
Another proposal is to empower the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to deregister political parties that fail to win any seat from local government to presidential elections.
The News Agency of Nigeria also reports that the committee proposes for the inclusion of past Senate Presidents and Speakers of House of Representatives as members of the Council of States.
It is also seeks to confer exclusive jurisdiction on the Federal High Court for trial of offences arising from the violation of the provisions of the Electoral Act.
Lawmakers would vote on these amendments on April 9.
Senators divided over proposal
A heated debate broke out following the presentation of the proposal.
The Deputy Senate Leader and a member of the review committee, Senator Abdul Ningi, explained why the committee advocates to empower the president to initiate production of a new constitution.
Senator James Manager (PDP-Delta) said that it was okay for the president to initiate the re-writing of the constitution by forwarding it to the National Assembly as an executive proposal.
Also supporting the proposal, Senator Tukur Bello (PDP-Adamawa) said it was the timing that created suspicion in the minds of the opposing Senators, "especially, considering the ongoing National Conference."
Senator Odion Ugbesia (PDP-Edo), however, opposed the proposal, describing it as "superfluous" because "we don’t need a new Constitution. There are adequate provisions for amendment of the Constitution".
Senator Ahmed Lawal (APC-Yobe) said the insertion of the president would make the National Assembly become "redundant", thereby losing its relevance. He also said that it would amount to diluting the powers of the National Assembly adding.
According to Senator Kabiru Marafa (APC-Zamfara), the constitution, if amended, would make the Natioanal Assembly cede its constitutional powers to the executive.