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Friday, February 26, 2021

Halifa explains ‘plain truth’ about draft constitution

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The PDOIS Secretary General, Halifa Sallah, has issued a statement he called the “plain and unalloyed truth” about the draft constitution. In it, Mr Sallah said any suggestion that political parties are engaged in talks to save the draft constitution is misleading.

“It is equally misleading to give the impression that political parties are engaged in talks to save the draft Constitution from Coma. The plain truth is that political parties have secondary roles to play in the promulgation or repealing of a Constitution. They may try to influence National Assembly members, if they lack capacity or experience to adequately perform their duties or direct the minds of the electorate, if they do not know their rights and duties as sovereign citizens,” Mr Sallah said. He said the media should find out the state of this draft constitution, as presented in the Schedule of the Bill whose promulgation was aborted at the second reading and ask political parties whether they have the constitutional mandate to tamper with it on the basis of trying to reconcile contentions arising from partisan interest? 

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Halifa said it is incontrovertible that National Assembly members and by extension, all political leaders safeguard their integrity by ensuring that, in whatever they say or do, they are invariably guided by the dictates of law, reason, conscience and the national interest. Halifa then went on to enlighten the nation on the mandate of the CRC and all the relevant standing orders and provisions dealing with the bill.

“Is there a way to save the Constitution that the Constitutional Review Commission was tasked to draft? The answer is in the affirmative. There is a way out. The National Assembly is the law-making body of the country. The impasse in the Constitution building process arose from the National Assembly. The duty to overcome the impasse falls primarily on the shoulders of National Assembly members”.

Halifa further argued that it is evident that National Assembly members have powers to rescind decisions they have made during a session. “This is expressly stated under Standing Order 29(3). In fact, precedence exists to confirm that motion could be introduced to rescind a decision taken during a session. I had moved such a motion during the budget session. Since the Standing Orders do not have a provision to rescind a decision that had earlier been made during a preceding session, the relevant provision to apply to make that possible is Standing Order 8 which reads: ‘In any cases where matters are not expressly provided for by these Standing Orders, any questions on procedure or order shall be decided by the Speaker,” he explained.

He said the Speaker of the National Assembly has full mandate to exercise discretionary power to allow a motion to rescind the decision of the National Assembly to abort the Constitution Building process by not supporting the second reading with a three-quarters majority.

“If such a motion is allowed and supported, the members could accept the principles and then allow the Bill to go to the committee stage for debate on and detailed scrutiny of the clauses of the Constitution with the active participation of Ministers representing the executive; the Judicial Service Commission and other judges representing the judiciary; the IEC; Political parties; faith groups to look at religious implications; women, the youth, those with unique physical or mental group features and other civil society organisations to look at the concerns of interest groups; the Diaspora groups and other stakeholders with the full participation of the members of the Constitutional Review Commission, to answer questions or make clarifications,” Mr Sallah said.

He concluded: “Only the members of the National Assembly and the Speaker of the National Assembly can save the Constitution that the CRC was tasked to draft. Any other attempts at constitution building could only be done by plagiarizing the work of the CRC followed by the publication and introduction of a new Bill to alter the 1997 Constitution whose outcome is pregnant with uncertainty and could suffer another abortion with an endless blame game. History is calling on the lawmakers to assume their historic responsibility and leave a legacy worth remembering. This is how matters stand”.

Mr Sallah’s PDOIS did not attend the supposed mediation talks between political party representations and the government chaired by former Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan.

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