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NGO Calls for Presidential Assent to Constitution Amendment

Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre, a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), has urged President Goodluck Jonathan to assent to amendments to the 1999 Constitution.Executive Director of the organisation, Clement Nwankwo, made the call at a one day workshop on Media Advocacy Strategy to Achieve Presidential Assent to Constitution Amendment on Monday in Abuja.

Nwankwo said that the president’s assent to the amendments would assist the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in conducting free, fair and credible elections.

According to him, part of the amendment approves the conduct of a run-off poll 21 days after the conduct of the main election as against the present provision of seven days.

"There are some clauses that INEC has proposed regarding the current election, especially the provision regarding run-off of elections.

"INEC had requested that it should be given 21 days to conduct a run-off elections and this is one of the amendments that have been passed.

"With this, I think it is important for the president to sign the amendment before the elections hold on March 28," he said.

A resource person, Oyelowo Oyewo, said that the president’s assent to the Constitution amendment would enable election tribunals to address election petitions before election people were sworn into office.

"The proposal is to address the challenge that we have had in the past, where persons were sworn into office and later declared not to have been properly elected.

"I believe we need to move from a situation where we have persons who will later be declared not to have been elected.

"Remember that after they have been declared not to have been elected, they do not refund the monies and all the perquisites of office that they have taken.

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"These are the experiences that we have had in the past which the provision attempts to address so that election petitions can be resolved expeditiously before persons are certified to occupy political offices," he said.

Oyewo, who teaches law at the University of Lagos, said that the signing of the amendments into law would save tax payers money as well as ensure credibility of the electoral process.

Meanwhile, in a communiqué issued at the end of the workshop, PLAC urged Jonathan to immediately sign the Fourth Alteration to the Constitution into law.

The communiqué stated that the president’s assent before the general elections was necessary in view of some provisions that may impact on the exercise.

The organisation commended the National Assembly for approving independent candidacy and extension of the period for conduct of presidential run-off from seven days to 21 days.

The body also lauded the removal of Nigerian Railway Corporation from Exclusive List to Concurrent List as well as removal of 'Force' from the Nigerian Police Force.

The communiqué commended the provision for the protection of persons with disabilities against discrimination, and the separation of office of the Minister of Justice from the office of Attorney General of the Federation.
culled = NAN

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