25th November, 2010
By EROMOSELE EBHOMELE
A Lagos lawyer, Bamidele Aturu, has taken up members of the National Assembly for going ahead with the second alteration to the amendment of the constitution despite the fact that the case was still in court.
Aturu, who made his opinion known at a public hearing organised by the Lagos State House of Assembly yesterday, called the exercise a ‘cocktail of illegalities’.
He said: â€œEarly this year when we were invited by the Lagos State House of Assembly to participate in a Public Hearing to discuss the purported First Amendment to the Constitution, I unreservedly castigated the National Assembly for what I was convinced was the unconstitutional procedure adopted.
â€œMy argument was two-pronged: first, that any amendment to the Constitution by a community reading of sections 9, 58 and 318 of the Constitution requires Presidential assent to become law and second, that the procedure outlined in section 9(2) of the Constitution was serially violated by the National Assembly.
â€œI argued that the National Assembly could not pass the Bill before sending same to the 36 states Houses of Assembly as it illegally, unconscionably and unwarrantedly did.â€
While blaming the Lagos State lawmakers for lending their support to the first amendment to the constitution which has now been declared null and void by a court, he said he would continue to challenge the move to amend the constitution without due process.
He said his brief of argument was ready and that he intended to ask the Court of Appeal also to refer the matter to the Supreme Court in the next few days ‘since the Attorney General is unwilling to take the matter to the Supreme Court for whatever reason’.
â€œThe National Assembly has made up its mind that it would treat the existing Constitution as a mere piece of paper that can be thrashed at its whims and caprices.
â€œIt is amazing that members of the ruling class whose interest lies in the stability of the present constitutional order watch or acquiesce in the desecration of its basic document.
â€œFrom the look of things, the politicians in the National Assembly think that they can wake up and pass any kind of legislation and amend the Constitution at any time and any how.
â€œIf we do not check them they may even amend with mere pencil and without recourse to the states House of Assembly.
â€œI have no doubt that we are dealing with a serious case of institutional deafness admixed with inscrutable arrogance on the part of members of the National Assembly,” he said.
â€œThe National Assembly people are merely compounding their routine acts of illegality but the state legislatures have a choice to go down with the National Assembly or not.â€
In the same vein, the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Lagos branch, has asked that the amendment be discontinued pending the outcome of the Court of Appeal on it.
The association said any action by the lawmakers would amount to contempt.
Meanwhile, the Lagos State House of Assembly has backed out of the second amendment to the constitution pending the resolution of the case.
Passing a resolution yesterday evening, the lawmakers called on all the arms of government in the country to avoid doing anything that would truncate the countryâ€™s democracy.