Unless the 1999 constitution is further amended to provide for a section that will sanction the undertaking of a referendum to ratify the outcome of the on-going constitutional conference, such an endeavor may never see the light of day.
Deputy Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Publicity, Rep Victor Ogene (APGA, Anambra) stated this yesterday at a press briefing.
He also assured that the 2014 budget will start getting further consideration by the beginning of next month.
“Currently, there is no portion of the constitution in which there is any mention of referendum, unless the 1999 constitution is further amended to provide for a section that will sanction the undertaking of a referendum”.
He said the only document that the legislators are duty-bound to invoke and act upon is the constitution. “The only document we swore to uphold is the constitution,” citing relevant sections of the document which clearly outlines the process of amending the constitution.
“For any section to be altered you need a 2/3rd of both chambers of the National Assembly and 2/3rd of the state Assemblies,” he explained, emphasizing that unless this is done the issue of referendum will not sail through, as there is “nothing on referendum before the House.
On the delay apparently bogging down the passage of 2014 budget, Ogene said: “often times a minister defending his/her ministry’s budget estimates may write to seek re-scheduling of an appearance thereby taking the committees back by days.”
He, however, assured that work is being concluded on the fiscal document and it is going to be concluded by the first week of April.
Responding to insinuation that the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, also uses private jet for his trips and should come under scrutiny for his use of such privilege just as the minster of petroleum, Mrs Diezani Allison-Madueke is being probed, Ogene asked: “Is there any allegations that any money is missing in the coffers of the NASS? If not, there is no need to worry,” he answered himself.
He further noted that the House won’t stop conducting probes as section 88 of the constitution “gives powers to the legislature to conduct probe to ensure accountability,” adding that the “House is to carry out investigation wherever public funds are involved.”
He assuaged fears that such probes are perceived as verdicts of guilty, pointing out that: “often when allegations are made, they don’t pre-suppose that one is guilty.”
He also explained that the fact that the House has been frequently inviting Mrs Allison-Madueke and the Nigeria National petroleum Corporation (NNPC) does not mean that it has jettisoned work on the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB).
“The NNPC deals with products that deals not only with the economy but also everyday aspect of running of the country. So, it is to be expected that whatever goes on there would attract the attention of the National Assembly,” he said.
He affirmed that “the PIB is an important document. Once passed, it would go through the process. Every single law is as important as the other. That is not to say the PIB is in the cooler. It is still undergoing the process.”
He stressed that the bill is not just in the House but with multiple stakeholders who are interested in it. “At the end of the day, we shall get an important document that we shall all be proud of.”.