LAWMAKERS at the House of Representatives have voted against a constitutional amendment bill that sought to keep presidents and governors in office for only a single term of six years as against the current system of two four-year terms.
The bill, sponsored by Benue State’s John Dyegh, also proposed that lawmakers at the national assembly and state assemblies are eligible to be reelected, without limit, every six years.
It was rejected at the house’s plenary on Tuesday after it was called for second reading.
TheCable reported that most of the lawmakers moved against the bill and argued in support of the current political system.
“You cannot ask the president to perform a six-year tenure and expect a good performance,” suggested Yusuf Gagdi who is representing the Pankshin/Kanke/Kanam Federal Constituency of Plateau state.
He added: “Our problem is our inability to respect our rules. Our democracy does not need six-year single term for the executive. What it needs is to maintain what is in place for the executive and national assembly.
“What we need is to improve our elections and ensure we have a system that will not fail Nigerians. It is not the time to say we will amend the tenure of the executive and the national assembly members.”
Kano State’s Haruna Bello said passing the bill would give the impression that the lawmakers are in support of extending President Muhammadu Buhari’s stay in office, which has been rumoured.
“There is speculation for tenure extension for the president. Bringing this motion now will make our adversaries think this is an attempt to achieve that,” he said.
“By the time you allow the room for six years, you will shut down the door for appraisal of someone’s term after four years. We should maintain our four years.”
Intended to save money
While speaking in favour of the amendment bill, the lawmaker representing Edo State’s Esan North-East/South-East Federal Constituency, Sergius Ogun, argued that it could save the country money which would otherwise be spent on elections every four years.
“This bill intends to also save the money being spent in elections for the second term. It will save this country and our democracy,” he said.
On what impact it would have on the legislative chambers, the bill’s sponsor, Dyegh, had said in June that it has the potential of reducing interruption and conserving institutional knowledge.
“It is a proposal that when implemented will benefit Nigerians; it is an idea that will deepen and strengthen our democracy. Don’t forget that the legislature is the only arm of government that has suffered so much interruption and legislative knowledge is garnered over time. But with what we have today, not much of the institutional knowledge is there because of the high turnover of legislators,” he told Leadership Newspaper.
“Lawmakers are elected for four years and most of them are not return; and then we have a new set, so a lot of experienced lawmakers are thrown out. If you look at the judiciary, judges spend many years on the bench and this gives them enough experience to deliver quality judgements.
“Again, look at the executive; for example, the civil service. Civil servants are allowed to grow on the job and by the time they get to the position of directors or permanent secretaries, they become authorities in their fields. This is adding value to their job. But when a lawmaker comes in and spends only four years and leaves, Nigeria loses her investment in the person. So, straight six-year tenure can help to improve our legislators.”
It is not the first time such a bill will be mulled. In 2011, two months after his election, former President Goodluck Jonathan said he planned to propose the amendment to the National Assembly.
“The proposed amendment bill is necessary to consolidate our democracy and allow elected executives to concentrate on governance and service delivery for their full term, instead of running governments with re-election as their primary focus,” he said.
A survey conducted by NOIPolls in 2013 showed that 63 per cent of Nigerians believe a term of four years is enough to effectively rule the country, while 12 per cent supported the idea of a life presidency which allows the president to stay in power indefinitely.