Haiti’s provisional electoral council, unilaterally appointed by the president, announced Thursday that a constitutional referendum and presidential, legislative and local elections will be held by the end of 2021 as gang-related insecurity plagues the country.
The referendum will be held on April 25. The first round of presidential and legislative elections will be held on September 19, with a second round scheduled for November 21, when local elections will also be held.
Votes to elect deputies, senators, mayors and locally elected officials should have been held in 2018 but have been delayed.
Since then, the much-criticized President Jovenel Moise has been without any checks on his power, and in the vacuum has governed by decree since January 2020.
In recent months Haiti has seen a resurgence of kidnappings for ransom that indiscriminately target both the wealthy and the majority living below the poverty line.
The abductions, and the stranglehold of armed gangs on a number of areas throughout the capital Port-au-Prince and the provinces, are all threats to secure elections.
In addition, the advisory committee appointed by the head of state to draft a new constitution has not yet finalized its work, which has already been strongly criticized even by those in Moise’s camp.
A referendum would violate the constitution currently in force, which stipulates that “any popular consultation to modify the constitution by referendum is strictly forbidden.”
The political opposition has already announced a series of demonstrations for the end of January to demand that, according to its interpretation of the constitution, Moise’s term of office will end on February 7, 2021, and not on February 7, 2022, as he and his supporters claim.
President Donald Trump faced a growing chorus of calls Thursday to be removed from office under the 25th Amendment for inciting the mob violence that swept through the US Capitol one day earlier.
Adopted in 1967, the 25th Amendment lays out the provisions for a transfer of power from a US president who dies, resigns, is removed from office or for other reasons is unable to fulfill his or her duties.
So far it has only been invoked for presidents undergoing a surgical procedure so that power could be shifted temporarily to the vice president.
In October of last year, there was talk of Trump possibly invoking the amendment when he became ill with Covid-19, but in the end, he took no such action.
Now, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer is leading appeals for Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the amendment in the waning days of Trump’s term, which ends January 20.
Schumer and others in and out of government are speaking out after Wednesday’s shocking scenes in which an angry and armed mob egged on by Trump overran security at the US Capitol, rampaging for hours and disrupting a proceeding in which Congress ultimately certified that Joe Biden beat Trump in the November 3 election and will be America’s next president.
“What happened at the US Capitol yesterday was an insurrection against the United States, incited by the president,” Schumer said in a statement. “This president should not hold office one day longer.”
“If the Vice President and the Cabinet refuse to stand up, Congress should reconvene to impeach the president,” Schumer said.
US lawmakers had begun to address the question of power transfer from the chief executive in the late 1950s amid the ill health of President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
It took on added urgency following the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and the 25th Amendment was passed by Congress in 1965 and ratified by the required three-fourths of the 50 US states two years later.
Section 3 of the 25th Amendment addresses the transfer of presidential powers to the vice president when the chief executive declares that he or she is unable to fulfill the powers and duties of the office.
Section 4 addresses a situation in which the vice president and a majority of the cabinet determine that the president is no longer able to discharge their duties. This section has never been invoked.
Invoked on three occasions
Section 3 has been invoked three times.
The first was in July 1985 when President Ronald Reagan underwent surgery under general anesthesia for removal of a cancerous polyp from his large intestine.
Vice President George H.W. Bush was made acting president for about eight hours while Reagan was in surgery.
President George W. Bush temporarily transferred power to Vice President Dick Cheney in June 2002 and in July 2007 while he underwent routine colonoscopies under anesthesia.
Following Reagan’s serious wounding in a 1981 assassination attempt, a letter invoking Section 3 was drafted but it was never sent.
Under Section 3, the president informs the president pro tempore, or presiding officer, of the Senate — currently Republican Chuck Grassley — and the speaker of the House of Representatives, currently Democrat Nancy Pelosi — in writing that he is unable to discharge the duties of the office and is temporarily transferring power to the vice president.
Under Section 4, the vice president and a majority of the members of the cabinet inform the leaders of the Senate and House that the president is incapable of discharging his duties and the vice president becomes acting president.
“It’s time to evoke the 25th Amendment and end this nightmare,” Republican Representative Adam Kinzinger of Illinois said after Wednesday’s mayhem in Washington.
“The president is unfit. And the president is unwell,” he added.
If a president contests the determination that he or she is unable to fulfill their duties, it is up to Congress to make the decision.
A two-thirds majority in both the House and the Senate would be needed to declare the president unfit to remain in office.
Former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe has claimed that former deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein raised the possibility of invoking Section 4 against Trump after he abruptly fired FBI director James Comey in May 2017.
Senator Ike Ekweremadu is insisting that former President Goodluck Jonathan indeed signed the 2015 Constitution Amendment Bill.
Ekweremadu who was the Chairman of the Committee on Constitution Review at the time stated this when he featured as a guest on Channels Television’s Hard Copy.
He said in the 7th and 8th Assembly the constitution was amended several times.
According to him, in the 8th Assembly, several issues were discussed, taken through due process and amended, adding however that there were controversies at the time of signing them into law.
Senator Ekweremadu argued that if allowed to sail through at the time, those amendments would have taken the country to a higher level.
Ekweremadu who had in April 2015 written to the president providing insights into the amendments, stressed that the National Assembly at the time believed that Jonathan assented to the amendment.
He, however, stressed that the Presidency did not return the original bill sent by the legislature.
“They sent us a photocopy of the bill, so we wanted to see the original because we had it on good authority that it was assented to.
“And then they now sent us a photocopy of the document and when we insisted on seeing the original documents, the Attorney General of the Federation went to the Supreme Court to stop us from making that request.
“We went to the Supreme Court and the Apex Court asked us to settle the matter out-of-court, so we held several meetings in my office where they promised to assent to (the bill) when it was obvious to them that what they sent to us was a photocopy,” Ekweremadu revealed.
The lawmaker sadly noted that on the last day, Jonathan left office without signing the bill.
While stating that he did not ask President Jonathan the reasons for his action, Senator Ekweremadu said that he used a different approach to the amendment issue in the 8th Assembly
According to him, the lawmakers learned their lessons from the scuffle with the Jonathan administration.
He said that rather than lump the amendments into one document, the legislators devised means to separate the issues within the bill and tendered each as a separate item.
As-far-as Ekweremadu is concerned the new method yielded results as the new President decided to sign those issues which he wanted to sign, leaving out those he was not comfortable with.
The lawmaker was of the opinion that unlike the Jonathan era when “the baby was thrown away with the bathwater”, the efforts of the National Assembly were not in vain.
In a bid to fix Nigeria’s numerous problems especially within the political sphere, many scholars, legal experts, and statesmen over the years have stated that the constitution is the obstacle that has hindered the nation’s growth.
There have been several calls for an amendment of the constitution and attempts have been made at different times to see that the problems inherent in the constitution are fixed.
Major moves at amending the constitution were driven by the 7th and 8th National Assembly, however, these attempts met varying degrees of opposition.
Prominent among the moves made is the constitution (fourth alteration) act (2015) which was truncated by a presidential assent controversy.
The Constitution Amendment Saga of 2015
In the twilight of his administration, President Goodluck Jonathan ‘failed’ to assent to the fourth alteration of the constitution.
Many believed that the 2015 move for alteration was the most ambitious and far-reaching effort at giving Nigerians a befitting constitution some decades after the military era.
About 72 clauses were passed by the National Assembly (NASS) in October 2014 and transmitted to the 36 State Houses of Assembly for ratification in line with Section 9 of the 1999 Constitution. However, only 62 clauses were approved by at least 24 States Assemblies.
Though the legislators thought the alterations were promising, however, a veto letter by former President Goodluck Jonathan to former Senate President, David Mark, dated 13th April 2015 addressed dashed the amendments.
The President’s move came on the heels of claims that Jonathan had earlier signed the amendments before he was persuaded to do otherwise.
Disappointed at the President’s alleged change of mind, the National Assembly argued that Jonathan had no powers to rescind assent of a bill he already signed.
The Presidency strongly denied claims that Jonathan had signed the amended bill, however, his failure to return the original bill along with the veto letter, as required by law, practice, stirred rumors that left the lawmakers and the presidency seeking redress even unto the Apex Court.
According to the senior advocate, the present administration has been able to close the tunnel of corruption but a new Constitution is significant to tackle the menace headlong.
He disagreed with the notion that the nation’s laws were encouraging corruption, stressing that Nigeria has a faulty Constitution.
“Restructure Nigeria, change the Constitution. Let us change the Constitution and restructure because governance in Nigeria is taking 80 per cent, that’s what the new budget has told us.
“Why should we be spending 80 per cent of our revenue on government expenses?” Clarke questioned.
“It is not the laws, the laws are made to regulate. The Constitution is the cankerworm that is eating us up in corruption.
“The Constitution we are operating upon is a corrupt Constitution; is a rotten egg,” he added while insisting that it must be “terminated”.
Slash Political Appointments
The SAN noted that former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan made efforts to review the Constitution by organising conferences while in office.
He, however, stated that both leaders never laid a foundation for any legal basis upon which the recommendations of the conferences would be implemented.
Clarke advised President Buhari not to “make the same mistake” but send a bill to the National Assembly, informing them about his intention to set up a parliament to look into restructuring and review the Constitution.
He added that the President should urge the lawmakers to pass a bill which he would assent to that whatever decision the panel arrives at would be sent to Nigerians and if approved, it would be brought back to the National Assembly for proper legislation.
The senior advocate also recommended that President Buhari should cut the cost of governance by reducing political appointments, as well as Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) in the country.
He had explained the reasons for his decision in letters sent to the leadership of both chambers of the National Assembly.
Also during Tuesday’s plenary, the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekewremadu, presented six bills on the amendment of the Constitution.
They include, Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (Fourth Alteration, No. 8 (Amendment) Bill, 2019 (SB. 728), Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (Fourth Alteration, No. 15) (Amendment) Bill, 2019 (SB. 729), and Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (Fourth Alteration, No. 20) (Amendment) Bill, 2019 (SB. 730).
Others are Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (Fourth Alteration, No. 22) (Amendment) Bill, 2019 (SB. 731), Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (Fourth Alteration, No. 24) (Amendment) Bill, 2019 (SB. 732), and Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (Fourth Alteration, No. 28) (Amendment) Bill, 2019 (SB. 733).
All six bills were read for the first time.
Similarly, the Industrial Development (Income Tax Relief) (Amendment) Bill, 2019 by Senator Sabo Mohammed scaled through the first reading.
He said, “I agree with Adeyeye to the point that if we do not get it right in our constitution, then we cannot get it right generally”.
Ananaba argued that there are constitutional requirements that need to be overhauled, adding that there is a need to look at the constitution and “do a lot more work on it”.
The legal practitioner, however, stressed that the constitution is fine but it is not the best that the nation needs in its experience.
Dr. Ananaba said what the nation needs, is to grow the constitution from the people.
He said the constitution should be given “enough time, thorough consideration” and “it will come up to life”.
Speaking on how to approach constitutional conferences, the Senior Advocate said if there be any move in this direction, then “each state, each geopolitical zone should sit and articulate what they think should be part of our constitution”.
He noted that what he is projecting is not an ‘amendment’, clarifying that in speaking of amendments the National Assembly is in place.
Ananaba argued that if the nation is to continue on the trajectory of the Federal system, then the constitution should be less bulky than it is now and every state should have a constitution of its own.
The Conference of Constitutional Jurisdictions of Africa (CCJA) has reacted to the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, calling for strict adherence to the rule of law.
CCJA President and South Africa’s Chief Justice, Thomas Mogoeng, made this call during the 10th annual session of the Executive Bureau in Johannesburg, South Africa.
“We are concerned that there is apparent instability that affects the judiciary of Nigeria. We would always be concerned regardless of whether a jurisdiction is a member or not a member of the CCJA when developments unfold in a manner that seems to suggest that the measure of normalcy needs to be restored in order for the judiciary to be as effective as the original intent for its establishment,” he said
Although Justice Mogoeng said Nigeria is yet to be a registered member, the organisation is however worried by the development.
A presidential aspirant on the platform of the Young Progressive Party (YPP), Professor Kingsley Moghalu, believes due process must be followed in the attempt to unseat the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki.
Moghalu, a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), said this during his appearance on Channels Television’s breakfast show, Sunrise Daily on Wednesday.
“We must follow the constitution. Of course, the constitution that we have currently, we must follow it,” he said.
He added, “Anything outside of it is unconstitutional. We ought to be a nation of laws and not a nation of men.”
The presidential aspirant informed those who intend to impeach the Senate President that while he was neither in support or against the move, they should ensure they do so in line with the constitution.
Ahead of the general elections in 2019, he called on the citizens to look for leaders with fresh ideas that would fix the problems facing the nation.
The former CBN deputy governor also asked Nigerians to shelve the already known parties and look for an alternative to ensure the country progresses.
He said, “Nigerians must fundamentally retire the present political leadership class in Nigeria, if this country is to go forward.
“They must look away from the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and look at a new crop of younger generational leaders who have a vision and experience to be able to fix our basic problems.”
Professor Moghalu’s remarks on the attempt to impeach Dr Saraki came two weeks after the Senate President defected from the APC to the PDP.
Since his defection, the APC leadership had asked Senator Saraki to resign his position as Senate President or risk being impeached.
The ruling party asked Saraki to take a cue from Senator Godswill Akpabio who resigned recently as the Senate Minority Leader after defecting from the PDP to the APC.
Chadian lawmakers vote Monday on a controversial change to the constitution that will bolster President Idriss Deby’s powers and which opposition groups warn will damage democracy in the landlocked African state.
The text, which received the green light from the government earlier this month, must be approved by three-fifths of lawmakers in Chad’s National Assembly.
There was tight security in place around parliament with all the roads leading to the legislature ringed by police.
Thirty-three opposition members in the 170-seat house are boycotting the vote.
Two activists from the Chadian Convention for the Defence of Human Rights (CTDDH) were arrested on Monday, Mahamat Nour Ibedou, the head of the civil society group, told AFP.
“They wanted to stage a sit-in in front of parliament,” he said.
“I’m just returning from the police station where I was told they will be released in the course of the day.”
Tchindebbe Patalle, a spokesman for the National Union for Development and Renewal (UNDR) opposition party said all opposition groups had “wanted to demonstrate outside parliament to protest against the vote but the security forces are posted all around.”
Street protests are rare in Chad, which has had a long history of coups, and has been ruled with an iron fist by Deby, 65, who is serving his fifth term, which runs until 2021.
Deby has insisted the changes are necessary.
The changes will increase presidential terms to six years with a limit of two terms. The current mandate is five years with no limits on re-election.
The vote comes amid growing political tensions in Chad, ranked by Transparency International as one of the world’s most corrupt nations, as opposition groups boycotted a forum last month discussing the proposed changes.
A Western ally in combating jihadism in the volatile Sahel region, cash-strapped and poverty-stricken Chad has endured two years of severe recession worsened by a slump in oil prices.
The changes do not include provisions for the creation of a post of vice president, contrary to what was proposed at a national forum on the reforms in March.
The Catholic Church has warned that a new constitution “seriously risks distorting the rules of the democratic game.”
Opposition groups have called for the text to be put to a referendum.
Deby, who has been named in a corruption probe in the United States, has said that elections on hold since 2015 will take place this year.
The former interim National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Adebisi Akande, says a total change of the country’s constitution is the solution to the problems facing the country.
Akande stated this on Tuesday in his home town, Ila-Orangun in Osun State as he marked his 79th birthday.
He told journalists that no solution proffered to the country’s problems would work under the current system.
“In Nigeria’s Presidential System of government, lawmakers are elected on party platforms, but as soon as they get to the parliament, the party on which platform they get the opportunity, becomes less important,” he said.
“All that is important at that level is the collective interest of the members of that parliament. Party’s programmes and manifestos are no longer important. That has been the major problem facing the country. Let’s dump this corrupt presidential system and go for the more transparent Parliamentary System.”
Akande experienced the dangers of the current system of government during his time as a governor.
He said, “As a governor in 1999, my administration worked with a parliament that had 26 members all voted in on the platform of my party. Despite this, the assembly decided not to support the programmes of the party that gave them an opportunity.
“They served me impeachment notice. On the day the motion was moved, 24 members all from my party voted in support of my removal, one voted against it and the Speaker did not vote.
“I was given 21 days. On the day they sat again on the matter, 13 said no to my impeachment and 12 said I should be removed. The Speaker did not vote. Same party that produced the lawmakers also produced me as governor. I believe, even if an angel is sent to administer this kind of unworkable system, he will fail.”
While advocating a multi-party parliamentary democracy for Nigeria, the elder statesman said that the current system of government allows for manipulation by those in the positions of authorities.
He believes the President Muhammadu Buhari has faced setbacks as a result of the system.
According to Akande, President Muhammad Buhari is working under a very difficult situation with the unworkable and ineffective system.
To address the security challenges in the country, he called for a decentralised police.
Senate President, Bukola Saraki, has advised all agitators in the country to pursue their interest through constitutional means.
The Federal lawmakers which have been away for their annual recess for seven-week resumed plenary session on Tuesday.
After a three-hour closed-door meeting during which they discussed some national issues, Saraki said part of the resolutions reached by the Senate is that the Unity of Nigeria not negotiable and all forms of agitation should be channeled through constitutional means.
“The unity of Nigeria is non-negotiable. We are all fully committed to the territorial integrity of our country. The Senate will seek all possible avenues to make sure that peace is restored in all parts of Nigeria.
“Finally the Senate hereby advise that all groups seeking to pursue any agitation should do so through constitutional means.”
Saraki said the unity of Nigeria is the responsibility of all Nigerians and members of the country must jointly condemn in strongest possible terms all forms of violence.
“Distinguished colleagues, a house divided against itself will not stand. More than ever before, we must stand for the unity in the visibility of our country. We must condemn in strongest possible terms all forms of violence as a form of engagement.
“The constitution and the law has laid down tools and procedures for us to pursue our interest as all democratic nations do.”
During the plenary that followed, the Senate also considered a motion on the inadequate releases of funds for the capital component of the 2017 appropriation act.
A pan-Edo and Delta states socio-political pressure group known as Mid-West Movement has recommended the 1963 Constitution as the suitable template for restructuring Nigeria.
The group made the recommendation on Wed nesday during its maiden press conference since its emergence in Benin City, the Edo state capital.
The interim management committee chairman of the group, Dr. Don Pedro Obaseki, issued an eight-point demand to the Federal Government concerning the various calls for the restructuring of the country.
“The Nigerian Federation as currently structured must be deconstructed to be reconstructed through a re-federalisation process, using the 1963 Constitution as the acceptable template”.
According to Dr. Obaseki, although the people of Edo and Delta states will not support any move that can threaten the sovereignty of Nigeria, there is, however, a need for a reconstruction of the Nigerian federation.
He also pointed out some other demands by the group which included that the Federal Government should take all ‘just and equitable’ measures to reign in divisive elements while providing avenues for the peaceful coexistence of the entire Nigerian people wherever they choose to live.
The group, however, warned the government against taking its advice for granted, threatening that the people of the region would stand as a territory on their own.
They further called on the government to live up to its constitutional role of ensuring the adequate security of lives and property of the people of Edo and Delta states from the agitators of secession.
“If the Federation of Nigeria fails to hold under the weight of government’s inability to play its constitutional role and because of the reckless actions of ethnic jingoists, the mid-west territorial area – comprising of its 12 tribes – shall employ, embrace and adopt every available international instruments, conventions and protocols to take its destiny into its own hands as a stand-alone territory to be called ‘Bendel Republic’, or any other such name or appellation our people so choose to adopt,” Obaseki stated.