ABUJA – Dr Abubakar Siddique, a delegate representing Katsina State, on Sunday said that organising a referendum on the outcome of the ongoing national conference would cost not less than N22 billion.
Siddique told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja that the amount would have to be appropriated for by the National Assembly (NASS).
According to him, organising a referendum will also require an amendment to the 1999 Constitution as it did not foresee a referendum for such national discourse.
Siddique, who was also a member of the Presidential Advisory Committee on National Dialogue, said the committee sought the advice of experts on the issue of referendum.
“We (committee) called lawyers, called political scientists to advise us on it, whether to recommend referendum or not; Okunrounmu was there also.
“We were told by our lawyers that to organise a referendum, which is binding in Nigeria today, you have to amend the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“Because the constitution foresees of only two areas for referendum – boundary adjustment and local government creation.
“Beyond that, any other referendum could just be advisory, so it is a waste of money. It will cost N22 billion according to Jega (INEC Chairman) to organise that kind of referendum.”
Siddique, a lecturer at the Department of Political Science, Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria, explained that the President would have to go to NASS with a bill for appropriation before he could spend that kind of money.
He expressed the view that looking at the closeness of the 2015 general elections, organising a referendum after the conference would eat into the electoral calendar.
The don said that there were existing state institutions that could confer legitimacy on the outcome of the conference.
“The National Assembly is still there, they’ve also initiated the process of amending the constitution.
“What stops this conference at the end of it from going to the National Assembly to say that look, we feel that the Nigerian Constitution should include this or should be amended to take on board all that we’ve discussed?
“They would be able to harmonise that which they’ve arrived at on the basis of the discussions which they’ve had with Nigerians together with the discussions we would have here and the outcomes and then set in motion the process of amending the Nigerian constitution.”
Siddique said that the recommendations of the conference could be implemented without a referendum if there was political will and sense of purpose.
“What we wrote in our report is that at the end of this deliberation, this conference should advise the President, how best to integrate the outcomes into the Nigerian constitution.
“And this lies that this (1999 constitution) is the only constitution which states that `we the people’ without the people writing it is a bloody lie.
“The Nigerian people have never written any constitution, their elites sat down and wrote the constitution.
“So the first constitution was a lie when it said `we the people’, the second was a lie when it said `we the people’, the third was also a lie when it said `we the people’. (NAN)