By Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Abuja
Contrary to the content of the letter that President Goodluck Jonathan refused to sign the Constitution Amendment Bill because of alleged usurpation of executive powers by the National Assembly in the bill, among other reasons, there is an allegation that Jonathan signed the original amendment bill.
Sources close to the Senate told Sunday Vanguard that because the original Constitution Amendment Bill sent to the president for his assent was allegedly signed before the change of mind, the Senate is demanding that the President returns the original copy of the bill forwarded to it.
The Senate had, on Thursday, mandated its leadership to write a letter to Jonathan, demanding an urgent return of the original copy of the 1999 Constitution Amendment Bill in his possession.
The President, in his letter to the Senate, read on Wednesday by Senate President David Mark, hinged his not assenting to the bill on the non-compliance with some sections of the current Constitution by the National Assembly.
The Senate, after a motion moved by the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, that the president failed to accompany his letter vetoing the bill with the original copy of the bill sent to him, mandated Mark to immediately write to Jonathan to ask for the return of the original copy of the amended bill to the National Assembly.
Ekweremadu,who is also the Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution,informed the Senate that the two-day retreat the committee had convened to discuss the president’s letter could not make much progress due to the absence of the original copy of the bill.
He said the committee temporarily suspended the retreat until it was in possession of the original copy of the amended bill,adding that the work of the committee would be guided by the contents of the bill.
He also said that the committee noticed that in the second to the last paragraph of that letter, the President said he was returning the bill with the letter, but, “unfortunately, the bill was not returned with the letter and we could not proceed because we would like to see the returned bill.”
The Senate President said, “There is a bit of urgency in this; so, in writing, we should indicate that we should have it at the earliest possible time. We cannot put a time frame like within two days or three days, that would not be correct.”
However, sources in the Senate claimed that the President signed the original bill sent to him, but perhaps may have pressurised by some forces to withdraw the signature, hence he resorted to writing the letter raising constitutional breaches.
The sources claimed that Jonathan’s action amounted to double standard and would be deemed as fraud, saying his refusal to send back the original copy of the bill could lead to the commencement of his impeachment.