Nigerian legislators have begun a weeklong meeting in Port Harcourt to discuss changes to the Constitution.
Among the topics being discussed are proposals to extend the term limit of President Olusegun Obasanjo. He is currently serving his second and final four-year term under the current constitution.
One proposal suggests a provision to allow a president to serve three terms. Another would allow the president to run for two terms, but as part of a new constitution. That would re-set the clock for the president and allow him to run two more times.
Auwal Musa Rafsanjani is the executive director of the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre in Abuja. He told VOA reporter William Eagle that his group favors a constitutional review – just not this one, which he says “lacks [public] participation, legitimacy [and is a] self-imposed arrangement to extend the tenure of the presidency of President Obasanjo.” Rafsanjani says rather than being a grass-roots effort for reform, the current meeting, in his view, is a vehicle of the ruling party to extend their candidate’s term in office.
Rafsanjani says the president has failed to deliver on promises of democratization and good governance, and does not need another term: “We do not believe one person should hold the country to ransom.”
He agrees that the Constitution does need to be amended to clear up issues regarding religious rights, and the amount of money Nigeria’s oil-producing states deserve to get back from the federal government: “The Niger Delta and the oil-producing areas have suffered a lot of environmental degradation, and neglect from various military and civilian régimes in Nigeria. [But bringing up this issue in this conference] is absolutely diversionary and we do not support any process that would hide behind the extension of tenure to legitimize illegitimate things.”