Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] on Tuesday announced his intentions to propose a constitutional amendment [press release] that would provide a single, extended tenure for the president of Nigeria and its 36 governors. The president and governors are currently limited to serving two four-year terms and are permitted to run for re-election between terms. Jonathan cited the high cost of organizing party primaries and general elections and the instability that regularly follows elections as reasons for proposing the amendment. Jonathan has not, however, provided any details about the length of the proposed extended term. A spokesperson for the president describes the proposed amendment as an effort to facilitate democracy:
President Jonathan's commitment to a single term for the President and Governors is borne out of a patriotic zeal, after a painstaking study and belief that the constitutionally guaranteed two terms for Presidents and Governors is not helping the focus of Governance and institutionalization of democracy at this stage of our development. A longer term for lawmakers would also help to stabilise the polity.The proposed amendment will be sent to the National Assembly (NASS) [official website] for discussion and voting. If approved, the bill would not take effect until 2015, after Jonathan's presidential term has ended.
Nigerian elections have not proceeded without significant problems. In March, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] and the Nigerian Bar Association [association website] called for Nigeria's National Assembly to pass legislation creating a special electoral offenses commission [statement; JURIST report]. The commission would be tasked with investigating and prosecuting election-related abuses, including violence. In November, a judge for Nigeria's Federal High Court [official website] in Lagos ruled [JURIST report] that an amendment to the 1999 Nigerian Constitution [text] made by NASS cannot become operational law without the assent of the president. The amendment, known as the Constitution (First Amendment) Act 2010 [text, PDF] was passed in June 2010. It repeals the Independent National Electoral Commission Act 2006 in order to re-instate the Nigerian Independent National Election Commission (INEC) [official website]. Also in June 2010, the legislature passed [JURIST report] revisions to the constitution to clarify the exercise of executive authority in absence of the president. The constitutional revisions changed federal election law by removing a provision of the constitution that prohibited people who had been charged with fraud from standing for election and required candidates for federal office to have a degree beyond secondary education. Previous elections in Nigeria have been marred by violence and fraud [JURIST reports].