Understanding the Law
November 6, 2009
A closer look at the proposed constitution – Part 9

Last week we looked at life tenure for magistrates, but before we get into the next topic we would make a few more comments.

Most government jobs have life tenure and there is no termination during one’s tenure unless one misbehaves, however, an incompetent worker could be circulated within the system. Magistrates on the other hand enter the system by contracts which may be terminated at the end of the contract period for various reasons.{{more}} However, some people believe that if the magistrate does not do the bidding of the government of the day his contract is not renewed and there is sometimes the call of political victimization. One of the supporters of the proposed constitution even made the point that life tenure will remove the label of political victimization. Much as life tenure is touted it might not be the panacea for all ills in the magistracy. What we want are good magistrates who would make good decisions.

The Effective Executive: The Cabinet

The Prime Minister is not only the head of Cabinet but is head of the government as stated under section 110 of the proposed constitution. Cabinet will consist of 12 members plus the Prime Minister and the Attorney General if he is a public servant.

The Prime Minister

According to Section 110 (3) the Prime Minister shall preside over the Cabinet of Ministers, he will provide advice to the president, afford consultation to the president in cases where the Constitution so requires and will perform other function required by the constitution or other laws.

The Prime Minister will assume some of the same roles that he had under the current constitution but there are instances when his role would be curtailed. The Prime Minister would not be able to boast of having the election date in his pocket and the Opposition Leader/ Minority Leader will no longer be caught with his pants down because the constitution gives some guidance on when the elections are to be held. In other words, the Prime minister will not be able to call a snap election and take the opposition by surprise and unprepared. Section 92 requires the Prime Minister to call election within the last three months of the five-year period. The Prime Minister could only advise the President to dissolve parliament after a period of four years and nine months. His only choice is a day within the three months period and there should be no surprise about this.

In an earlier article we looked at the selection process for the President and we noted that in the current system the selection was made by the Prime Minister, who could select the Head of State without consulting anyone. With the proposed constitution the Minority leader will have a part to play as he could choose the head of state jointly with the Prime Minister. If this cannot be done, then the choice is made by the National Assembly. This is in effect a diminution of the powers of the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister will not have the powers to appoint as many ministers as he wants to the constitution fixes it at 12. This essentially reduces his power to have as many ministers as he sees fit.

Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.
E-mail address is: exploringthelaw@yahoo.com