Law News
Again, N’Assembly seeks President’s assent to constitution amendment bill

IN a bid to strengthen democracy and good governance in the polity, the National Assembly would soon resubmit portions of the fourth constitution amendment Bill to President Muhammadu Buhari for assent.

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, made this known yesterday when he received report of the 2015 elections European Union Observer Mission in Nigeria from the Chief Observer, Mr. Santiago Fisas, in his office.

Buhari’s predecessor, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan had withheld assent to the fourth constitution amendment bill on the basis that key provisions in the amendments did not meet the requirements of Section 9(3) of the 1999 Constitution.

Jonathan had in a correspondence to both chambers of the immediate past Seventh National Assembly argued that he was particularly bothered by some aspects of the amendment, which sought to reduce some of the executive powers exercised by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The former president itemised 12 key areas of concern in the proposed amendments which the executive was not comfortable with.

They include the non-compliance with the threshold specified in Section 9 (3) of the 1999 Constitution on amendments; the clause that alteration to the constitution cannot be valid with mere voice votes unless supported by the votes of not less than four-fifths majority of all members of National Assembly and two-thirds of all the 36 State Houses of Assembly, the right to free basic education and primary and maternal care services imposed on private institutions; and flagrant violation of the doctrine of separation of powers.

Others identified by the executive were the whittling down of the executive powers vested in the President by virtue of Section 5(1) of the 1999 Constitution and the 30 days allowed for presidential assent to bills.

But Speaker Dogara said there would be no need to go back and start a new legislative work on the fourth alteration of the constitution, adding it would still be re-transmitted to Buhari for assent.

Dogara maintained that the bill was still very much alive in the National Assembly as both chambers have provided savings for such legislation after amending their standing rules and that they will not commence afresh.

Said he: “I wish to inform you that some of the recommendations by the mission such as independent candidature has received the support of the National Assembly.”

Dogara, who briefed the EU delegation on the salient issues addressed in the amendment exercise, disclosed that the National Assembly made provisions for independent candidates in the bill which was also supported by overwhelming vote of two-thirds majority of the State Houses of Assembly in Nigeria.

He, however, expressed regrets that such provision did not see the light of the day due to the non-signing of the bill by the former president.

He assured that the National Assembly would leave no stone unturned in revisiting that amendment since it will surely increases the democratic space and more citizen participation in the electoral process adding: “Nigeria is committed to the growing of a robust democracy that not only meets domestic aspirations but indeed that which stands the test of international best practice in a world that has been reduced into a global village.”

He thereby commended the EU for supporting the growth of democracy in Nigeria especially through the committed participation of its Observation Mission in Nigeria’s 2015 General Elections.

Fisas, who was accompanied by the EU ambassador to Nigeria, said the report contains 30 recommendations aimed at helping Nigeria to make amends in subsequent elections.

Saying the EU was not trying to impose anything on Nigeria but that the recommendations are in line with both Nigerian and international law, he stated that among the recommendations is that the process of appointing the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should be independent.

He also said the recommendations called for reviewing of voting procedure which separates time of voting and that of accreditation adding that between one to two million voters were disenfranchised in the 2015 elections due to the fact that they could not wait to vote after accreditation.

Click here to read from source.