Law News
Constitution amendment: Falana warns N’Assembly against overriding Jonathan’s veto

Human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), on Wednesday warned the National Assembly against passing the 4th Alteration of the Constitution without addressing some of the reasons given by President Goodluck Jonathan for refusing to assent to it.

Falana said in a statement that if the National Assembly failed to remove the “objectionable provisions” in the proposed amendment before venturing to override the President’s assent, the whole exercise could amount to exercise in futility as it would likely be challenged in court.

But the lawyer faulted President Jonathan’s grounds for assenting to the Amendment Bill, anchored on the National Assembly’s failure to pass it by the votes of four-fifths of the National Assembly and approved by the resolution of the Houses of Assembly of not less than two-thirds of all the states of the federation.

Falana reminded Jonathan that the last alterations of the constitution assented to by him were passed by the two-thirds majority of the federal and state legislators and signed into law by him in 2010 and 2011.

‎But he also recalled that in 2010, an attempt by the National Assembly to empower itself to amend the constitution without the President’s assent was successfully challenged by a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. Olisa Agbakoba.

He insisted that the National Assembly acted illegally in amending sections 8, 9 of the Constitution without a resolution backed by four-fifths majority of the members in that regard.

He said, “In 2010, the National Assembly had purportedly empowered itself to amend the Constitution without the assent of the President of the Republic.

“The action was challenged in the Federal High Court by Olisa Agbakoba SAN, a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association. The court declared the amendment illegal and unconstitutional and proceeded to set it aside in toto.

“In view of the fundamental errors which have characterized the 4th Alteration to the Constitution, the National Assembly members should go back to the drawing table.

“They should have no difficulty in jettisoning the alteration of section 9 of the Constitution as it is the height of legislative dictatorship to amend the Constitution of a country without the assent of the President and the endorsement of the people via a referendum.

“While the concern of the legislators for the rights of Nigerians to basic education and health is appreciated the inclusion of  both rights in chapter four of the Constitution is unnecessary as both rights have been statutorily recognised.

“However, if the members of the National Assembly refuse to remove the objectionable provisions before overriding the veto of the President they would have engaged in a futile exercise which is likely to be challenged in a law court.‎”

While he lauded some of the provisions proposed by‎ the legislators in the amendment bill, he faulted among other provisions,  life pension for former leaders of the National Assembly.

He said, “Apart from the serious observations raised by the President some of the provisions of the Amendment completely negate national interests.

“Whereas majority of Nigerians have consistently demanded for the removal of immunity clause from the Constitution the amendment seeks to confer immunity on legislators in addition to the heads of the executive arm of government.

“Another objectionable proposition in the 4th amendment is the provision of pension for life for former leaders of the National Assembly.

“Indeed, one of the former speakers of the House of Representatives who will be a beneficiary of the largesse spent a few months in office and resigned for fear of impeachment.

“Another retired speaker who served for less than four years is barely 40 years old. The National Assembly should justify why Nigerians should pay pension for life to such legislators for rendering part time service in the parliament.”

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