The National Assembly and President Muhammadu Buhari may soon be on a collision course over the refusal of the later to sign into law the 19 bills sent to him for assent by the National Assembly. He signed into law only 16 of the bills.
The 16 bills were among the 35 that the Ninth National Assembly forwarded to him in January, after a round of filibustering in parliament, lethargy in completing the process, and the 36 State Houses of Assembly’s quid pro quo demands, goaded by the governors, before giving their approbation, as required by the constitution.
Many have hailed the 16 amendments for taking a notch higher the quest for restructuring. But the National Assembly is not happy as
Buhari has failed to sign into law, Constitution amendment bills on power to summon president and governors.
Last week, Senate President, Ahmad Lawan frowned at the withholding of presidential assent on the 19 Constitution alteration bills, saying the National Assembly will continue to pursue the matter before the expiration of their tenure. NASS can override the president’s with a two-thirds majority vote.
The first of such 19 bills not signed into law by Buhari was the fifth alteration bill Number 24, which is seeking for an Act to change the Second Schedule to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 to Empower the National Assembly and State Houses of Assembly to summon the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Governors of States to answer questions on issues on which the National and State Houses of Assembly have the Powers to make.
Professor Moritiwon believes that “if the Fifth Alteration Bill number 24 is signed into law, the provision will be abused by the National and State Assemblies, which may resort to arbitrary summons of the president and governors, and this will distract them from doing their jobs.”
Also in contention and which the president has refused assent is the alteration bill Number 7 which is seeking for an Act to alter the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 to compel persons to obey or comply with Legislative Summons.
Some other bills in the 19 rejected by the president include the fifth alteration bill No. 29 seeking for an Act to alter the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 to provide for a State of the Nation and State of the State Address by the President and Governor.
Fifth alteration bill No. 22, which aims for an Act to alter the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 to specify the period within which the President or the Governor of State shall present the Appropriation Bill before the National Assembly or House of Assembly
Also dis-countenanced by the president was the Fifth alteration bill No. 30 which is aiming for an Act to alter the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 to Include former Heads of the National Assembly in the Council of State.
Fifth alteration bill No. 14 which seeks for an Act to alter the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 to move Fingerprints, Identification and Criminal Records from the Exclusive Legislative List to the Concurrent Legislative List.
Again, fifth alteration bill No. 18 which is seeking for an Act to alter the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 to Empower the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission to Enforce Compliance with Remittance of Accruals into and Disbursement of Revenue from the Federation Account and Streamline the Procedure for Reviewing the Revenue Allocation Formula.
Others include Fifth alteration bill No. 66 which is seeking for an Act to alter the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 to Reflect the Establishment and Core Functions of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, among others.
Lawan said the 19 rejected bills will be represented, adding that the National Assembly will not rest until they ram the 19 bills into the throat of the president for assent.
Though the 19 bills rejected by the president may have caused a friction between the president and the two Chambers of the National Assembly, many Nigerians still believe that the 16 bills signed into law will go a long way in redressing the imbalance in the federal arrangements, which has sparked calls over the years for restructuring.
The current amendments are the fifth in a series of piecemeal efforts at curing the varied ills of this supreme body of national legislation since the Fourth Republic began over two decades ago.
Calls for the complete jettisoning of the 1999 Constitution have been on since the early 2000, and the current efforts are widely seen as ones that represent the will of the people.
“These amendments, though short on public expectation, however, represent a strong message on federalism: that Nigeria is a federation and should be governed accordingly. We are taking a gradual step by step in the direction of restructuring”, says professor Adeagbo Moritiwon, a political scientist, in a chat with Business Hallmark.
Of the 16 assented to by the president, nine of the bills dealt with substantial issues, while the seven others only corrected typographical errors in the names of some Local Government Areas. Bill No. 6 sought to grant financial autonomy to the State Houses of Assembly and the judiciary.
Over the years, there have been calls for financial autonomy to state Houses of Assembly and the judiciary because of the abuse of power by the state chief executives who have emasculated the other two arms of government, with their denial of financial independence.
Prof. Abdullahi Sarajo, another political scientist, says lack of financial autonomy for the judiciary and legislatures at the state level has “distorted our federalism, it has made the Houses of Assembly a mere rubber stamps of the imperial governors, who conduct themselves as emperors. We can now heave a sigh of relief that from the next dispensation, there will be proper checks and balances, since financially the judiciary and legislatures at the states are no longer tied to the apron strings of the governors.”
“One had expected that the nation could have attained 100% restoration to true federalism between Obasanjo and Jonathan since the current constitutional arrangement disadvantaged the south more.
“But the two presidents from southern Nigeria divide frittered away their combined 14 years in power and couldn’t even move a single devolution item from the Exclusive List to the Concurrent List. And it took a Buhari, who the odds never favoured to sign the first significant devolution of powers into law thus succeeding where others before him woefully failed and, by so doing, wrote his name in gold.