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The National Assembly may have set booby traps for future judicial intervention in governorship election disputes with the recent amendment of the Electoral Act that subsequent election disputes will terminate at the Supreme Court.

This danger signal was sounded by Chief Robert Clarke (SAN), in an interview with Daily Sun in Lagos. According to him, the implication of the amendment is that most of the governors whose elections are being disputed might have completed their tenure before the final decision of the apex court in view of congestion at the court:

'I am not happy that 36 gubernatorial election petitions should terminate at the Supreme Court without restriction being placed on it. I am aware as of today, there are 204,000 cases before the Supreme Court. They have only three panels to consider those cases. There are not many justices. As at today, 204,000 normal criminal and civil cases are yet to be determined.'

He spoke further on the need to amend the electoral law to make INEC accountable, unwholesome practices of the National Assembly and other issues. Excerpts:

Court pronouncement on presidential assent to Constitution amendment

Amending the Constitution occupied special provision in the constitution. Many people believe that a bill of the National Assembly when passed automatically goes to Mr. President for assent. So, everybody is looking at a bill amending the Constitution as if it is a normal bill envisaged in the constitution. The bill to which a president must assent is a bill that emanates either from Mr. President himself to the National Assembly or the National Assembly itself originating it and sending it to Mr. President.

That is the bill, the Constitution says, Mr. President must assent to. But when you look at the section nine of the Constitution, which now creates an amendment to the Constitution, you will find that by the special provision of that section nine, it is neither a bill that is being sent by Mr. President, nor a bill solely raised by the National Assembly. It is a bill for all Nigerians, which means it is a bill that affects the president, and all the 36 states.

If you look at section 9(2),it says proposal for the amendment of the Constitution. Note, it says the proposal and not the bill itself. The proposal that will form the bill must first be approved by two-thirds majority of the National Assembly. That is the National Assembly must first consider the proposals, approve them by majority and then, send them to the 36 states that also must pass the proposal by two-thirds majority.

By the time the state Assemblies must have approved the proposal by two-thirds majority, they are then returned to the National Assembly to be made into an Act.Therefore, it is not an Act of the National Assembly per se that requires it to go to Mr. President it has become the Act of the entire country. Now, you ask yourself, can Mr. President give assent to a bill passed by Ogun State House of Assembly? Can Mr. President give assent to a bill passed by Sokoto State House of Assembly? Can Mr. President give assent to a bill pass by Enugu House of Assembly? No. Only the governors can give assent to a bill passed by the state legislative houses.

Therefore, Mr. President, because of the input in section nine cannot give an assent. That position also has inbuilt provision that the passage of that Act must be by two-thirds majority. This is very significant because even in an ordinary bill, when it goes to Mr. President having been passed the National Assembly and he refuses to assent it, it comes back to the National Assembly, and once they re-pass that bill with two-thirds majority, it automatically becomes law. It no longer requires the assent of Mr. President. Therefore, the constitution, in section nine, which deals with amendment of the Constitution, has an inbuilt provision that two-thirds must pass the amendment, so that whether Mr. President likes it or not. It does not require his assent there is inbuilt two-thirds which the law says removed his veto.

It is not a bill in the ordinary sense, in which Mr. President is required to give an assent. It is a special type of bill, which requires the proposal to come from the National Assembly. The proposal must be approved by the National Assembly by two-thirds majority before the proposal is transferred to the state houses of Assembly, which also must pass it by two-thirds majority when these proposals are now agreed upon, they are then returned to the National Assembly, which has the power to pass it into an Act of parliament. That is why you will observe that the latest proposal passed by the National Assembly was sent to the Speakers of the 36 state Houses of Assembly.

Agbakoba's suit
I will tell you why the suit filed by my good friend, Olisa Agbakoba (SAN) is premature. What about if the proposals are not adopted by the two-thirds majority of the 36 state houses? That would be the end of the process. Then, there would be no bill to be enacted into the Act of National Assembly. So what did he go to court for? What was on hand at that stage he went to court were mere proposals which were to be considered, not only for National Assembly, not for the purposes of passing them into law immediately, but to enable them start a process that would go round the 36 states.

Conferment of automatic delegates and NEC membership

This is corruption in the extreme. Nigeria is so corrupt that we should all be ashamed. In international politics, a political party is like a club. It is like Island Club, Ikeja Country Club etc. They have their own rules. Why should the rules of common clubs be passed into Constitution amendment? It is stupidity with due respect, of the highest order. Political parties are known to be self-governing in every aspect.

If the club says okay we don't want you again as our chairman and now you, have made it part of the constitution that you must remain our chairman as long as you're a lawmaker, how are we going to remove you? It does not make any sense at all. It is not in every situation that we find ourselves that we must amend the Constitution. The Constitution is not an instrument that you wake up everyday and toy with. America, with almost 200 years of Constitution has only amended it on a few occasions.