N'ASSEMBLY RULES NOT SUPERIOR TO OUR CONSTITUTION
In recent times, the news media has been awash with reports of attempts and moves to make rules that will ensure that the incumbent Senate President retains his seat in the New National Assembly.
There are reports that some rules have been put in place by the outgoing National Assembly with the Senate in focus by virtue of the fact that the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole, has been unable to make it back to the House. The outgoing senators have now amended their standing rules with the intention of preventing senators-elect, especially those that were not members of the outgoing Senate, from seeking election into the office of senate president contrary to the provisions of the 1999 Constitution.
Sections 47 - 51 of the 1999 Constitution makes provision for the establishment of the National Assembly comprising the senate and House of Representatives and procedure for the election of the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives. The sections of the Constitution to be considered shall be S. 48, 50 and 60 of the 1999 Constitution for the purpose of this piece. S. 48 'The Senate shall consist of three Senators from each state and one from the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.'
The above provision of the Constitution unequivocally makes all persons elected as senators of equal raking, none is placed above the other. S. 50 (1). There shall be: (a) A President and a Deputy President of the Senate who shall be elected by the members of that House from among themselves and; A Speaker and a Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives who shall be elected by the members of that House from among themselves,S. 50 (2) (a) The President or Deputy President of the Senate or the Speaker or Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives shall vacate his office. (b)When the House of which he was a member first sits after dissolution of that House; The provisions of the Constitution highlighted above; has spelt out the procedure for election to the office of the Senate President and his Deputy and the Speaker of the House of Representatives and his Deputy.
For purpose of clarity, the procedure is namely: The president and his Deputy can only be elected by the members of that House from among themselves and for the Speaker and his Deputy. The import of this is that the outgoing senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which began in 2007 to end in 2011 is precluded, forbidden and disallowed from making any rules or law aimed at making any senator don the toga of first among equals for the purpose of giving such individual advantage over other senators in the senate of the National Assembly for year 2011 - 2015 as it relates to qualification for election to the office of Senate President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Section 60 of the 1999 Constitution provides:
'Subject to the provisions of this Constitution the Senate or the House of Representatives shall have power to regulate its own procedure, including the procedure for summoning and recess of the House.'
It seems to this writer that the senators of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 2007 - 2011 are under the misguided illusion that they are immune from the provisions of the Constitution in relation to their power to regulate own procedure.
This writer is happy to inform them that no such privilege exists, consequently all the rules/orders that seek to provide a qualification for election into the office of Senate President and his Deputy different from that spelt out in S. 50 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria are void and unconstitutional.
S. 1 (1) The Constitution is supreme and its provision shall have binding force on all authorities and persons throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
S. 1 (3) If any other law is inconsistent with the provisions of this Constitution, the Constitution shall prevail and that other law shall to the extent of the inconsistency be void.
The senate being a creation of the 1999 Constitution is an authority subject to the provisions of the Constitution by the provision of S1. (1) & 1. (3) of the Constitution. The amendment of creating a ranking for the purpose of election to the office of the Senate President and his Deputy is void to the extent of its inconsistency with S. 50 of the 1999 constitution and therefore unconstitutional.
This is a clarion call on the senators, especially the new entrants, to resist the violation of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and political parties to urgently take steps to annual this unconstitutional provision, which is an attempt to hamstring the new National Assembly.
Dokun Makinde, a lawyer writes from Lagos.