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Bill On State Of Nation Address Scales Second Reading In Senate

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ABUJA, January 23, (THEWILL) - The Senate Tuesday pushed the state of the nation address bill beyond the crucial second reading. The bill, which seeks to mandate the President to address the nation periodically on his performance while in office, was sponsored by the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu.

The Bill was one of the numerous Bills that could not receive Presidential assent in the 6th Senate.

In his lead debate, Ekweremadu said the Bill when passed would promote accountability, open and participatory governance.

“It is in that spirit that this Bill is being reintroduced in pursuit of what has become a democratic norm, especially the principles of accountability and transparency which are the heartbeats of democracy.

“One of the initial misconceptions about this Bill is the wrong assumption in some quarters that it is the same as the annual budget presentation, hence that the budget presentation should suffice. I recall that I took time to explain this matter to our late President, Umar Musa Yar’Adua who became quite enthusiastic about seeing the Bill come to fruition. 

“For the avoidance of doubts, whereas the budget presentation ritual is usually accompanied by a speech where Mr. President throws light on the facts behind the figures, the policy thrusts of government and fiscal policies for driving such plans to realise government objectives, such annual speeches are at best a favour by Mr. President to the National Assembly and Nigerians. There is absolutely nothing in the 1999 Constitution that compels Mr. President to do so. 

҉۬Section 81 (1) of the 1999 Constitution simply provides that the President shall cause to be prepared and lay before each House of the National Assembly at any time in each financial year, estimates of the revenues and expenditure of the federation for the next financial year.

“Therefore, a President is at liberty to carry out the task by himself or delegate someone else to present the budget. This was exactly the case in November 2008 when the Presidential Adviser on National Assembly Matters, Senator Abba Aji laid the budget on behalf of late President Musa Yar’Adua.

“Without prejudice to the budget presentation, this Bill seeks to provide for a formal and mandatory platform where the President will lay the account of his or her stewardship, assessment of the polity and the policy thrusts of his or her administration from the economy to politics, foreign policy, security and other aspects of our national life on the table for public scrutiny.

“Democracy is not just about elections, irrespective of how free and fair. Beyond election is governance and this Bill seeks to uphold the right of the people to hold their President accountable, take stock of the nation, and make governance more open and participatory,” the Deputy Senate President stated.