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Senate okays 'State of the Nation Address' law

By The Citizen
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The Senate Wednesday passed a law, which would compel any sitting President to deliver a 'State of the Nation' address to Nigerians through the National Assembly, as it has begun the process to amend the constitution to provide for the assignment of portfolios to ministerial nominees appearing before it for confirmation.

The new law stipulates a specific time during which the President can give the address.

But where the President fails, neglect or refuses to render account of his stewardship within the given time, Section one of the bill empowers the National Assembly to compel him to do so.

'State of the Nation Address' Bill was first introduced in the sixth National Assembly (2008 in the Senate and 2009 in the House of Representatives).

However, legislative work on the bill continued in the 7th Assembly and is going on simultaneously in the two chambers with the need to harmonise it.

The Senate, while considering report of Senator Dahiru A Kuta's led Committee on Federal Character and Inter-Governmental Affairs, approved that without prejudice to the presentation of annual budget by the sitting President, the President shall also present State of the Nation Address to a joint sitting of the National Assembly yearly on the first legislative day of July.

Issues of focus in the address include national security, economy, foreign policy and social justice. The address would consequently be debated and resolutions communicated to the President within 60 days from the date of debate.

The upper legislative chamber, however, resolved that the President shall not delegate his responsibilities under this Act to any subordinate or aide.

Titled, Bill for an Act to Provide for the Assignment of Portfolios to Ministerial Nominees Appearing before the Senate for Confirmation and for other Matters 2013, efforts by lawmakers to read the bill for the second time and debate it before referring it to the appropriate committee suffered set back.

Senate President, David Mark, however, ruled that it was a constitutional amendment concern and as such, should directly be referred to the Committee on the Review of 1999 Constitution.

Mark maintained that so far as the Chamber was unanimous on the need to amend Section 148 of the Constitution, which gives power to the President to assign any portfolio he deems fit to a ministerial nominee, it was only right to refer the Bill to the appropriate committee.

'My layman interpretation of this is for us to amend the constitution and not to take the second reading and do the debate. We have accepted that this is constitutional amendment concern and as such, we should refer it to the Committee. That has been the style. To start a second reading and debate whether we are accepting it or not amounts to waste of time.