Constitution amendment bill: Senate suspends plan to override Jonathan's veto

By The Rainbow

The senate on Tuesday  on Wednesday and announced the suspension of its plan to override President Goodluck Jonathan's veto on the Fourth Alteration Act 2015 which seeks to further amend the 1999 Constitution.

The plan which had earlier been expected to kick-start on Tuesday was shifted to Tuesday.

But Senate President, David Mark,  after the closed-door session of the Senate members, announced to the chamber that the Senate had resolved to shelve the plan.

He said that the senators as lawmakers, would always abide by the law of the land, since the Supreme Court had asked the federal parliament to stay further action on the document.

He said,”We are law makers, we will not be law breakers. In fact we are responsible senior citizens who should not be seen to be breaking laws in one way or the other. However the executive should not take the National Assembly for granted any longer.”

The senators had on Tuesday vowed to begin the process of overriding the President's veto by taking the first reading of the bill to adopt the gazette of the controversial amendment Bill.

President  Jonathan had in a letter dated April 13, addressed to Senate President David Mark and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Aminu Tambuwal, announced his decision to withhold assent to the Constitution (Alteration) Bill 2015.

The bill  needs presidential assent to become law. except if the Senate overrides such a veto by the president.

Besides, matters relating to it are in court, and because it requires other legislative treatment.

 Supreme Court had directed the national assembly to desist from taking further action on the 2015 constitution amendment bill. A seven-man panel of justices of the apex court had ruled‎ that the national assembly and the federal government maintain the status quo on the matter until June 18.

‎Jonathan had restrained assent to the amendments, citing 12 errors in the amendment bill.

In a suit SC/214/2015 filed at the supreme court by Mohammed Adoke, attorney general of the federation, the federal government argued that the bill was not passed by four-fifths of the two chambers of the national assembly as stipulated in sections 48 and 49 of the Nigerian constitution.

The 2015 constitution amendment bill  made provisions for independent candidature as well as the separation‎ of the office of the attorney-general of the federation from office of the minister of justic.

It was passed by the national assembly in February. The bill also had a provision which stripped the president of the powers to assent to constitution amendment bills‎.

But Jonathan in rejecting assent, wrote  a letter to David Mark‎, senate president, and Aminu Tambuwal, speaker of the house of representatives, in which he stated reasons foe his action.

He aid the bill   was against the provision of section 9(3) of the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria.

Some of the inherent errors as outlined by the president are: Non-compliance with the threshold specified in Section 9(3) of the 1999 Constitution on amendments; Alteration to constitution cannot be valid with mere voice votes unless supported by the votes of not less than four-fifths majority all members of National Assembly and two-thirds of all the 36 State Houses of Assembly; Right to free basic education and primary and maternal care services imposed on private institutions Flagrant violation of the doctrine of separation of powers, Unjustified whittling down of the Executive powers of the Federation vested in the President by virtue of Section 5(1) of the 1999 Constitution; 30 days allowed for assent of the President; and Limiting expenditure in default of appropriation from 6months to three months The others are creation of the office of accountant-general of the federation distinct from the accountant general of the federal government Empowering National Economic Council to appoint the Accountant-General of the Federation instead of the President; Allowing NJC to now appoint the Attorney-General of the Federation rather than the President; Unwittingly whittling down the discretionary powers of the Attorney-General of the Federation.

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