Constitution amendment bid fails
THE Senate yesterday, dropped its earlier plan to override President Goodluck Jonathan’s veto of the 2015 Constitution Amendment Bill in deference to the Supreme Court’s stay of action ruling on the National Assembly last week.
At the end of a two-hour closed session on the matter, the senior lawmakers resolved to abide by the order of the Supreme Court which halted further action by the National Assembly on the amendment of the constitution.
Upon commencement of plenary, the Senate President, David Mark, said the session singularly focused on the controversy surrounding the 2015 Constitution amendment bill between the Presidency and the National Assembly.
He explained that senators decided that as lawmakers, it would be wrong for them to take any action that would portray them as law breakers.
He, however, warned that the Senate and by extension, the National Assembly should not be taken for granted by the Executive because of their law abiding posture.
Mark said: “As we finished our discussion at the executive session, I think it is proper for me because of the importance of the issue at stake, to make a very simple, straight forward and unambiguous statement.
‘‘We are lawmakers and we will not be law breakers. We are not just lawmakers, we are very senior, responsible citizens and very senior lawmakers and this is the apex of law making in this country.
“Therefore on the issue of the current Constitutional Review that is before the Supreme Court, we want to assure Nigerians that we will not break any law in this country.’’
He continued: “We will take appropriate actions to ensure that democracy survives. But I will also want to warn that we should not be taken for granted by the Executive.
Once more, let me assure Nigerians that as lawmakers, we will not be law breakers.” Briefing journalists after the plenary session, the Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma Egba, said the executive session was an opportunity to brief the Senate in plenary.
According to him, the developments and circumstances surrounding the bill were discussed at the executive session so that the Senate in plenary would have the full picture.
“That was what we did today in the executive session. First, we received a letter from President Goodluck Jonathan and the committee met to discuss that letter and agreed to make certain recommendations to the Senate in plenary.
Before we could do that, we had the court order which again, was another development and we have to thoroughly review the developments at the executive session today to agree on a way forward.’’
He was not pleased that the process which took the National Assembly close to three years with public hearings at zonal and state levels, could be discarded on the basis of shortcomings.
According to him, the hearings were open to the public including members of the executive. “The executive was represented at the public hearings.
It was there they were supposed to point out their reservations or concerns about each of the amendments. “They did not do so then, but rather have turned around, when the Houses of Assembly have passed their amendments and we are to conclude that they suddenly confronted us with this ambush. We think it is in bad faith and it is regrettable.”
He also denied allegations that the National Assembly had spent some N600 billion without corresponding legislative achievement.
He said: “The total yearly budget of the National Assembly is N150 billion. In the 2015 budget, it has been reduced to N120 billion and that includes capital and recurrent expenditures.
It includes salaries and allowances of senators and members of the House of Representatives. It includes the bureaucracy, National Assembly Service Commission, Institute of Legislative Studies, our aides.
So where will the money come from?’’ On how much was spent on budget amendment exercise, he said: “I wouldn’t know. The chairman of the committee on the review of the 1999 Constitution is in the best position to address that.
But I would like to say right away that the funding of the exercise is from the National Assembly’s budget that is currently N120 billion.
So, I don’t know where the story out there is coming from.” It was alleged that about N1billion was spent on the constitution amendment exercise by the two chambers of the National Assembly with each spending five hundred million naira each.
Ndoma Egba also disclosed that the Senate would challenge the exparte order issued by the Supreme Court with a view to setting it aside to allow the matter get resolved before the end of the tenure of the current National Assembly. “We have legal options.
And the legal option is to vigorously challenge the order of the court which was made exparte. It was made without us being put on notice. And I believe that we can get the court to quickly determine that. And we intend to pursue that option.”