Senate dumps own rules, passes 46 bills in 10 mins
• To decide on constitution amendment today
• Imposes life imprisonment on rapists, others
SUDDENLY, the Nigerian Senate yesterday woke up from its slumber and did something that may earn it a place in the Guinness Book of Records.
The upper legislative chamber, in 10 minutes suspended its Standing Rule and passed 46 bills which had been pending before it for four years.
It equally announced it would at its sitting today, take a decision on the controversy that greeted the refusal by former President Goodluck Jonathan to sign the amendments made in the constitution.
The senators also imposed life imprisonment as sanction for rapists and other sex offenders in a new law tagged Sexual Offences Act which was passed yesterday.
The decision to adopt the 46 bills was sequel to the adoption of a motion sponsored by the Chairman, Senate Committee on Rules and Business, Ita Enang who called on the Red Chamber to invoke Order 1 (b) of the Senate Standing Order to adopt a Special Procedure on the bills.
He explained that the bills had earlier been passed by the House of Representatives and transmitted to the Senate for concurrence, noting that by “mutual consent and legislative reciprocates, the House of Representatives is adopting same special procedure and passing such bills passed by the Senate and transmitted to her for concurrence.”
He, therefore, called for the suspension of Order 79 (1) of the Senate Standing Orders and deemed all the bills as having passed their First, Second and Third Readings. This led to a rowdy session as senators who objected to the procedure being used in passing the bills, protested.
Before putting the motion to voice vote, Senate President, David Mark expressed reservations about the process, saying: “My main problem is that we should be able to read through the bills and know what they are saying.” Although the motion was approved by voice vote, protests still continued.
Mark, in his efforts to douse the tension generated by the situation, appealed to his colleagues to adhere to the rules.
He declared that those opposed to the passage should present a substantive motion today when the votes and proceedings would be considered and passed. “I have ruled. If you disagree, come back with a substantive motion tomorrow,” he stated.
The bills passed are: “Tertiary Education Trust Fund (Establishment) Act Amendment Bill, Office of the Nigerian Financial Ombudsman Bill, Institute of Chartered Trustees of Nigeria Bill, National Convict and Criminal Records Bill, Community Service Bill, People’s Bank of Nigeria Act (Repeal) Bill, Nigerian Bank for Commerce and Industry Act (Repeal) Bill, Federal Saving Bank Act (Repeal) Bill.
Others are: Loan (State Development) Act (Repeal) Bill, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (Establishment) Bill, among others.
On the constitution amendment, Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba, informed senators that the legislative body would consider the outstanding amendment to the 1999 Constitution (as amended) at its session today during which it would also mark its valedictory session.
Following the advice by the Supreme Court that the Presidency and the National Assembly should settle their differences on the constitution politically, the two institutions reached a compromise on the key grey areas in the constitution amendment.
But neither the National Assembly nor the Presidency has taken any practical steps to translate the agreement into reality. Also yesterday, the Senate passed into law, the Sexual Offences Bill (SB. 279) which prescribed life imprisonment for sexual offences including rape, child sex tourism and people who deliberately infect others with HIV/AIDS.
Chairman of the Committee on Navy, Senator Chris Anyanwu, sponsored the bill which is expected to pass concurrence in the House of Representatives today.
Among others, the Bill also prescribes life imprisonment for gang rape, 10 years for incest, another 10 years imprisonment for child pornography or more and a fine of two million naira. For sexual crimes, offenders will go to jail for 14 years.