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Fresh constitution amendment tightens inauguration of federal, state legislatures

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A fresh alteration to the 1999 Constitution (as amended) may have created a fresh challenge to the seamless inauguration of both the federal and state legislatures.

The quorum (one-third of all members) required for their proclamations by the President and governors in Sections 54 and 96 since 1999 has been raised to two-thirds by the proposed amendment bill.

Checks by The Guardian revealed that the move is to avert the Edo State House of Assembly scenario and the intrigues that led to the emergence of Dr. Bukola Saraki President of the Senate in June 2015.

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Amid the absence of 14 of the 24 members-elect in 2019, the Edo House was inaugurated and presiding officers elected, an event that generated so much crisis to warrant a failed attempt by the National Assembly to take over the legislature.

The Senate had ordered Governor Godwin Obaseki to issue a fresh proclamation but for the counter ruling of a Federal High Court on the issue.

At the national level, 57 of 109 senators were in the hallowed chamber when Saraki was elected Senate President because the number satisfied the one-third required for a quorum. One-third of the 109 Senate is 37 while two-thirds is 73.

In the new dispensation, no proclamation could be effectively in the Senate for instance, if the members-elect in the chamber are less than 73.

But many have however argued that the fresh bar might stall prompt legislative activities, especially which election of presiding officers.

The piece of legislation, as sourced by The Guardian, has already been gazetted and is tagged “A Bill to alter the provisions of the constitution to provide for the amendment of Sections 54 (1) and 96(1).”

Sponsored by Senator Istifanus Gyang (APC: Plateau State), the bill has only two clauses, all seeking upward review from the conventional quorum to two-thirds for inauguration and election of officers to take place in the assemblies.

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Also, some lawmakers, who are uncomfortable with the idea, observed that the parliament might run into constitutional crisis if two-thirds is not formed on inauguration day.

Such development, they argued, could affect the proclamation issued by the President or governor, which are usually tied to specific dates and time.

“If the two-thirds quorum is not formed and the sitting is postponed, what happens to the proclamation by the President or governor? Remember, the constitution doesn’t allow for a postponement?” A lawmaker noted.

In the meantime, the upper legislative chamber has generated about 75 bills for the alteration of different sections of the constitution.

The Constitution Review Committee had announced last week that it would soon begin public sittings on them. Deputy Senate President and chairman of the panel, Ovie Omo-Agege, urged Nigerians at home and abroad to participate fully in the exercise.

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