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Moves by National Assembly to override President’s veto on constitution amendment flop

By Azimazi Momoh Jimoh and Bridget Chiedu Onochie (Abuja)
13 May 2015   |   12:56 am
• Campaigns for Senate presidency disrupt proceedings • Mark advises state lawmakers against subservience to govs FOR undisclosed reasons, the Senate, having already faulted the Supreme Court on issues relating to the Bill for the Alteration of the Constitution, yesterday stood down an attempt to re-introduce the amendment bill, which ultimate aim had been to…
National assembly building

National assembly building

• Campaigns for Senate presidency disrupt proceedings
• Mark advises state lawmakers against subservience to govs

FOR undisclosed reasons, the Senate, having already faulted the Supreme Court on issues relating to the Bill for the Alteration of the Constitution, yesterday stood down an attempt to re-introduce the amendment bill, which ultimate aim had been to override President Goodluck Jonathan’s veto‎.

The Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, who presided at the sitting, however, invited all senators to a closed-door meeting at the National Assembly today. According to him, a crucial decision on the efforts to amend the constitution would be taken at that meeting, which attendance he said would be mandatory.

The bill, slated in the order paper for presentation for first reading, ‎was quickly stood down at the request of the Senate Majority Leader, Victor Ndoma Egba. No official reason was given for the withdrawal.

It was gathered, however, that some senators had advised caution against rushing to take a particular step that might not yield positive development at the end of the day.

Therefore, Ekweremadu announced: “I request all of us to be available tomorrow to discuss the amendments to the constitution and be able to respond appropriately to the development. Please let those who are not available know that we will have closed session tomorrow to discuss this item so that we will be able to fashion out the way forward.”
Disruptive campaigns on Senate floor

Meanwhile, in a manner that reflected the desperation of candidates for the Senate presidency following the failure of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to reach consensus, yesterday’s proceedings were seriously disrupted as supporters of the various candidates took their campaigns to the floor of the hallowed chamber.

The National Tobacco ‎Control Bill, which was being considered clause-by-clause had to be temporarily suspended for the Senate to address the rowdy atmosphere.

Having been invited to take charge, Ekweremadu was forced to rule all campaigns for Senate Presidency suspended until the end of proceedings. This followed the ‎ call by Chris Ngige, who was making a contribution on the bill, for restoration of sanity.

Worried by the distraction as the different camps moved from one seat to another, Ngige shouted: “Mr. President, please could you tell all these campaign coordinators to allow us treat this bill. They are disrupting the chamber and we are not being allowed to give the bill the utmost attention it deserves.”

When calm was restored, the Senate eventually passed the bill, while Ekweremadu declared: “The dangers associated with smoking cannot be overemphasised and the tragedy here is that those at risk are not just those who smoke but also those around them, their loved ones, their families, neighbours and friends.

“It is important that we regulate smoking and other matters related to tobacco manufacturing and sales. This we have done today in order to protect our people from the harmful effects of smoking, so I believe the society as well as those whose business involves production and sale of tobacco would understand our concern for the health of our people.”
Master-servant affair between govs, state lawmakers

In another development, the Senate President, David Mark, has warned state members-elect of state Assemblies against reducing themselves as stooges to their respective governors.

Mark, speaking on Monday at the opening of an induction programme for state lawmakers by the National Institute for Legislative Studies, decried the activities of legislators at the state level in the past 16 years, noting that they reduced themselves to stooges of their governors.

In his presentation entitled, “Legislative Procedures and Practice in Houses of Assembly,” the Chairman, Senate Committee on Rules and Business, Ita Enang, described state legislatures as a department in governors’ offices.

He also frowned at the pace of impeachment across the country, stressing that they were sometimes instigated by governors, who had taken the lawmakers as objects for achieving their desired goals. Enang admonished that the procedure for impeachment of a governor or deputy governor should be clearly stipulated in the Standing Orders.

Nevertheless, as senators Bukola Saraki, George Akume and the Chairman, Senate Committee on Public Accounts, Ahmed Lawan, jostle for the top leadership position, the South-West caucus, among others, is now split on who to support.

Reacting to media reports that the caucus has adopted a particular candidate, a senator from the region said on condition of anonymity: “Our challenge is that while we heard all these stories about supporting one of the candidates, none of us could say that even he as a senator was in the picture of what was going on.

“We all waited patiently for this long because no one was talking to us on the matter, so when we met last week, we agreed that wherever the leadership of the party zones the Senate presidency, we will support.

“We were never unanimous at the meeting to support anybody. There was division, and that made us defer further discussions on the matter. Out of the 18 senators from the South-West, 10 were not for the candidate some others wanted. Even if the position is zoned to the North-East, I can assure you that we can’t be unanimous on this matter.”

Mark expressed concern at the wide belief that state legislators are appendages of their respective governors, describing as sad development a situation where state Assemblies lacked the political will to muster enough votes for their financial autonomy when the first constitutional amendment was done.

“As lawmakers, you must avoid holding your sessions in the council chambers of government houses. It is ignoble to use the mace outside the chamber or borrow local council mace to conduct your affairs or resort to self-help by using your mace to perpetuate violence,” he said.

“You must conduct your sittings in line with the provisions of the constitution and the extant rules of the House. As state legislators, you must restrain yourselves from the excessive use of the constitutional provision that empowers you to impeach either your speakers, governors or their deputies.”

Mark argued that impeachment remains a very crucial legislative process that must not be abused or taken for granted. He insisted: “Impeachment is not designed for a few days’ exercise. Where it has become the last resort, it must be painstakingly conducted within the hallowed chamber of the parliament in accordance with the extant rules of the House and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.