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National Assembly votes for devolution of power, council autonomy

By Azimazi Momoh Jimoh, Adamu Abuh and John Akubo, Abuja
02 March 2022   |   4:25 am
Members of the National Assembly, yesterday, moved an inch closer to the amendment of the 1999 Constitution by voting on the 68 bills proposed to correct inherent defects in the Constitution.

National Assembly

• 21 of Senate’s 68 bills fail
• Pension for NASS presiding officers rejected
• Lawmakers empowered to summon President, governors over security concerns
• Special seats for women in legislature fail
• Inclusion of VAT in Exclusive List rejected

Members of the National Assembly, yesterday, moved an inch closer to the amendment of the 1999 Constitution by voting on the 68 bills proposed to correct inherent defects in the Constitution.

However, 21 of those bills failed to get the nod of the national lawmakers that voted in support of the devolution of power, financial autonomy for local councils and state legislators.

The Constitution was also amended to move airports from the Exclusive Legislative List to the Concurrent Legislative List.

Accordingly, issues relating to fingerprints, identification and criminal records have been moved from the Exclusive Legislative List to the Concurrent Legislative List.

The bill to delete prisons in the Exclusive Legislative List and redesignate it as Correctional Service in the Concurrent Legislative List; and for Related Matters” was passed.

Another bill to move Railway from the Exclusive Legislative List to Concurrent Legislative List was adopted.

The lawmakers also passed the bill to allow states generate, transmit and distribute electricity in area covered by the national grid.

It was, however, a very sad day for indigenes of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), as the only bill seeking the creation of a democratic structure for the FCT through the office of Mayor of the FCT, was rejected.

Also rejected was a bill, which sought to give recognition to the constitutional status of the FCT by ensuring that a person, who is a registered voter and resident of the FCT, is appointed as a Minister representing the FCT in the Federal Executive Council (FEC).

The legislators also passed the constitutional amendment bill to empower the National Assembly and State Assemblies to summon the President and State Governors to answer questions bodering on security or any other issues on which the National and State Houses of Assembly have powers to make laws.

The bill seeks alteration to Section 67 of the Principal Act by inserting after subsection (3), a new subsection (4).

The new subsection (4) provides: “Nothing in this section shall preclude the National Assembly from summoning the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to attend a joint session of the National Assembly to answer questions on national security or any issue whatsoever, over which the National Assembly has powers to make laws.”

The bill further seeks to alter Section 108 of the Principal Act to insert a new subsection (4) to provide: “Nothing in this section shall preclude the House of Assembly of the State from summoning the Governor of the State to attend a sitting of the House of Assembly to answer questions on security or on any issue whatsoever, over which the House of Assembly has powers to make laws.”

Out of a total of 93 registered Senators, 77 voted in favour of the bill to summon the President and Governors, 13 against and one lawmaker abstained, bringing total votes to 91.

The chamber also approved a bill to include Presiding Officers on the membership of the National Security Council. It also passed a bill to make it an offence, and to provide for the possible conviction of any person who refuses to honour the summons of the National Assembly or any of its committee.

The bill seeks to alter Section 129 of the Principal Act to insert after subsection (2), a new subsection (3).

The new section provides: “Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in this Constitution, any person who after having been summoned to attend, fails, refuses or neglects to do so and does not excuse such failure, refusal or neglect to the satisfaction of the House or the Committee in question, commits an offence and is liable on conviction to such punishment as shall be prescribed by a Act of the National Assembly.

Also rejected were bills to alter Part I of the Second Schedule to the 1999 Constitution (as amended) to include Value Added Tax on the Exclusive Legislative List; Removal of Transitional Law-making Powers of the Executive; to provide for Diaspora voting; to grant Mayoralty Status for the FCT; and appointment of Minister from the FCT.

Also yesterday, the Senate approved financial autonomy for state legislatures, judiciary and local governments in the country.

Senators during voting on the report rejected pension for presiding officers of the legislature.

Out of a total number of 88 Senators registered to vote on the bill, 34 voted in support, and 53 voted against the bill.

Also rejected were bills to override Presidential veto in Constitution alteration; and to override Presidential veto in respect of ordinary money bills.

The rejected bills require the mandatory four-fifth (votes of 88 Senators) and two-thirds majority (votes of 73 Senators) to pass, respectively.

The bill on Procedure for Overriding Presidential Veto in Constitutional alteration seeks to provide for the procedure for passing a Constitution alteration bill where the President withholds assent.

On the other hand, the bill for an Act to alter the provisions of the Constitution to provide the procedure for overriding executive veto in respect of money bills, seeks to provide for mode of exercising federal legislative power on money bills before the National Assembly.

While 94 Senators registered to vote on the bill to override presidential veto in constitutional alteration, 79 lawmakers of the chamber voted in support and 15 against it. The bill fell short of the needed 88 votes (four-fifth requirement) to pass.

On the bill to override presidential veto in respect of money bills, out of a total of 84 registered Senators, 44 voted in support, and 39 against the bill. The bill also fell short of the required two-thirds requirement (73 Senators) to pass.

In addition, the Senate also rejected bills to provide for the removal of Presiding Officers of the Legislature; and to change the name of Barikin Ladi Local Government Area in Plateau State to “Gwol” Local Government Area.

The chamber, however, turned down a bill to provide for more seats for women in the National and State Houses of Assembly and went against its earlier resolve to adopt a constitutional review that will actualise the 35 per cent affirmative action for women.

Without recourse to the recent visit of the wife of the President, Aisha Buhari to drum support for women inclusion, and the visit of the wife of the Vice President, Mrs Dolapo Osinbajo, the lawmakers rejected two bills proposed to empower and attach special recognition to women in Nigeria.

One of the bills is seeking the creation of one special seat for a woman at the Senate, House of Representatives and the Federal Capital Territory without prejudice to eligibility to contest.

It said: “The bill seeks to create a special seat for women in the Senate, House of Representatives and the State Houses of Assembly and the Federal Capital Territory reserved solely for women without prejudice to their eligibility to contest in the existing Senatorial seats in each State and FCT.”

The lawmakers also endorsed the provision for Independent Candidacy in Presidential, Governorship, National Assembly, State Houses of Assembly and Local Government Councils Elections; provide for the Office of the Mayor for the Federal Capital Territory Administration, Abuja; and provide for Appointment of a Minister from the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

Also endorsed was the establishment of the Office of the Attorney–General of the Federation and of the State separate from the Office of the Minister of Justice or Commissioners for Justice of the to make the Offices of the Attorneys–General independent and insulated from partisanship.

The lawmakers further approved the provision for a State of the Nation and State of the State address by the President and governor.

Among items endorsed in the proposed amendment was the inclusion of the establishment of the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federal Government separate from the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation.