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Senate to adopt clause-by-clause consideration of 1999 Constitution amendment

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The Senate will on Wednesday vote on clause-by-clause consideration of the proposed amendments to the 1999 Constitution and refer its resolution to the 36 State Houses of Assembly for concurrence.

Lawmakers are expected to vote on each of the 32 different bills which seek to alter various provisions of the 1999 Constitution.

Section 9 (2) of the Constitution, which dwells on Mode of Altering Provisions of the Constitution, provides that: “An Act of the National Assembly for the alteration of this Constitution…. shall not be passed in either House of the National Assembly unless the proposal is supported by the votes of not less than two-thirds majority of all the members of that House and approved by resolution of the Houses of not less than two-thirds of all the States Assembly of not less than two-thirds of all the States”.

This implies that 72 senators and 240 House of Representatives members are required to endorse each of the amendments while 24 State Houses of Assembly are needed to concur with each bill through resolutions.

Senate President Bukola Saraki also disclosed that the report will be considered through the use of electronic voting.

The first time e-voting system was adopted in conducting legislative business in the Eighth Senate, was in October 2016 during the confirmation of new Supreme Court judges.

Since then, business of the upper legislative chamber has been conducted through Voice Vote.

Presenting the report, Chairman Senate Committee on Review of the Constitution and Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, said the panel proposed the amendment of Sections 82 and 122 of the Constitution to reduce the period within which the President or the State Governor may authorise expenditure from the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) from six months to three months.

The Committee equally recommended the amendment of Section 162 to abolish State Joint Local Government Account so that each council area could maintain an independent special account into which allocations accruing to it shall be directly paid from the Federation Account and the State Government.

Other key issues in the report of the Joint Committee is the recommendation of a uniform three-year tenure for all the local governments in the country.

It also proposed that monies allocated to Local Government be used for the purposes for which they were meant, including prompt and regular payment of primary school teachers’ salaries.

In the same token, Section 7 of the Constitution was altered to provide that only democratically elected Local Governments can receive allocation from Federation Accounts and State Governments and can be recognised by any authority or exercise any function exercisable by Local Governments in the Constitution.

According to the committee’s recommendations, Sections 58, 59, and 100 of the Constitution should be altered  to provide 30 days timeframe for the President or Governor to assent to a bill passed by the National Assembly or State Assemblies to indicate his refusal of assent.

“Where the President or governor does not indicate refusal to assent to a bill, it automatically becomes a law after 30 days.”

Specifically, Section 147 of the Constitution was altered to provide that once the President or Governor takes oath of office, he has only 30 days within which to appoint his ministers of commissioners.

Recall that it took over six months for President Muhammadu Buhari to appoint ministers, over two years for Osun State Governor Rauf Aregbesola to appoint cabinet members, even as his Ondo State counterpart, Rotimi Akeredolu is yet to appoint commissioners five months after assuming office.

The Joint Committee approved the amendment of Sections 65, 106, 131, and 177 of the Constitution to provide for independent candidacy as well as separation of the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and that of State from the office of the Minister or Commissioner for Justice among others.

Senate Spokesperson Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, told journalists after plenary that despite the contention over some recommendations of the committee like Deletion of Land Use Act from the Constitution, a final resolution on the issues will be adopted on Wednesday.

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