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Lawmakers plot to limit President’s veto over amended constitution bill

Strong indications are emerging that the leadership of both chambers of the National Assembly have resolved to override President Muhammadu Buhari in the event that he fails to sign the Alteration Bill into law.
The move by the leadership of the National Assembly, Daily Sun has gathered, is to guide against what occurred in 2015 when former President Goodluck Jonathan vetoed the Alteration Bill just a few weeks before the end of his Presidency.
Two members of the constitution review committee from the Senate and the House of Representatives familiar with the development told Daily Sun that the National Assembly was moving fast to make sure that the constitution review exercise was concluded on or before June, 2017, months ahead of the 2019 campaign season.
The sources said that the move was to give the National Assembly enough time to explore other means to ensure that the constitution review exercise does not end in futility like it has in the past.
One of the sources said that upon resumption both chambers of the National Assembly will conclude work on constitution review and send the outcome to all state Houses of Assembly.
He said that as soon as the National Assembly gets the nod of the state assemblies, it will start work to mobilize its members against President Buhari’s possible refusal to assent to the bill.
“I attended a retreat of the committee in Lagos last June and we agreed that we will not allow the President to rubbish what we will do this time. The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and his counterpart in the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, has been told to ensure that this exercise does not end up like previous ones. To this end, we have resolved to ensure that we pass this Alteration Bill into law, with or without the President. That is why we are avoiding contentious issues that will not get the support of members,” one of the lawmakers revealed.
In April 2015, a few days after he conceded defeat to President Buhari, outgoing President Jonathan had refused to assent to some sections of the Nigerian Constitution amended by the seventh National Assembly.
Federal and State lawmakers had approved certain sections in the constitution for amendment and sent it to the President for assent. But President Jonathan vetoed some of these sections and returned it to the National Assembly.
President Jonathan specifically rejected the Alteration of Section Nine of the constitution, which removes the approval of the President in the process of constitution amendment.
President Jonathan also rejected the amendment which separated the office of the Attorney General of the Federation from the Ministry of Justice, and the Attorney General from the Justice Commission in the member states of the federation.
Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, who doubles as the chairman of the Senate committee on Constitution Review, while speaking during a retreat on constitution amendment in Lagos, said that since former president Goodluck Jonathan did not sign the 4th Alteration Bill into law (which strips the President of veto powers over any bill) it will be reconsidered and fresh inputs added.
“A bill to amend any portion of the constitution is not an ordinary bill. It is the only bill that requires the two-thirds majority of each Chamber of the National Assembly to pass in the first instance. It is also the only bill that requires the approval of two-thirds of the States Assembly to pass,” Ekweremadu said.
“Presidential veto of a bill to amend the constitution makes a jest of the philosophy of sovereignty, which is that power belongs to the people, and that the people exercise this sovereignty through their representatives in parliament.
“Nigerians have argued, and rightly so, that the Constitution would have made explicit prescriptions on how such veto could be reversed if it were the expectation of the framers of the Constitution for one man or woman to veto a constitutional amendment.”
Reacting, spokesman of the House of Representatives, Hon. Abdulrazak Namdas, said that the National Assembly will present the amendment bill to President Buhari in phases in order to guide against what happened in the past.
“What we are doing is different. In the past, the entire constitution was amended. That was why the President refused to sign it into law. This time around, we are handling the amendment in piecemeal,” Namadas revealed.
“We are doing this to ensure that any particular part of the amendment the President does not like, he can put it aside. We do not want a situation where because of one bad item in the amendment, everything will be thrown away. Its like throwing the baby and the bad away.”


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