National Assembly Spends Billions Of Naira On Constitution Review


The perennial constitution amendment exercise by the National Assembly is characterised by proposals that keep resurfacing despite gulping billions of naira yearly, analysis has shown.

The federal parliament had from the 5th to the current 9th National Assembly made several attempts to amend some provisions of the 1999 Constitution to no avail.

At every session, the parliament officially spends N1 billion shared equally between the Senate and the House of Representatives.
There are reports that the lawmakers spend more than what is appropriated for the exercise.

While some amendments were successful, several others suffered serial failures but kept appearing in new proposals.

Considering the huge spending, lawyers and civil society groups have pointed out that no significant amendments could be said to have been made to address the yearnings of Nigerians.
Records at the current National Assembly show that there are dozens of bills seeking to alter constitutional provisions as well as memoranda on various issues.

An analysis of the bills and memoranda showed that many of them are on issues already considered by previous assemblies but which failed to get presidential assent.

Such constitutional issues include independent candidacy to contest for an elective office; creation of state police; federal structure and power devolution; fiscal federalism and revenue allocation; judicial and electoral reforms; immunity; full local government fiscal autonomy; state creation; youth inclusiveness in governance; and gender parity amongst others.

The unsuccessful attempts to amend the constitution in previous assemblies include the one on reorganising the legislative lists; separating the office of the attorney general of the federation/state from the office of minister/commissioner for justice; change in procedure for the enactment of an entirely new constitution, which includes referendum; including basic education and primary healthcare in fundamental and justiciable human rights; and independent candidature.

Other failed amendments are the inclusion of electoral offences as a ground to disqualify candidates from future elections; mandatory presentation of the yearly state of the nation address to a joint session of the National Assembly by the president; removal of presidential assent to constitution amendment bills; financial autonomy for Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation; amendments to section 59 compelling the president/governor to transmit assent/veto of a bill to parliament within 30 days, failing which such bill becomes law automatically.

Others are the inclusion of all former presidents of the Senate and speakers of the House of Representatives in the membership of the National Council of State; prohibition of courts/tribunals from granting a stay of proceedings on account of interlocutory appeals in electoral matters; conferment of criminal jurisdiction for electoral offences on the Federal High Court; pension for former presiding officers of the legislature as is the case with heads and deputy heads of the executive and the judiciary; compulsory presentation of budget estimates by president/governor latest September and passing same latest December 31.

Also, unsuccessful were the reduction of the period the president/governor could approve expenditure from the federal/state treasury based on the previous year’s budget (in the absence of a new budget) from six to three months; timeframe for submission of ministerial nominees, which must also be accompanied with their respective portfolios; compulsory saving of a defined percentage of oil revenues for the rainy day; decentralisation of policing to create state police; single term of five/six years for president and governors; abrogation of the immunity clause; removal of the Land Use Act from the constitution; devolution of the Prisons (now known as the Nigerian Correctional Service) and state creation.

The 9th National Assembly had hinted that it may consider in the current constitution review exercise the proposals that failed to scale through in previous assemblies.

Recently, the Senate Constitution Review Committee constituted sub-committees to review the bills and constitution-related reports, including the 2014 confab report and that of the Governor Nasir el-Rufai-led committee on restructuring.

The committee, chaired by Omo-Agege, said the sub-committees were mandated to study the constitutional amendment bills sponsored and passed by the previous assemblies, why they were declined presidential assent, the possibility of reconsidering them and advise the panel appropriately.

Atinuke Nukay

Atinuke Nukay is a Presenter/Reporter for TV360 Nigeria, Abuja Bureau.  She is a Media/Communication professional, who has worked as a ICT journalist, and is also specialized in Business, Telecommunications, Gender Issues and several other Beat-reporting for more than a decade.  Atinuke currently covers the National Assembly for TV360. She has garnered robust and wide international exposure over the years.  She is a member of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) and also the Vice President, Nigeria Information Technology Reporters' Association (NITRA) Abuja Chapter. A graduate of Journalism from the International Institute of Journalism, Abuja. Atinuke is a business communication strategist and image perception management professional and a member of the Nigeria Institute of Public Relations (NIPR).

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