8 June 2012

Nigeria: Reps Threaten to Over-Ride President On Unsigned Bills

Photo: Leadership
National Assembly

Abuja — CHAIRMAN House of Representatives Committee on Rules and Business, Mr. Sam Tsokwa, yesterday, threatened that the House would by next legislative year over-ride President Goodluck Jonathan on bills he doesn't endorse within the constitutionally stipulated time limit.

He also lamented what he described as slow implementation of House's resolutions by the executive arm of government. He said the House will continue to pass new resolutions.

The House Committee Chairman further stated that the slow implementation of the House's resolutions was surprising since it was based on the resolutions of the National Assembly that President Goodluck Jonathan transmuted from Acting to a substantive President in 2010.

Briefing newsmen on the one year anniversary of the seventh House, Tsokwa assured that the House would not deviate from the agenda it set at the beginning of the year.

Commenting on the performance of the chamber in the last one year, the legislator flayed the reliance on ministries and parastatals by some committee members during oversight activities.

He said that it was wrong for lawmakers who are going on oversight assignment to depend on logistics provided by the ministry or organisations they are oversighting.

Despite such shortcomings the committee chairman commended the performance of the House committees, arguing that they surpassed the performance of previous assemblies in oversight functions. He maintained that the house oversighted more than ever before.

Tsokwa stated that the House came in with a clear agenda and vision, adding that the agenda is being followed religiously.

He gave a breakdown of programmes accomplished by the House adding that the chamber received a total of 273 bills, most of which were in the second reading stage.

He explained that the House received 278 motions and resolutions and 178 petitions. On the number of bills passed Tsokwa said that 32 bills were passed in the last 12 months.

Why NASS can't override Jonathan's veto on unsigned bills --Senate

Meanwhile the Senate has explained that it could not override President Goodluck Jonathan's assent to unsigned Bills because the sixth Senate which passed and presented them to the executive had elapsed and remained dissolved.

Also yesterday, the Senate gave President Jonathan a clean bill over assent to bills, stressing that there was no bill passed by the seventh Senate and sent to the President that he withheld assent to or failed to communicate the withholding of assent.

Addressing newsmen in Abuja yesterday on the break down of bills sponsored and passed by the senate since its inauguration last year June 6th, Chairman, Senate Committee on Rules and Business, Senator Ita Solomon Enang, PDP, Akwa Ibom North East also disclosed that the 7th Senate in its first year, passed into law twenty one bills with one hundred and seventy eight bills introduced.

When asked why most bills were not assented to by the President before the expiration of the 6th Senate, Enang said, "Of all the Bills passed by the 7th Senate and sent to the President, none of them has the President withheld assent yet or communicated the withholding of assent. Most of the Bills that assent were withheld are Bills that were passed by the 6th National Assembly. The 6th National Assembly was dissolved on the 5th of June 2011 by proclamation of Mr President.

"Therefore the assembly that passed that Bills stood dissolved and this is a newly inaugurated 7th national assembly under different oath and came to life on June 6, 2011 and cannot continue the actions that were commenced by the previous assembly because the life of that legislature has come to an end.

"Therefore it is not appropriate for us to call up those Bills and bring them to the floor of the Senate or House of Representatives and vote on them for the purpose of seeing whether we have 2/3 majority of members present and getting those bills passed.

"The constitution has constrained us, it does not allow and we cannot do it in law because it is not the bills that were passed by the present assembly. We cannot take back those bills and lay on the floor for the purpose of voting to override. We can only reintroduce these bills de-novo and then speed up the process.

On the next line of action to avoid a repeat where Bills passed by the National Assembly were not signed into law, Senator Enang said, "Again what we will do in this Senate and this National Assembly to avoid this situation is that we will consider most of these Bills in time, that is early enough, make sure we forward to them and keep track of each of them and after 30 days we will remind ourselves that 30 days has passed and we will bring it up to the floor for us to take a decision."

According to Senator Enang, a total of 178 bills have been introduced out of which 21 were passed into law, adding that of these bills, 16 were executive bills while others were members' bills and out of the bills, 122 bills at the first reading stage with nine read a second time and referred to relevant committees, adding that 26 others are awaiting publication in the journal and nine withdrawn.

Speaking further on the level of work of the 7th Senate as it clocks one year, the Chairman, Committee on Rules and Business disclosed that there were a total number of land-mark resolutions since June last year adding, "a fall out of these resolutions are the Bureau on Public Enterprise (BPE) and the fuel subsidy probe; the pension management probe; investigation into the violation rules and practice.

He further enumerated some of the bills that were passed by the sixth National Assembly and which were not assented to by President Jonathan including the National Assembly service Bill 2011; Harmonised retirement age of professors of tertiary institution bill but which was brought back this year and passed and assented to and Chartered Institute of Capital Registrars Bill 2011.

Others according to him were Institute of Certified of Capital registrars Bill 2011; Nigerian council of food science and technology bill, 2011; Personal Income tax bill, 2011; Discrimination against persons living with HIV and AIDS bill; National Biosafety management agency bill; National Agricultural seed control bill and National tobacco bill.

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