Abuja — It was another rowdy session in the Senate yesterday as members disagreed on the bill to amend the Terrorism (Prevention) Act 2011.
Members were divided on the report of the Conference Committee to amend the bill.
The inability to get an acceptable approval for the bill led to its suspension in the floor of the Senate, thereby jeopardizing the progress already made on the bill.
Debate on the 2013 budget was however deferred to today due to the absence of a report, which the Senate President, Senator David Mark, said would not give everybody ample opportunity to contribute to the final debate on the budget before passage.
Trouble started when Senator Ita Enang raised an objection to the report which showed on page two of the amendment bill that a new clause had been inserted after Section 1 of the principal Act.
He said: "This new provision deals with the national coordinating bodies in counter terrorism offences and designates specific institutions and vests specific powers and functions, that is, the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA), the Attorney General of the Federation and the relevant law enforcement and security agencies."
The conference committee had considered in detail the new provision vis-à-vis other extant laws in force with regard to national security and prevention of terrorism and adopted the House version.
Advancing reasons for his objection, Enang said: "I want to make an appeal that the legislature cannot make an appointment for the president.
"Secondly, that the office of the NSA does not make exist in law, the office of NSA is one of the 17 offices that we approved for Mr. President and 20 advisers that we approved for the president and the legislature cannot assign duties to any of them.
"I refer to Section 251 of the constitution. It reads the president may appoint any person as his special advisers to assist him in the performance of his functions, the number of such advisers and their remuneration as being prescribed by law as a resolution of the National Assembly; any appointment made to the pursuance of this section shall be at the pleasure of the President."
He argued that the office of the NSA was an advisory one to the president, and therefore, the office of NSA or any of his adviser was not known to law or established by it and there is no law that says this law shall exist.
"That being so, since the legislature did not establish that office, the legislature cannot confer duty on that office," he said.
Enang referred the senate president to Section 4 of the National Security Agency Act, which says that the "Coordinator of the NSA for the purpose of coordinating the intelligence activities of the NSA shall be appointed by the president a coordinator on national security."
He added: "Mr. (Senate) President I want to submit that if an Act like this one that was made in 1986 and is still in operation, therefore, this law says that it is the president that shall appoint a coordinator and we cannot by this amendment say that there shall be the NSA who shall be the coordinator because we have given power to the president to appoint a coordinator by this Act."
According to him, the bill the Senate is seeking to amend does make any reference to the National Security Act, which abolish the Nigeria Security Organisation (NSO) Act.
He said it was the House of Representative version that was adopted by the joint conference committee that is now in question and could be revisited because the Senate is the highest law making body in the country and any mistake in this regard would stand as a dangerous legislative precedent.
But in responding to Senator Enang, the senate president said: The problem you have Senator Enang, which I'm sure you will appreciate, is that this is a conference report, it has not been brought here for us to begin a new report."
Owing to the lack of consensus on the debate, which the senate president described as too close to call after a vote was taken, it was therefore agreed the bill should be stood down and deliberation suspended on it.