10 May 2013

Nigeria: Senate Passes State-of-the-Nation Address Bill

Abuja — The Senate yesterday finally passed the bill seeking to compel the president to present a state-of-the-nation address before the joint session of the National Assembly into law and urged President Goodluck Jonathan to sign the bill without any delay.

While urging the president to urgently sign the bill into law, Senate President, Senator David Mark, said the law would take effect from July this year.

The bill, which was a product of concurrence between the House of Representatives and the Senate, was first passed into law by the sixth National Assembly but the president withheld his assent from the it.

This compelled the seventh National Assembly to re-introduce the bill.

The bill seeks to "make the president accountable to Nigerian people as represented by the National Assembly and to render account of his stewardship to the nation and to allow for input from members of the National Assembly towards good governance of the federation."

The passage yesterday followed the harmonisation of the bill between the two legislative houses. It was first passed by the House of Representatives on December 20, 2011 and transmitted to the Senate for concurrence. But following its passage by the Senate on March 13, 2013, both the Senate and the House constituted conference committees on March 19 and 21 respectively to harmonise all differences on the bill. The final passage yesterday was therefore a result of the successful harmonisation.

Section three of the bill stipulates that whenever the president fails to render his state of the nation address as provided in Section 1 of the bill, the National Assembly will by a resolution supported by two-thirds of the votes of each chamber summon the president to address the nation pursuant to provisions of the bill.

While section 4 of the bill also provides that the president's address will be debated by the National Assembly and its resolution communicated to the president within 60 days from the date of the presentation, Section 6 stipulates that it will be unlawful for the president to delegate his responsibilities under the law.

The address, according to the bill, will be presented every first legislative day in July.

With the passage yesterday, if the president immediately signs the bill into law, then the National Assembly will host him in July for the first ever state of the nation address.

The Senate also stood down debate on the 2013 Appropriation Act Amendment bill thursday, with a claim that the lead debate on the bill was not ready.

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