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The Guardian Nigeria

Saturday 18 April 2015

Law foundation kicks against removal of presidential assent on bills

  • By Yetunde Ayobami Ojo on March 2, 2015

THE Rule of Law Development Foundation has kicked against the proposed removal of Presidential assent to Bills from the National Assembly by the Senate during the consideration of the 6th alteration of the 1999 Constitution. 

    The Coordinator of the Rule of Law Foundation, Mr. Joseph Daudu (SAN) disclosed this in a statement made available to The Guardian that the alteration of a constitution cannot be done in the manner the present National Assembly is going about it. 

    He said the amendment by the Senate seeking to remove Presidential assent to constitutional amendments overlooks the fact that the President is also a representative of the people as much as the National Assembly is with a requirement for a vote spread of at least 1/3 of 2/3 of states in the federation to be elected, specifically for widespread acceptance. 

    “It follows therefore that the veto is not an end in itself but a voice of the people to trigger an ‘Act of the National Assembly’ and the ‘Act of the National Assembly’ itself will have to follow its own due process when triggered. Furthermore, it is clear from the decision in National Assembly versus President (2003) 9 NWLR Pt. 824 Pg 104 that the legislature can for all intents and purposes override the president’s decision to withhold his assent provided the procedure laid down in Section 58 of the Constitution is followed to the letter”, he said. 

    According to him, with due respect to the National Assembly, that position is most certainly misconceived and constitutionally untenable. “Unknown to the initiators of this undemocratic move, it is an attempt to irreparably damage our fledgling democracy. As far back as 1976 when the report of the 50 wise men (Constitution Drafting Committee) chaired by Chief Fredrick Rotimi Alade Williams SAN CFR, this nation Nigeria made a conscious transition from the Westminster Export Model (Parliamentary Democracy) to the American Presidential Export Model (Presidential system of Government). It was thought (although there have been plenty of misgivings since then) that owing to our multi-cultural and multi-religious plurality, the governance of Nigeria will be well served by having a constitutionally powerful President and a strong centre”, he argued. 

    He further stressed that contrivance by the Senate to completely take out the President’s power to assent or refuse to assent to the alteration is not the panacea to the underlying problem of slow passage of Bills owing to obstruction of the process by Presidential refusal to give assent.