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Judiciary, legislature autonomy bills await Buhari’s approval

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If President Muhammadu Buhari assents to a set of constitutional amendment bills about to be sent to him by the Senate, the Houses of Assembly and the judiciary in the 36 states will receive their financial allocations directly from the Federation Account.

Two proposed laws making this mandatory are among the 35 Constitution Alteration bills that the Clerk of the Senate, Sani  Tambuwal has been directed to forward to the President.

However, Local Government Financial and Administrative Autonomy bills are missing from the list as they did not receive the nod of two-thirds of the 36 Houses of Assembly.

Deputy President of the Senate Ovie Omo-Agege, who chairs the Senate Ad hoc Committee on Review of 1999 Constitution, had early this month expressed concern over the unwillingness of most Houses of Assembly to pass the bill.

In a veiled attack on governors, he said: “What matters to us, which is the priority to us, which is a big priority of Mr President, is this issue of the local government autonomy and that’s where we’re having challenges and that is because of the position of some of the governors, who believe that they should not be in support of this”.

The other prominent bills passed by a majority of the state legislatures in concurrence with the Senate are Separation of the Office of Minister of Justice and Attorney-Generation of the Federation; separation of the office of Commissioner for Justice and Attorney-General; power to summon the President and governors;  provision for intervening events in the computation of time for the determination of pre-election petitions, election petitions and appeals; and devolution of powers (National Grid).

At its plenary on Tuesday, the Senate revealed that 27 states passed and sent back the 35 bills, leaving only seven states –  Gombe, Jigawa, Kebbi, Kwara, Oyo, Plateau, Sokoto, Taraba, and  Zamfara –  pending.

The decision to forward the bills to Buhari followed the consideration of a motion titled: “Passage of Constitution (Fifth) Alteration Bills, 2023”, sponsored by Omo-Agege and 65 other Senators.

Chairman of the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights, and Legal Matters, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele, presented the motion on behalf of Omo-Agege, who was absent during plenary.

In his lead debate, Bamidele noted that 27 Houses of Assembly passed and forwarded their resolution on the bills to the National Assembly.

He moved: “Aware that Section 9(2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended provides that an Act to alter the provisions of the Constitution can be passed only when it is supported by 2/3 majority cf members of the Senate, and the House of Representatives, and approved by 24 state Houses of Assembly.

“Recall that 68 bills seeking to alter provisions of the Constitution were presented at the floor of the Senate and the House of Representatives on February 23, 2022 for passage.

“Also, recall that the Senate and the House of Representatives approved 44 of the bills without difference and were transmitted to the state Houses of Assembly for their resolution on March 27, 2022.

“Convinced that the 35 Constitution Alteration Bills have satisfied the provisions of Section 9(2) of the Constitution, for passage into law, having been approved by not less than 24 State Houses of Assembly”.

The two prayers of the motion passed by the Senate are: “Direct the Clerk to the National Assembly to transmit the 35 bills that have so far met the requirement of the provision of Section 9(2) of the Constitution, to Mr President  for assent in line with the provisions of the Acts Authentication Act; and

“Urge the following state Houses of Assembly – Gombe, Jigawa, Kebbi, Kwara, Oyo, Plateau, Sokoto, Taraba, Zamfara; that are yet to forward their resolutions on the bills to do so in fulfillment of their constitutionally imposed legislative obligation to the constitutional amendment process”.

The other bills to be transmitted for assent are  ”Constitution (Fifth Alteration) Bill No 3 (change of names of Afikpo North and Afikpo South Local Government Areas (Ebonyi State); constitution (fifth alteration) Bill No 4 (Change of Name of Kunchi Local Government Area (Kano State); constitution (Fifth Alteration) Bill No 5 (change of names of Egbado -North and Egbado South Local Government Areas (Ogun State); constitution (Fifth Alteration) Bill No 7 (correction of the name of Atigbo Local Government Area (Oyo State); and constitution (Fifth Alteration) Bill No 8 (correction of Name of Obia/Akpor Local Government Area (Rivers State)”.

Also to be transmitted are: “Constitution (Fifth Alteration) Bill   9 (Financial autonomy of state Legislatures and state Judiciary); constitution (Fifth Alteration) Bill No. 10 (Enforcement of Legislative summon); constitution (Fifth Alteration) Bill No. 11 (inauguration of members-elect); constitution (Fifth Alteration) Bill No. 21 (deletion of reference in the constitution to the provisions of the Criminal Code, Penal Code, Criminal Procedure Act, Criminal Procedure Code or Evidence Act); and constitution (Fifth Alteration) Bill No. 22 (provision for intervening events in the computation of time for the determination of pre-election petitions, Election Petitions and Appeals therefrom)”.

Others are: “Constitution (Fifth Alteration) Bill 24 (expansion of the interpretation of Judicial Office); constitution (Fifth Alteration) Bill 25 (appointment of secretary of the National Judicial Council); constitution (Fifth Alteration) Bill 29 (Devolution of Powers (Airports)); constitution (Fifth Alteration) Bill   30 (evolution of powers (fingerprints, identification and criminal records); constitution (Fifth Alteration) Bill   31 (devolution of powers (correctional services); and constitution (Fifth Alteration) Bill 32 (Devolution of Powers (Railways).

“Constitution (Fifth Alteration) Bill   39 (Power to enforce compliance of remittance of Accruals into the Federation Account and Review of Revenue Allocation Formula); constitution (Fifth Alteration) Bill  40 (Independence of Certain bodies); constitution (Fifth Alteration) Bill No. 41 (Removal of Transitional Law-making Powers of the Executive; and constitution (Fifth Alteration) Bill   43 (Domestication of Treaties); constitution (Fifth Alteration) Bill No. 44 (Timeline for the Presentation of Appropriation Bills); and constitution (Fifth Alteration) Bill   45 (Timeframe for the submission of the names of ministerial or commissioner-nominees)”.

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