Constitution Amendment: Senate makes U-turn, bows to Supreme Court Order

By Amako Nneji May 13, 2015 14:21

Constitution Amendment: Senate makes U-turn, bows to Supreme Court Order

The Senate on Wednesday finally succumbed to the Supreme Court ruling on the Constitutional Bill that ordered the House to retain the status quo until a further hearing slated for June 18.

The Senate President David Mark who presided over the plenary after a closed door session announced the suspension in the hallowed chambers of the Red House.

    “We are lawmakers and will not be law breakers. We are not just lawmakers; we are very senior responsible citizens and very senior lawmakers”

Post Nigeria reported on Tuesday that amidst the controversy trailing the Constitutional Amendment Bill, the Senate had stated its position to override the Supreme Court order mandating the House to put a hold to the amendment by going against the Court order.

The Bill which had been tagged “Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (fourth alteration) Bill 2015″ was slated to be read on the floor of the upper chamber a first time, but Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu who presided over the proceedings, deferred the process.

Ekweremadu who chaired the plenary on Tuesday stated that the Court had no right to stop the legislature from amending the Constitution and urged his colleagues to be available in the next legislative meeting for onward deliberation of the 1999 Constitutional Amendment Bill.

The amendment of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has remained controversial after the President refused to assent to the Bill forwarded to him by the National Assembly.

Raising about 13 grounds, President Jonathan in a letter entitled: “Re: Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Fourth Alteration Act, 2015,” questioned the power the National Assembly has to arrogate to itself to pass any constitution amended without the assent of the President.

Jonathan also picked holes in whittling down the power of the President, allowing the National Judicial Council, NJC, to appoint the Attorney-General of the Federation, separating the office of the Accountant-General of the Federation from that of the Federal Government, and limiting the period when expenditure can be authorized in default of appropriation from six months to three months, among others.

Jonathan had said he would not assent to the alterations because they did not satisfy the strict requirements of Section 9(3) of the 1999 Constitution.

See: Life Pension: Constitution Amendment Bill, dubious – Jonathan

The President’s letter was read on the floor of the Senate during the plenary by the Senate President, David Mark, but he stopped Senators from debating the President’s refusal to assent to the amended bill, when some senators, led by Senator Sadiq Yar’Adua, APC, Katsina Central, raised a Point of Order, seeking permission to that effect.

The lawmakers had however planned to overturn the President’s veto after a review by the Constitution Amendment Committees of the two chambers.

Upon insistence from the National Assembly to Veto the Bill, the Federal Government went to court to obtain an injunction to stop the House from passing the Bill with two/third majority.

A seven-man panel of justices of the Supreme Court, led by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, ‎Justice Mahmud Mohammed, ordered the National Assembly to maintain status quo on the matter until June 18.

The apex Court further directed the issuance of hearing notice on the National Assembly for it to appear on that date, to respond to the suit that was lodged against the proposed alterations to the constitution, by President Goodluck Jonathan.