Constitutional Amendment, a coup against Presidential democracy – Legal experts

By Amako Nneji April 20, 2015 14:48

Constitutional Amendment, a coup against Presidential democracy – Legal experts

The Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, has backed President Jonathan’s decision to veto the Constitutional Amendment Bill sent to the President by the National Assembly, faulting the parts of the amendment which would transfer some portion of the executive powers and duties to the legislature and the judiciary.

The Former NBA chairman Joseph Dauda and Barrister Jubril Okutepa a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN who were guests on a programme “Focus Nigeria” aired on African Independent Television, AIT, described the amendment bill as “a coup against the office of the President”

President Goodluck Jonathan who had declined to assent to the constitutional amendment Bill passed by the two chambers of the National Assembly has explained in clear terms why the so called amendment did not receive a nod from the Presidency.

READ ALSO: Life Pension: Constitution Amendment Bill, dubious – Jonathan

The President, in his letter read to the lawmakers, stated that his refusal to assent to the bill was based on some shortcomings faulting Section 4 of the Fourth Alteration Act, 2015, which seeks to alter Section 9 of the 1999 Constitution by inserting a new subsection 3A, which dispenses with the assent of the President in the process of constitutional amendment and cited 12 errors in the amendment.

The reputable legal luminaries stated that the President with all respect is right and he is on sound ground on the objections he had raised

Jubril said “I think the President was patriotic in his decision to call upon them to take a second look at this bill”.

The SAN who also expressed his displeasure at the action of the legislative body stated added “to pass a law and say it shouldn’t go to the President for assent would create legislative autocracy’’

He maintained that a Bill is not an Act until it is assented by the president. He cited section 9, and section 58(3) of the 1999 constitution.

Section 58 subsections 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 of the Constitution provides thus:-

(1) The power of the National Assembly to make laws shall be exercised by bills passed by both the Senate and the House of Representatives and, except as otherwise provided by subsection (5) of this section, assented to by the President.

(2) A bill may originate in either the Senate or the House of Representatives and shall not become law unless it has been passed and, except as otherwise provided by section 59 of this Constitution, assented to in accordance with the provisions of this section.

(3) Where a bill has been passed by the House in which it originated, it shall be sent to the other House, and it shall be presented to the President for assent when it has been passed by that House and agreement has been reached between the two Houses on any amendment made on it.

(4) Where a bill is presented to the President for assent, he shall within thirty days thereof signify that he assents or that he withholds assent.

(5) Where the President withholds his assent and the bill is again passed by each House by two-third majority, the bill shall become law and the assent of the President shall not be required”.

READ ALSO: Constitution Amendment: Senate replies Jonathan’s letter

Also speaking, the former NBA President who described the action of the National assembly as a coup on the entire Presidential democracy, stated that “The legislature with due respect has tried to asset powers that the constitution abinitio, the consequent assembly from 1976 did not ascribe in their thinking to this. In my view I describe it as a coup on the entire presidential democracy”

The former NBA stated that the President has the legal right to veto any bill by National Assembly.

He said: “it doesn’t matter whether it has gone round all the House of Assembly, the President can say no”

He also commended the President for his action, saying “this is the most patriotic thing that the President has done”.