I won’t sign it new bills” Buhari tells Saraki
The Presidency said on Sunday that President Muhammadu Buhari had drawn the curtains on the signing of bills for the Fourth Alteration to the 1999 Constitution. It noted that any bills not signed till date must have lapsed, adding that Buhari would have also communicated same to the National Assembly. The Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang, spoke exclusively with The PUNCH amid renewed talks that Buhari failed to sign most of the constitutional amendment bills.
Both the Senate and the House of Representatives spent at least N1bn of taxpayers’ money between 2017 and the first quarter of 2018 on the fourth alteration of the 1999 constitution (as amended). Speaking on the issue, Enang said, “If the President has not signed any bill as of today – and he must have written the National Assembly informing them – it is because the time allowed by law has elapsed. “It is no more available for signing. And I know that the President assented to some of the bills that were submitted and sent the rest back to the National Assembly. “Anyone that has not been assented to, the time constitutionally allowed has elapsed and the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives must have been communicated.”
Findings showed that the Senate and the House initially proposed 33 amendments to the constitution, but both chambers only mutually passed 17 of the bills. The 17 bills were later forwarded to the 36 state Houses of Assembly for approval in compliance with Section 9 of the constitution. It was gathered that on April 18, the National Assembly forwarded 12 of the bills, which secured the endorsement of the two chambers upon return from the states, to President Buhari for his assent. The PUNCH learnt that Buhari so far signed the Not Too Young to Run Bill (reducing the eligible age to contest for President from 40 to 35 years) and four others.
A June 8, 2018 Presidency document obtained by The PUNCH, itemised the bills the President assented to. However, the 12 bills forwarded to the President earlier included Constitution (Fourth Alteration) Bill No 2 (Authorisation of Expenditure in Absence of Appropriation); Constitution (Fourth Alteration) Bill No 4 (Financial Autonomy of State Legislatures); Constitution (Fourth Alteration) Bill No 8 (The Legislature); Constitution (Fourth Alteration) Bill No 9 (Political Parties and Electoral Matters); and Constitution (Fourth Alteration) Bill No 15 (The Nigeria Police Force).
There were also Constitution (Fourth Alteration) Bill No 16 (Restriction of Tenure of President and Governor); Constitution (Fourth Alteration) Bill No 20 (Submission from the Judiciary); Constitution (Fourth Alteration) Bill No 21 (Determination of Pre-Election Matters); Constitution (Fourth Alteration) Bill No 22 (Consequential Amendment on Civil Defence); Constitution (Fourth Alteration) Bill No 24 (Procedure for Overriding Presidential Veto in Constitutional Alteration); Constitution (Fourth Alteration) Bill No 27 (Reduction of Age for Election); and the Constitution (Fourth Alteration) Bill No 28 (Timeline for the Presentation of Appropriation Bill). But, when The PUNCH sought the reaction of the National Assembly on the development, the Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr Abdulrazak Namdas, said the legislature had not rested the issue of constitution amendment.
He stated that a revisit was possible next year (2019) since the tenure of the 8th Assembly would not terminate till June 9. Namdas said much as Buhari had sent a number of the bills back to the National Assembly, there were others the President had yet to sign and he also did not revert to the legislature. He added, “To be fair to the President, he signed more bills, compared to previous Presidents. He also has a record of giving reasons he declined assent. But, there are bills he hasn’t signed and they are very important too. “When we resume, we will look at those bills that have not been signed and see what we can do about them. “As for the constitution alteration bills specifically, we will take a firm decision on them because all we need is two-thirds majority to pass them. So, until we resume in January to take a firm decision.”