- Fails to override President’s veto
Contrary to its threat to ignore the Supreme Court’s ex-parte order, the Senate yesterday bowed to the apex court’s injunction by suspending its move to override President Goodluck Jonathan’s veto of Constitution (Alteration) Bill 2015.
The Upper House however resolved to seek legal means to clear the hurdles before its plan to override the President on the matter.
Senate President, David Mark, who suspended the attempt after an executive session said: “As we finished our discussion, I think it is proper for me because of the importance of the issue to make a very simple, straightforward and unambiguous statement. We are lawmakers and we will not be law breakers. We are not just lawmakers, we are very senior responsible citizens and very senior lawmakers and this is the apex of lawmaking in this country. Therefore on the issue of the current Constitutional Review that is before the Supreme Court, we want to assure Nigerians that we will not break any law in this country.
“We will take appropriate action that will ensure that democracy survives but I will also want to warn that we should not be taken for granted by the executive but once more, let me assure Nigerians that as lawmakers, we will not be law breakers.’’
Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba, who threw more light to what went behind closed doors, said: “At the level of the Committee on Constitutional Amendment, we had reviewed the developments concerning the amendment but we did not have the opportunity of briefing Senate in plenary. That opportunity we had this morning of briefing the Senate in plenary about the developments and circumstances surrounding the bill so that the Senate will be in the full picture. That is what we did today in the executive session.’’
He explained further that “We received a letter from Mr. President and the committee met to discuss that letter and agreed to make certain recommendations to Senate in plenary. Before we could do that we had the court order which again is another development and we had to thoroughly review those developments at the closed-session today to agree on the way forward.”
“We are vigorously going to challenge the order of the court which was made ex-parte; it was made without us being put on notice. I believe we can get the court to quickly determine that and we intend to pursue that option. We should expect this legal challenge as soon as possible.
“On the issue of four-fifth, it is not correct, our records are very clear, the votes and proceedings are there and we have gone through the records again and we certainly met the constitutional requirement of four-fifth.
“The Attorney-General who is alleging that we did not meet that constitutional requirement, has not exhibited any document to show that we did not, but from our records, we clearly did.
“On the issue of jam-packing amendments, let me say that this process has taken about three years, we started off with retreats in Akwa Ibom State.
“We had another retreat in Lagos, we had public hearing in Abuja, we had public hearings in the six geopolitical zones, we had public hearings in the 36 state capitals, we had public hearings in the 360 federal constituencies,” Ndoma-Egba stated.
He added that the hearings were open to the public, including members of the Executive arm of government.
“It is at those hearings that you are supposed to highlight your reservations or your concerns about each of the amendments. They did not use any of those opportunities provided by each of these public hearings only for us at this point when the Houses of Assembly has passed the amendments and we are to conclude that we are suddenly confronted with this ambush.
“We think it is in bad faith and it is regrettable. We are going to court to challenge the order. We were not put on notice and we were not represented
‘’We are lawmakers and not lawbreakers; if you look at the 1999 Constitution (as amended), the jurisdiction conferred on the Supreme Court does not include this kind of situation where one arm of government is having an issue with another arm of government.
“That jurisdiction was conferred by an Act of the National Assembly in 2002, which means it is a jurisdiction that we voluntarily gave to the Supreme Court and because that jurisdiction came from us, we must be seen to be obeying the laws of the land.
“The constitution has given the judiciary the power to adjudicate in situations like this and the matter is before the judiciary, we acknowledge that. So, the best way out is to pursue that order and vigorously pursue its being set aside and that is exactly what we are going to do immediately,’’ he said.
Nigerian Pilot recalls that Jonathan had in a letter dated April 13, addressed to Mark and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, announced his decision to reject the Constitution (Alteration) Bill 2015.
He had cited perceived deliberate attempts by federal lawmakers to whittle down presidential powers and their failure to strictly adhere to constitutional provisions on the amendments to Section 9 of the constitution by observing four-fifths majority support in each chamber before it could amend it.
The president had further argued that the National Assembly only observed two-thirds majority support for the amendment instead of four-fifths stipulation in the constitution before amending the section.