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Jonathan rejects constitution amendment

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President Goodluck Jonathan on Wednesday vetoed the constitution amendment 2014 presented to him. In the letters sent to the two chambers of the National Assembly, the president said that the amendment was in violation of the strict requirement of section 9(3) of the 1999 constitution. The president said it was an attempt to whittle down the executive powers of the federation without due process.

President Jonathan was not comfortable with the decision to grant some executive powers of the federation in the legislative and the judiciary. He vetoed the amendments based on ‘the non-compliance with the threshold specified in section 9(3) of the 1999 constitution as amendments, alteration to constitution cannot be valid with mere voice votes unless supported by the votes of not less than four fifth majority of all members of National Assembly and two third of all the 36 state Houses of Assembly. The right to free basic education and primary and maternal care services imposed on private institutions is a flagrant violation of the doctrine of separation of powers, unjustified whittling down of the executive powers of the federation vested in the president by virtue of section 5(1) of the 1999 constitution and proposal of 30 day to be allowed for assent of the president to bills.

The president is also opposed to the limiting the expenditure in default of appropriation from six months to three months and the separation of the office of Accountant General of the federation from the Accountant General of the federal government.  The decision to empower the National Economic council to appoint Accountant General of the federation and the National Judicial council to appoint Attorney General of the federation did not go down well with the president.

According to the president,  ‘’I have accordingly examined the substance of the provisions and the procedure adopted by the National Assembly to pass the act and wish to observe as follows:

‘Section 4 of the fourth alteration Act 2015 seeks to alter section 9 of the 1999 constitution by the insertion of a new subsection 3A, which dispenses with the assent of the president in the process of constitutional amendment.

However, this alteration can only can only be valid if the proposal was supported by the votes of not less than four fifth majority of all the members of each of the houses of the National Assembly and approved by a resolution of the houses of Assembly of not less than two-third of all states as provided by section9 (3) of the 1999 constitution.

However, assuming without conceding that the necessary threshold were met by the National Assembly, there are a number of provisions in the act that altogether constitute flagrant violation of the doctrine of separation of powers enshrined in the 1999 constitution and an unjustified whittling down of the executive powers of the federation vested in the president by virtue of section 5(1) of the 1999 constitution.

On the amendment limiting accent to bill to 30 days, the president says ‘I am of the view that this provision has the potential of occasioning financial hardships and unintended shut down of government business, particularly where for unseen reasons and exigencies in the polity, the National Assembly is unable to pass appropriation act do not justify the reduction of the six months’ time limit in the constitution. I am of the respectful view that the current position should have been maintained.

He also said ‘the provision of section 84A that creates the new office of the Accountant General of the federation distinct from the Accountant General of the federal government has not addressed the funding requirement for the establishment of the office. It is necessary to clarify for instance, who staff and funds the office of the Accountant General of the federation and from whose budget will he be paid since he serves the three tiers of government.

‘I therefore with hold my assent and accordingly remit constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria (fourth alteration) Act 2015 to the senate and House of Representatives of the federal republic of Nigeria.

The president of the senate, David Mark says while it was necessary to discuss the letter, it would not be appropriate to do so before the senators got copies and studied the same. According to him, ‘We can’t discuss the letter unless you have a copy of it. So the first reaction is for me to make copies available to every body and you go and study it.

The deputy senate president Ike Ekweremadu has announced a two day retreat to study the president’s letter.

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