Senate strips President of powers to sign constitutional amendments
… Autonomy for State Assemblies, LGAs
… Gives INEC powers to scrap political parties
The Senate on Wednesday passed 29 out of the 33 items slated for amendment in the 1999 Constitution.
The lawmakers unanimously voted to strip the President of powers to assent to amendments made to the constitution, thereby giving the legislature sweeping powers to alter the constitution.
They voted 92 against four to pass the amendment seeking to whittle down the power of the President to veto the amendments to the constitution.
The lawmakers also unanimously passed the amendment seeking to include past Presidents of the Senate and former House of Representatives Speakers as members of Council of State.
Also on the card was immunity to lawmakers in the federal and state legislatures against prosecution over words spoken or written in the parliament during debates or at committee assignments.
They also passed an amendment that would compel the President to attend a joint session of the National Assembly once a year to deliver a State of the Nation address.
Similarly, the length of time given to the President to spend funds from the consolidated revenue in the absence of appropriation has been reduced from six to three months.
Henceforth, the President must lay the nation’s annual budgetary proposal before the National Assembly within 90 days before the end of a fiscal year, while state governors are also to lay theirs within the same time frame at the state assemblies.
Local governments have also been freed from the grip of state governments, with the scrapping of the existing Joint State/Local Government Accounts.
The local governments are to get their allocations directly from the federation account and other sources.
State assemblies are also to get financial autonomy. They are also to enjoy a right to funding from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the states. The amendment had been rejected by state assemblies during previous constitution amendment.
Also, the amendment prescribed that appointees of the President and State Governors for cabinet offices are now to be submitted to the Federal and State parliaments within 30 days of taking oath of office by the President or state governors.
Portfolios to be assigned to each appointee will also be indicated in the nomination letters forwarded to the Senate or the state assemblies as the case may be.
The Senate also approved a provision for independent candidates at all levels of election, as a way of expanding the political space beyond conventional parties.
The lawmakers also voted in favour of separation of the office of the Accountant General of the Federal Government from the office of the Accountant General of the Federation.
Similarly, the office of the Auditor-General for the Federation and state Auditors General are to be on first line charges in the consolidated revenue funds of the federation and the states respectively.
Also, the Senate voted in favour of separating the office of the Minister of Justice and state commissioners for Justice from that of the Attorney-General of the Federation and that of the State.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has also been empowered to delist non-performing registered political parties.
The amendment affects any political party that failed to win any seat at the federal, state or local government level.