On the 21st of March, it became known to the public that President Muhammadu Buhari refused to assent to another set of five bills sent to the presidency. The rejected legislation include the Nigeria Film Corporation Bill, Immigration (Amendment) Bill, Climate Change Bill, Chartered Institute of Pension Practitioners Bill and the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill.
This latest action by the presidency has brought the number of bills passed by the 8th National Assembly but rejected by the president in the last four years to 26.
Independently, the Senate on Wednesday, 20th March passed three new bills at plenary which they will also forward to the presidency shortly. These fresh bills which are set to be forwarded to the President for assent are the National Fertiliser Quality (Control) Bill, the National Orientation Act (Amendments) Bill, and the Nigerian Council for Psychologists (Establishment) Bill.
During the Senate proceedings, the Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki, remarked on the growing trend of rejected bills. The Senate consequently opted to set up a committee to investigate the reasons behind this as well as the other bills which should be re-presented to the presidency for assent.
Three weeks later, on Wednesday, April 10th, at plenary, the Chairman of the Technical Committee on Declined Assent to Bills by the President, Senator David Umaru, while presenting his report to the Senate, recommended that the Red Chamber (Senate) should override the President’s veto on some of the rejected bills by re-presenting them on the floor; to this they all concurred.
One of the bills which the Senate chose to veto – the Constitutional Amendment Bill – seeks to make it mandatory for the President and state governors to lay the annual budget estimates before parliament three months to the end of a financial year, while the Industrial Development (Income Tax Relief) Amendment Bill will address concerns with development in industry.
The Senate also resolved to reconsider and pass again the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill, Stamp Duties (Amendment) Bill and nine other bills which were rejected in 2018 by the President, and transmit them to him for assent.
But there is an even more important cause, considering the trend that the house may not have noticed yet. It is either the committees working on those rejected bills have all done shoddy jobs or the presidency is all out to frustrate the National Assembly’s effort to enact laws. We all know that the most primary duty of the National Assembly, both the lower and the upper chamber, is to enact laws as well as be a check and balance to the other arms of government.
However, if the House has done its own homework perfectly before presenting those bills, and if true that the presidency is deliberately frustrating lawmaking until a new rubber-stamp legislative hopefully resumes sitting by May 29th, then the Senate should begin to seriously consider its full veto power.
According to Section 58, subsection (5) of the 1999 Constitution, “Where the President withholds his assent and the bill is again passed by each House by two-thirds majority, the bill shall become law and the assent of the President shall not be required.” It clearly shows that all the National Assembly needs to pass a bill perpetually rejected by the presidency is a two-thirds majority veto vote.
There are just about six weeks to the end of the 8th National Assembly. If the legislature is keen on achieving any crucial thing before their time wraps up, it behoves them to look inwards and do the needful.
Nigerians need the National Assembly at this crucial time to defend democracy, veto the presidency, and pass bills which they are convinced are crucial enough for national development without recourse to whose ox is gored.