John Ameh, Abuja
The House of Representatives has said it will override President Muhammadu Buhari’s veto on the Peace Corps Bill he had earlier rejected.
The implication of this is that the lawmakers will pass the bill into law without Buhari’s assent if the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly tread the same path with the House.
The Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Abdulrazak Namdas, who said this on Wednesday, added that the House would override Buhari on nine other bills.
He said the National Assembly had begun the process of overriding Buhari’s veto on the 10 bills.
According to Namdas, apart from the Peace Corps Bill, a Bill for an Act to Establish the Chartered Institute of Treasury Management; a Bill for an Act to Establish the Nigerian Council for Social Work; and a Bill for an Act to Amend the Currency Conversation of Prison Orders are some of the bills.
Others are “A Bill for an Act to Establish Police Procurement Fund, a Bill for an Act to Amend the Environmental Health Officers Registration, a Bill for an Act to Establish the Chartered Institute of Loan and Risk Management of Nigeria and a Bill for an Act to Establish the Chartered Institute of Public Management of Nigeria.”
This will, however, require securing two-thirds majority vote of both chambers to pass the bills.
This means that at least 72 senators and 240 Reps must vote to override the President.
The procedure for overriding the President’s veto on a bill is spelt out in Section 58 of the constitution, particularly 58 (5).
Section 58 (5) reads, “Where a bill is presented to the President for assent, he shall within thirty days thereof signify that he assents or that he withholds assent.
“(5) 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.”
The House, Namdas added, insisted that it would override the President’s veto in the controversial electoral bill to ensure that the 2019 presidential poll would be conducted last in the sequence by the Independent National Electoral Commission.
It gave clear signals to override the President’s veto by saying that the electoral bill would be sent to Buhari again for his signature.
However, this will come after two of the three reasons Buhari gave for withholding his assent would have been deleted from the bill and passed afresh.
Namdas, who spoke on the latest decision of the legislature, explained that the lawmakers had accepted two of the reasons advanced by Buhari for rejecting the bill.
He said those accepted were the second and third reasons given by the President.
Namdas, a member of the All Progressives Congress from Adamawa State, said, “We agreed with the first one that the amendment of Section 138 of the Principal Act (Electoral Act) to delay crucial grounds upon which an election may be challenged by a candidate, unduly limits the right of candidates in election to a free and fair electoral review process. This, we have agreed with the President.
“We have also agreed with the reason advanced that the amendment of Section 152 of the Principal Act raises constitutional issues over the competence of the National Assembly to legislate over local government elections.
“This too, we have agreed with the President. So, it is true that we don’t have powers on the two.”
But, on the first reason, which was on the reordering of the elections, Namdas said the legislature insisted that it retained the power under the 1999 Constitution to decide the order of elections and not INEC.
He noted that Section 4 of the constitution empowered the National Assembly to legislate over elections, particularly item 22 of the provision.
Namdas added, “It means that we have the power to work on the order of elections as it is stated. INEC has the power to fix electoral dates in accordance with the Electoral Act. The entire Electoral Act talks about organising elections. If we do not have powers on how to organise elections, that means we do not even have the power to even pass the Electoral Act itself. That means it’s an illegal thing (Act) because it was passed by the National Assembly.”
Namdas disclosed that the National Assembly stood by the new bill that the presidential poll would be held last, but excluding the two reasons it was in agreement with Buhari.
He stated that the National Assembly would expunge the two portions from the bill, pass it again and send it to Buhari for his assent on the reordered elections sequence.
“In view of this, we will re-gazette the Electoral Act (amendment bill) and expunge the areas that we are in agreement with the President. In line with the constitution, we will bring it back for debate and follow the procedure of first and second reading, pass it and re-transmit it to the President for his assent.”
The implication is that the bill will begin a fresh journey of first, second and third reading before it is sent to Buhari again for his assent.
Namdas added that should he withhold his assent again to the bill, the process of overriding his veto would commence in earnest.
John Ameh, Abuja