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Senate has
whittled down the powers of the Presidency in an ongoing Constitution review by
moving certain items from the Exclusive Legislative List to the Concurrent
List.

The
amendment was known when the Red Chamber received an interim status report of
its Constitution Review Committee (CRC(, chaired by Deputy Senate President,
Ike Ekweremadu.

Ekweremadu
said the Second Schedule, Part I and II of the Constitution has been altered to
decongest the Exclusive Legislative List in order to give more powers to the
states of the Federation.

He said the
move will enhance the principle of federalism and good governance. Ekweremadu
said pensions, prisons, railways, stamp duties and wages have been moved from
the Exclusive Legislative List to the Concurrent List.

He added
that arbitration; environment, healthcare, housing, road safety, land and
agriculture, youths and public complaints were also added to the Concurrent
List of the Constitution.

According
to Ekweremadu, the full draft of the constitution amendment bill will be ready,
after harmonisation with the House of Representatives, on grey areas.

The Seventh
National Assembly embarked on a similar exercise, but former President Goodluck
Jonathan, declined to sign it into law. Former minister of Justice and
Attorney-General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke, approached the Supreme
Court to stop the National Assembly from vetoing the president.

But, in the
CRC report, it recommended uniform three-year tenure for elected local
government council officials and also recommended that local governments that
are not democratically elected should not be entitled to any revenue from the
Federation Account.

In the
report, the committee made a provision for national savings of 50 per cent of
oil revenues above the bench mark for a particular year and 10 per cent of any
non-oil revenue paid into the Federation Account.

It amended
sections 82 and 122 of the Constitution to reduce the period within which the
president or a governor may authorise withdrawal of monies from the
Consolidated Revenue Fund in the absence of an Appropriation Act from six
months to three months.

“Essentially,
this will compel early presentation of a budget proposal by the Executive arm
of government, thereby giving the legislature sufficient time to scrutinise such
proposal,” Ekweremadu noted.

Also,
section 121 of the Constitution has been amended to guarantee first line charge
funding for Houses of Assembly from the Consolidated Revenue Fund. If passed
into law, it will free state legislatures from the grip of state governors.

Amendment
of sections 147 and 192 of the Constitution would also ensure that the
president and governors designate and assign portfolios to persons nominated as
ministers or commissioners, respectively, prior to confirmation by the Senate
or House of Assembly.

It also
provided a period of 60 days within which such nominations shall be forwarded
to the Senate or House of Assembly following inauguration, with 35 per cent
representation for women in the appointment of ministers and commissioners.

Sections
51, 67, 93 and 315 were amended to create the National Assembly Service
Commission and the State House of Assembly Service Commission and empower the
National Assembly and State House of Assembly respectively to provide for the
powers and structure of the commissions through subsequent legislations.

It has also
made it mandatory for the President to attend a joint meeting of the National
Assembly, once a year, to deliver a State of the Nation Address and removed
lawmaking power of the executive arm of government under section 315.

The extant
provision is contrary to section 4 of the Constitution, which confers lawmaking
powers exclusively on the legislature.

Meanwhile,
a bill for an Act to provide for the inauguration of the president and vice
president, also known as the Presidential Inauguration Bill, 2016, was read a
second time, yesterday.

The bill,
sponsored by Ekweremadu, seeks to align Nigeria’s presidential inauguration
with international best practices, as obtained in the United States of America,
and many other democracies.

Leading
debate on the general principles of the bill, Ekweremadu explained that the
bill seeks to move the inauguration of the president and his deputy from the
Eagle Square to within the precincts of the National Assembly, but, without
precluding the Chief Justice of Nigeria from administering the oath of office on
the president and his deputy.

The
committee also tinkered with sections 233, 237, 247, 251 and Part I of the
Third Schedule of the Constitution, to provide for all appeals from the Court
of Appeal to the Supreme Court to be by leave of the Supreme Court except in
the case of interpretation of the Constitution, death sentences and fundamental
human rights.

It also
proposed that two justices of the Court of Appeal, sitting in chambers to
dispose any application for leave to appeal after considering the records of
proceedings if the justices believe the interest of justice does not require an
oral hearing of the application.

Also,
Senate resolved to establish a criminal division of the Federal High Court to
try electoral offences, terrorism cases, economic and financial crimes cases
and provide for appeals from the decisions of the National Industrial Court to
the Court of Appeal.

According
to the report, 12 Justices of the Court of Appeal are to be learned in Labour
and Employment Matters for the purpose of hearing appeals from the National
Industrial Court and put the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) under the control
of the judiciary instead of the executive.

Speaking
further on the recommendations, Ekweremadu said: “In line with the Committee’s
decision to disaggregate constitutional amendment proposals into different
bills, we consolidated and clustered amendment proposals into appropriate
thematic and sectional heads. While some amendment proposals were incorporated
into existing Senate Bills, others were grouped thematically.

“Additionally,
some amendments that could not fit into any of the above classifications were
produced as stand-alone bills. Those stand-alone bills contain amendment
proposals which we deem contentious, hence the need to isolate them from other
proposals.

“These
clusters are given different short titles such as Fourth Alteration Bill No.1,
2, 3, etcetera.  The reason for this is
to ensure that the rejection of a group of sections dealing with an issue does
not affect other clusters dealing with different unconnected issues.

“This is to
forestall the unsavory experience of the Fourth Alteration Bill as passed in
the 7th Assembly, which after satisfying the provisions of section 9 of the
1999 Constitution as amended was not assented to by the then President.”

Ekweremadu
explained: “Mr. President, Distinguished Colleagues, you would recall that
Nigeria transformed from operating a Parliamentary- Westminster system- to the
extant Presidential system modeled after the U.S. Presidential system of
government in 1979 and continued to the 4th Republic from 1999 to date.

“You would
also recall that from the commencement of the 4th Republic to 2015 the
inauguration or swearing-in of the newly elected President and the Vice
President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria had been taking place at the Eagle
Square.  This practice of inauguration of
the President and the Vice President at the Eagle Square is at variance with
what transpires in the United States and other democracies where their
Presidents and Vice Presidents are inaugurated within the precincts of their
Parliaments.

“Thus, as
you can see, this is a misnomer.  The
popular or international best practice is for the leadership of the Executive
to be inaugurated within the premises of the Legislature, who are perceived as
the true representatives of the people. 
Suffice it to say that this practice does not preclude or extricate the
Chief Justice of Nigeria from administering the Oath of Office on the two.”

He noted
that the bill further provides for the inauguration ceremony of the
President-elect and the Vice President-elect to take place at the Arcade of the
National Assembly, where the people are represented.

He said it
also provides for the setting up of a Presidential Inauguration Committee,
which shall consist of a serving Member of the National Assembly as Chairman,
six members drawn from the Legislature, two from the Executive, two from the
Judiciary, and two from the Civil Society.

Section 7
provides for order of Procession with the President leading, while former
Presidents, former Heads of State, former Heads of Federal Government, former
Vice Presidents, Former Senate Presidents, former Speakers of the House of
Representatives, and former Chief Justices of the Federation, follow,
accordingly.

Ekweremadu
also explained that the bill further provides for the President-elect and Vice
President-elect to be the last to come, accompanied by their immediate families
and also to be supported by their spouses, serving President of the Senate, and
the Speaker of the House of Representatives at the point of swearing-in.

The Senate
in plenary presided over by the Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki,
approved for the bill to be read a second time and subsequently referred it to
the Senate Committee on Special Duties for further processing. The Committee is
to report back to the Senate in four-week time.

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