by Paul Osas
Two-third of the House of Representatives on Wednesday gave their nod to the amendment of big provisions in the 1999 constitution as part of a review process. In all, 70 clauses were amended.
One of the provisions they proposed to be amended was the immunity clause for sitting Presidents, Vice, Governors and deputies to allow them be tried for criminal offences while still in office.
Also, they proposed a separation of the offices of the Minister of Justice and the Attorney-General of the Federation, with each office having clearly-defined roles.
In the same vein, they are proposing a financial autonomy to local government councils in the country. Local government councils will have full autonomy and will no longer be appendages of state governments.
Section 7(1)(c) of the new proposed provision states, “The House of Assembly of every state, shall, subject to Section 8 of this constitution, ensure that existence of democratically elected local government councils under a law, which provides for their funding from the public revenue of the state and the autonomy of the local government councils.”
The House also yesterday made a provision for a life pension for the president, vice-president, senate president and his deputy, speaker of the House of Representatives and the deputy respectively; which is contained in clauses 5 and 5A on page 39 of the report.
The report read: “Any person who has held office as president or vice-president shall be entitled to pension for life at a rate equivalent to the annual salary of the incumbent president or vice-president; provided that such a person was not removed from office by the process of impeachment or for breach of any provision of this constitution.”
A total of 252 lawmakers voted for the bill to pass in the House having been harmonised by a conference committee of the Senate and House.
The motion for the adoption of the conference report was moved by the Deputy Speaker of the House, Mr. Emeka Ihedioha. Ihedioha who doubles as the Chairman of the House Committee on Constitution Review.
Speaker Aminu Tambuwal presided over Wednesday’s session which had a total of 261 members present in the chambers when voting started. Out of the number, 252 voted to adopt the conference report, eight voted against, while one member abstained.
However, the bill will have to scale three more hurdles.
First, it would have to get a large majority from the senate’s 109 senators. They will vote next week, as they did not have enough members present to vote yesterday. It will have to also receive the same support in the Senate, where there are 109 members. By implication, 73 senators will vote to adopt the report for the amendment to pass.
Secondly, if it scales through at the Senate, the document will be forwarded to the 36 state Houses of Assembly for “approval” by two-thirds of the state assemblies and lastly returned to the National Assembly again for the final approval.
Speaking after passing of the bill, Speaker Tambuwal told members that, “We have met the constitutional requirement of two-thirds for the adoption and passage of this important bill. Let us talk to our colleagues at the state assemblies for the adoption of this report.”