Constitution amendment: Senators absence stalls overriding proceeding

 

Failure of the Senators to form quorum on Tuesday forced the Upper Chamber to postpone the process of overriding President Goodluck Jonathan veto on the amendment of 1999 Constitution.

The Supreme Court had last Thursday ruled on a suit filed by the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), seeking to stop the National Assembly from overriding the president’s veto on Fourth Alteration Bill 2015.

Many Senators were absent at the plenary to begin the proceeding on overriding President’s veto on amendment of the 1999 constitution which was already scheduled in order paper, thereby forcing the Deputy President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu who presided over plenary session to fix the process of overriding till Wednesday, although according to him the Senate will begin the sitting at a closed door session.

Ekweremadu said, “I request all of us to make available tomorrow to discuss the amendments to the Constitution, and be able to respond appropriately to the development. Please let those, who are not available, know that we will have close session tomorrow to discuss this item so that we will be able to fashion out the way forward.”

Our correspondent reliably gathered that Senate decided to begin the process of overriding the President’s veto by presenting the amendment for reading on the order paper on Tuesday  in order to save the constitution review process from being a wasted effort despite the fact that the Supreme Court had ordered that status quo should be maintained while adjourning the suit to June 18.

Meanwhile, furious members of the House of Representatives have vowed to work some way round the Court injunction, describing it as meddlesome since the 4th Alteration attempt was yet in the process, which they argued, makes it unnecessary for the apex court to have interfered.

Chief Bayo Ojo had filed the application on behalf of the AGF, pursuant to Order 3, Rule 14 of the Supreme Court Rules as amended. He alleged that NASS was determined to proceed with passing the constitution by overriding the president’s veto of same despite the fundamental nature of the issues raised against it.

According to him, it is in the interest of justice and that of the entire Nigerian polity that the issues in the substantive suit be resolved one way or another before the National Assembly could proceed with the proposed alterations to the constitution.

According to the AGF, ”Hon. Samson Osagie, minority whip of the House of Representatives, said to the whole world at a press conference purposely called on the issue in this suit that despite any case filed against the said Act (which actually is a Bill), the National Assembly would go ahead to pass it into law. “

The AGF asserted that the balance of convenience tilted in favour of resolving the suit before any further step could be taken on the Bill.

An affidavit deposed by Theophilus Okwute, a lawyer in the chambers of Chief Bayo Ojo and Co in the case reads in part:

”That I listened to Hon. Samson Osagie, the minority whip of the House of Representatives on the NTA 9 o’clock News on 24/04/2015 when he said that the National Assembly would go ahead to pass the (Fourth Alteration) Act (Bill) 2015 into law despite any court action because no order had been made against the National Assembly to restrain it from doing so.

That by that very disposition of the said Hon. Samson Osagie, who spoke to the press as a principal officer of the defendant/respondent, it is clear that the defendant/respondent is determined to proceed to pass the Fourth Alteration Act (sic) into Law despite the pendency of the substantive suit herein.

That fundamental questions were raised by the plaintiff/applicant on the proposed alterations to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria through the Fourth Alteration Act, 2015, which is in issue in this suit.