Bill on National Assembly inauguration suffers setback in Senate

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The Senate on Wednesday stood down a Bill for an Act to provide for the inauguration of the National Assembly.

The Bill was meant to ensure the smooth transfer of legislative power from the outgoing National Assembly to an incoming one.

President of the Senate Ahmad Lawan has advised the sponsor of the Bill, Senator Gabriel Suswam to withdraw the Bill due to concerns raised by Senators in the floor that what the Bill seeks to achieve would require constitutional amendment.

Suswam withdrew the Bill titled: “A Bill for an Act for the inauguration of the National Assembly, to ensure the smooth transfer of legislative power from the outgoing National Assembly to the incoming National Assembly and for this purpose establish the National Assembly Inauguration Committee, designate a certain and definite day for convening and inaugurating the National Assembly; and for related matters, 2019” following the intervention of the Senate President.

Earlier in his lead debate, Suswam said that the objective of the Bill was to ensure a smooth transition of legislative powers from the outgoing National Assembly to the incoming assembly by providing a comprehensive legal framework for managing and coordinating the inauguration and swearing-in of newly elected or incoming lawmakers.

Suswam said: “Specifically, this Bill seeks to ensure clarity and certainty with respect to the day/date for convening and inaugurating the incoming assembly.”

Senate Minority Leader, Sen. Eyinnaya Abaribe (Abia North) noted that the Senate cannot be inaugurated except by the proclamation of the President.

“Assuming you have a President that refuses to proclaim, how do we sit. This is the issue that we are making sure that we entrench all these good things about democracy.

“It is very good that we continue to entrench democracy,” Abaribe said.

Senate Deputy Minority Leader, Senator Emmanuel Bwacha in his contribution, said that the Bill was a masterpiece that would moderate the Senate’s proceedings.

“What happened in the Eighth Senate and even the ninth Senate, if we had had a Bill like this in place, there would have been no need for the issues on inauguration or even the court process that we went through that almost divided us at the period of inauguration.

“The Bill is a demonstration of the fact that we want to moderate ourselves just as we have laws that regulate agencies as empowered by the Constitution,” he said.

Senator Adamu Aliero (Kebbi Central) on his part cited Orders 63 and 64 of the Senate’s standing rules which states: “The Senate and the House of Representatives shall sit for a period of not less than 181 days in a year.

“The Senate and the House of Representatives shall stand dissolved at the expiration of a period of four years commencing from the date of the first sitting of the House.

“The first sitting will be done immediately after a proclamation by the President and when the proclamation is signed, the senate reconvenes.

“I doubt very much that what Suswam is proposing will not go against the provisions of the Constitution,” he said.

In the same vein, Senator James Manager (Delta South) said that it was a good Bill but should be treated with caution.

Manager said: “Usually, the outgoing senate is aware of when they are leaving; the incoming senate is not very clear of which particular day the inauguration is going to take place.

“This Bill has come to bring certainty as to when the Senate is sitting. I think it is the practice the world over.

“However there are serious constitutional issues. This Bill will provoke a lot of discussions. Let there be serious and rigorous public hearing on the Bill for us to have certainty as to when the assembly will be inaugurated.

“Because of the obvious national implication of the Bill, this is one Bill that will require serious constitutional amendment to streamline things even in the states,” Manager said.

Deputy Senate President, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege said “In the exercise of the power vested in Section 4, whatever we come with here are Acts of the assembly.

“And when Acts of the assembly are in conflict with specific constitutional provisions, what happens?

“It is for us to amend the Constitution and not bypassing a Bill that will be in conflict with the provisions of the Constitution,” he said.

In his remark, President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, said that “I agree that it is a constitutional matter that we need to resolve.

“This Bill even if signed into law, cannot vitiate section 64 of the Constitution. I will advise that we tow the path of constitutional amendment to achieve that,” Lawan said.

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