*Rejects Devolution Of Power, Resource Control
* Passes ‘Not-Too-Young-To-Run’ Bill *Approves Independent Candidacy
The Nigerian Senate has rejected critical instruments that would have given impetus to the clamour for restructuring and resources control in the country.
The upper chamber while voting on 33 bills proposed in the amendment to the constitution rejected bill number 3 which centred on devolution of power, seeking to alter the Second Schedule Part I and II to move certain items to the Concurrent Legislative List to give more legislative power to states, delineate the extent to which the federal legislature and state assemblies can legislate on the items that have been moved to the Concurrent Legislative List.
It was defeated with just 46 of the senators voting in its favour whereas 73 was the figure needed as two-third passing votes constitutionally required of the 109-member Senate.
Ninety-five of the senators participated in the voting exercise.
The bill, if passed, would have set the pace for the clamoured restructuring of the country.
The Senate in rejecting bill 32 which deals with “deletion of the Land Use Act from the constitution”, dealt a deadly blow to the clamour for resource control also.
The bill had just 46 positive votes while 44 voted against it.
The clamour for women emancipation also suffered a great set-back as the Senate killed all the bills which were tailored towards giving them some headway in elective and appointive positions.
The Senate during the voting process rejected the clamour for Affirmative Action which would have seen women constitutionally having 35 percent seats reserved for them.It only attracted 61 while those who voted against it were 35 in number.
The need to reserve 20 percent of seats in the State Executive Council as well as elective positions at the state level was also defeated as 49 senators voted for it while 43 voted against it.
Also, the attempt to grant freedom to women to seek election or appointment based indigeneship by altering section 25 of the constitution to guarantee a married woman the right to choose her indigeneship by birth or by marriage was defeated as it garnered only 49 votes while 49 voted against it as well.
The Senate, however, made a major change to the process of alteration of the constitution as it unanimously voted in favour of the bill seeking to remove the power of the president over constitution amendment.
The Senate in a vote of 92 against 4 passed the bill seeking to whittle the power of the president to veto the amendment to the constitution.
The parliament also agreed to the idea of altering the membership of the Council of State by adding former presidents of the Senate and speakers of the House of Representatives as the bill seeking to amend the Third Schedule of the constitution was passed with outstanding 95 votes without any dissent.
The Senate also granted parliamentary immunity to all lawmakers against prosecution over what they say in the parliament in the cause of their work.
Bill number 8 which seeks among other things to alter Sections 4, 51, 67, 68, 93, and 109 of the constitution to provide immunity for members of the legislature in respect of words spoken or written at plenary sessions or at committee proceedings as well as compel the president to attend a joint meeting of the National Assembly once a year to deliver a state of the nation address was passed with a vote of 83 for, with one person opposing it.
The Senate also approved with 93 votes, one against and one abstention, the bill which reduced the power of president to spend money from the consolidated revenue funds in the absence of an Appropriation Act from six months to three months.
The president and state governors are also to henceforth lay their respective budgets mandatorily within a minimum of 90 days before the end the fiscal year.
Freedom from oppressive state government was approved for the local government administration as series of bills to that effect were approved by the Senate.
Bill number 5, which seek to alter Section 162 of the constitution to abrogate the state joint local government accounts and empower each local government to maintain its own special account into which all allocations due to the local government councils shall be paid from the Federation Account was passed with a vote of 84 in favour, 8 opposing and one abstaining from the vote.
Bill number 6, which proposed a guaranteed tenure of three years for local government authority was passed with a vote of 88 in favour, 7 against while one person abstained from the vote.
However, the bill seeking to cancel the appointment of caretaker committees for local governments by state governors and as well prevent such appointees from accessing funds meant for the local governments was defeated with just 47 senators voting in its favour while 48 voted against it.
Though, state Houses of Assembly have in the past constitution amendment rejected financial autonomy proposed, the Senate, however, once again adopted the proposal for financial autonomy for the states Assemblies.
With a vote of 90 to 5, the Senate passed the financial freedom bill for the state Assemblies, and also granted them the right to funding from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the state.
Appointees by the president and state governors for cabinet offices are now to be submitted to the federal and state parliaments within 30 days of taking oath of office by the affected president and state governor.
It was passed with a vote of 75 to 19.
Portfolios to be given to such appointees are to be attached to the nomination lists as well. It was passed with a vote of 78 to 16.
The Senate also voted for inclusion of independent candidates in all elections with a view to expanding the political space. Eighty-two senators voted for it, while 5 voted against and 3 abstained.
Eighty-ninesenators voted for the separation of the Office of Accountant General of the Federal Government from the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation by altering Section 84 of the constitution.
Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation and the states were given independence by placing them on first line charges in the consolidated revenue funds of the federation and the states. It was done with 95 unanimous votes.
The same vote was produced in separating the Office of Minister of Justice and state commissioners of Justice from that of the Attorney-General of the Federation and that of the state.
Bill number 9, which seeks to empower the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to delist non-performing registered political parties was passed with a vote of 90 without any dissent.
This was achieved with the passage of the bill that altered section 134 and 179 and section 225.
Henceforth, any political party that doesn’t win any seat at presidential, governorship, local government or a seat in the National Assembly can now be delisted by INEC.
Bill 16, which seeks to restrict a person who was sworn in as president or governor to complete the term of the elected president from contesting for the same office for more than one term was passed also. Eighty-eight senators voted for it while only one voted against it.
The Senate also passed the bill on Civil Defence, which seeks to reflect the establishment and core functions of corps. The amendment sought includes national security and civil defence as an item in the exclusive legislative list under the second schedule of the constitution. Seventy-ninesenators voted in support of the bill on Civil Defence.
The bill on procedure for overriding presidential veto in constitutional alteration, which seeks to provide procedure for passing a constitution alteration bill in the absence of the president also scaled through with 94 votes against 4.
With the passage of the bill, every amendment approved by the National Assembly with corollary support from the state legislators will become law through even without the assent of the president.
The bill seeking to set timelines for determination of election disputes also scaled through as senators voted 97 in support.
Another amendment proposed on age qualification by altering sections 65, 106, 131, and 177 of the constitution to reduce the age of qualification for offices of the president, governors, senate and members of the House of Representatives also got full endorsements of the Senate.
With the passage, anyone who has attained the age of 25 years can contest election into state House of Assembly as well as the House of Representatives while anyone who is 35 years old can contest into the office of the president as well as the Senate.
The NYSC scheme established by the military has been deleted from the constitution through a bill to that effect. The essence is to subject the scheme to regular process of amendment.
The bill seeking to alter the constitution to delete the Public Complaints Commission Act from the constitution for it to be a subject of regular process of amendment also enjoyed the endorsement of the Senate.
The Senate also voted to delete the National Securities Act from the constitution in order for the Act to undergo regular process of amendment.
In all, the Senate passed 29 out of 33 bills on amendment of the constitution, while the next stage of amendment is now in the court of state legislators which concurrence is required to make the amendment bills become laws.