Senate moves to override Buhari’s veto on constitution, income bills
The Senate, yesterday, resolved to override President Muhammadu Buhari’s veto on two bills, which the National Assembly earlier passed and forwarded to him for assent, but he declined.
The bills are: The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (Fourth Alteration No. 28) Bill, 2018 and the Industrial Development (Income Tax Relief) Amendment Bill, 2018.
The Senate also resolved to reconsider and pass 11 bills and withdraw four others, passed by the Chamber and forwarded to President Buhari, which he refused to sign into law, giving various reasons.
The apex legislative chamber made these resolutions following the consideration of the report of its Technical Committee on Declined Assents to Bills by Mr. President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federation.
The Constitution Alteration Bill No. 28, rejected by the President, seeks to provide for the time within which the President or Governor shall lay the Appropriation Bill before the National Assembly or House of Assembly, to encourage early presentation and passage of Appropriation Bills.
Buhari had declined assent to the bill, saying that section 2(b) and section 3(b) of the bill appear not to take full cognisance of the provisions of section 58(4) of the 1999 Constitution.
However, the Upper Chamber saw no cogent reason in Buhari’s ground for declining his assent, wherein he cited section 58(4) of the 1999 Constitution.
Presenting the report of the Technical Committee, the Chairman of the Panel, Senator David Umaru (APC, Niger East) said: “For clarity, section 58(4) deals with mode of exercising federal legislative powers: general, particularly, the number of days to assent or decline assent to a bill.
“It provides “Wherein a bill is presented to the President for assent, he shall, within 30 days thereof, signify that he assents or that he withholds assent.”
He further explained that the bill seeks to make it mandatory for Mr. President and Governor of a state to cause to be prepared and laid before parliament, estimates of the revenues and expenditure of the federation for the following year.
According to Umaru, the bill will also make the parliament to pass the appropriation bill before the commencement of the next financial year.
The committee further noted that “the legislative intent behind this bill is to ensure that we run a normal financial year.”
On the other hand, the Income Tax Relief Amendment Bill, which the Senate also resolved to override Buhari’s veto, seeks to allow companies that expand their operations in pioneer industry or product to apply for a new pioneer status.
However, the President declined assent to the bill on the following grounds:
“That there are ongoing consultations by the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment with other Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) on the tax holidays incentive regime for expansion projects, investments in rural areas, as well as for Agriculture/Agro-processing to be concluded and pave way for presidential orders, or executive bills for consideration and passage by the National Assembly.
“That the consultations would result in fiscal measures that would greatly enrich the quality of the tax holidays incentive regime for these types of projects and investments.
“That at the end, these fiscal measures when finalized, would be subsequently submitted to the National Assembly by way of presidential Executive orders, or executive bills for consideration and passage into law by the federal legislature, in due course.”
In its observations, part of which was read out on the floor of the Senate by Senator Umaru, the Technical Committee noted that President Buhari’s reason for declining assent to the bill was rather simplistic.
“Mr. President, distinguished colleagues, we wish to state here that the committee finds Mr. President’s observation on this bill rather simplistic. Certainly, Mr. President’s overall intention to come up with legislative proposal that would stand the test of time is commendable.
“However, lawmaking cannot unjustly suffer in anticipation of a proposed legislation. Above all, nothing stops Mr. President or anybody for that matter from proposing an amendment to an existing law or even a repeal of an existing law.
“There is nowhere in the world where the President can propose to stop the law-making process by an executive fiat or order. The President cannot withhold assent to a bill on the mere fact that consultations are on-going, which will enable him come up with a new bill”, the committee stated.
Umaru said the 11 bills that would be passed again and transmitted for assent, was based on the fact that some of the observations made by the President were convincing.
“The committee from its findings discovered that Mr. President withheld assent to some of the bills on the grounds that provisions of the extant acts are adequate enough to address the issues raised in the proposed legislations.
“Also, it is not every aspect of the economy that should be regulated by law but by policies of government.
“The passage of the Suppression of Piracy Bill that the President referred to in his Executive Communication when combined with the two bills currently before the Senate on the same subject matter, would address the issues raised in the NIMASA Amendment Bill,” he said.
According to him, one of the 11 rejected bills the committee recommends for consideration and passage is the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (Fourth Alteration, No. 8) Bill, 2018.
Others are: Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (Fourth Alteration, No. 15) Bill, 2018; Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (Fourth Alteration, No. 20) Bill, 2018.
Also, Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (Fourth Alteration, No.22) Bill, 2018 was recommended for consideration and passage.
Others are the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (Fourth Alteration, No. 24) Bill, 2018; Stamp Duties (Amendment) Bill, 2018; Petroleum Industry Governance Bill, 2018 and National Institute of Hospitality and Tourism (Establishment) Bill, 2018.
Furthermore, the committee recommended that the Senate does consider and pass again the National Research and Innovation Council Bill, 2018 among others.
Meanwhile, the Senate resolved to withdraw the Chartered Institute of Entrepreneurship (Establishment) Bill, 2018; the Subsidiary Legislation (Legislative Scrutiny) Bill, 2018; the Advanced Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences (Amendment) Bill, 2018 and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency Amendment Bill, 2018.
Contributing, Senate Leader, Ahmad Lawan, congratulated the committee for a professional and thorough job.
He called for a filter system where before bills scale first reading, the Senate was properly advised on whether or not to consider it to avoid waste of time and energy.
“We must also find a way to ensure that MDAs that implement such laws are present at public hearings,” he said.
Senator Emmanuel Bwacha (PDP-Taraba) commended the committee for a job well done.
He said: “Some of the issues Senator Lawan raised are true, but beyond that, there is behind the scene politics that lead to non-passage of some of these bills.
“For instance, the Electoral Act Amendment Bill. Some lawmakers will be part of passage of bills and later go behind to deny the decision of the National Assembly to support the Executive.
“We must all know it should be Nigeria first. There was no party politics in passage of the electoral bill but unfortunately it got swallowed up in political crisis.”
Senator James Manager (PDP-Delta) also commended the committee for a job well done.
He, however, expressed concern that “about 20 years down the line, we still have this problem.”
“There are lots of things that can make both arms work together but that does not mean one arm must insist that its way must persist.
“It is worrisome how few persons sit and advise the president, creating problems not just for the National Assembly but the country at large because laws are made for all even those unborn.
“So, there must be a system where complicated issues like this are resolved for a win win situation.”
The President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, asked the Clerk of Senate to commence work on the bills slated for reconsideration to ensure that they were passed within the life of the 8th Senate meant to elapse on June 9.
He, thereafter, put the recommendations of the technical committee to voice vote and they were all adopted.