The House of Representatives on Wednesday revisited the refusal of President Goodluck Jonathan to sign the Fourth Constitution Alteration Bill into law by amending part of its Standing Orders to simplify the procedure for overriding the President’s veto.
At its sitting in Abuja, the House amended Order XIII to introduce new rules (rules 10 to 13), which now empower the legislature to override any future withholding of assent by the President.
A motion to amend the order was sponsored by the Chairman, House Committee on Rules/Business, Mr. Albert Sam-Tsokwa, and 22 others.
It was entitled, “Amendment of the Standing Orders of the House of Representatives: Order XIII, Rule 98.”
By the new amendment to the rules, the House noted that where a bill received two-thirds majority approval of the House in line with Section 58 of the 1999 Constitution, it would become a law.
The motion also clarified that where the President withheld his assent or refused to notify the legislation on his decision at the point that an assembly was winding down, the next assembly could proceed with the process of overriding the veto.
The current 7th Assembly’s lifespan will expire 16 days from now.
The motion added, “Notwithstanding the provisions in these rules, the process of passage of a constitution alteration bill shall continue from one session to another and from one assembly to another.”
Giving further details on the new rules, Sam-Tsokwa said, “The final copy of the clauses in the bill that received the support of two-thirds majority’s ear of the state House of Assembly shall be compiled and, if passed by a concurrent resolution of the House, shall thereafter be transmitted to the President for an assent.”
The implication of the new rules is that the 8th National Assembly will also continue with the process of amending the constitution from where the current assembly stopped, as against starting it all over again.
The President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), who would have become the President at the time, is expected to sign the bill and the legislature will continue with any process of overriding started during Jonathan’s tenure.
The House took this action on Wednesday in spite of a Supreme Court order halting further actions on the amendment of the constitution.
Jonathan had withheld his assent to the Fourth Alteration Bill on the grounds that it did not fulfil the requirements for amending the Constitution.
He also went to the apex court to halt further proceedings on it.
The court had ordered the process stopped pending the determination of the matter.
The Senate had two weeks ago attempted to commence the process of overriding Jonathan’s veto, but later deferred to the court order.