Chief Wole Olanipekun, Former NBA President
Legal practitioners are, however, divided on the constitutionality as well as the propriety of such a move by the National Assembly to attach resolutions as "riders" to bills in order to ensure implementation by the Executive.
While former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Chief Wole Olanipekun said the move is constitutional but advised that it should be employed with caution, other lawyers like Prof. Konyinsola Ajayi (SAN) and Dr. Fabian Ajogwu (SAN) said such would be unconstitutional and amount to a contravention of the doctrine of separation of powers.
Olanipekun said even though it is constitutional for the National Assembly to attach a rider to bills, it should not be done in such a way to close down the government.
He said the National Assembly members as representatives of the people need to collate the views of their constituents and people they represent on a particular policy of the government.
The former NBA president added that in doing this they could tell the president to reverse a policy. Olanipekun argued that in as much as the doctrine of separation of powers allows the three arms of government to operate independently, it does not call for any arm to taunt the other.
Warning that resolutions of the National Assembly should not be dismissed with a wave of the hands, the learned senior advocate cited the N5000 note as an example where a cross section of Nigerians opposed the policy.
He added that comments like the one credited to Information Minister Labaran Maku to the effect that the resolution of the National Assembly was not binding on the Presidency clearly showed that he does not understand the importance and working of the legislature.
Prof. Ajayi said it is not good for the country’s democracy for the National Assembly to give the presidency a condition or attach a rider to any bill before it is passed into law.
Describing it as whimsical and a crippling dictatorship, Ajayi said doing so would amount to contravening the doctrine of the separation of powers upon which democracy is built.
“The doctrine of separation of powers preaches absolute independence for all the arms of government in the performance of their duties. The duty of the legislature is to make law while the executive implements the law and the judiciary interprets the law.
“Therefore, where the National Assembly for instance attaches a rider or gives the executive which is the president some conditions before a bill is passed, it is not only whimsical but dictatorial, It is not good for the country’s democracy.”
Another lawyer, Ajogwu said there is no constitutional basis for the National Assembly to attach a rider to a bill before it is passed into law.
Ajogwu argued that it would border on bad ethics for the legislature to attach a rider or condition to a bill before it is passed.
Contending that a bill is meant to strengthen and enhance good governance, the learned silk added that attaching a rider or condition to it defeats the purpose of the bill.
“There is no constitutional basis for it. It is extraneous. It borders on bad ethics. Those who sponsor bills do so for the purpose of enhancing good governance, therefore, when a rider is attached, the aim is defeated”.