House Rejects Separation of Attorney General from Minister of Justice

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  • Passes ‘Not too young to run bill’ Approves 35% ministerial slots for women, commissioners 20%
  • Opposes indigenisation for married women

James Emejo in Abuja

The House of Representatives thursday rejected an amendment to the 1999 constitution to separate the office of the Attorney General of the Federation and of the state from the office of the minister or commissioner for justice in a bid to make them independent and insulate both from partisanship.

The lower chamber, however, passed the ‘Not too Young to Run Bill ‘ to remove age limitations for young people who seek elective positions in politics.

It also approved the affirmative action bill which stipulates that 35 per cent of persons appointed as ministers be women and 20 per cent of appointments by state governors be commissioners was voted for by the green chamber.

The House further voted in favour of an amendment to the constitution to disqualify any candidate from being declared winner of any election by the law courts, particularly where he or she neither participated nor canvassed for votes.

These were part of the positions of the lawmakers at the consideration and voting on the proposed amendments to the 1999 Constitution.
The House voted against the devolution of powers, opposing the transfer of certain items from the exclusive legislative list to the concurrent legislative list to give more powers to states.
It passed the proposed amendment composition of members of the Council of State to include the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives to ensure the three arms of government are fairly represented.

A bill on political parties and electoral matters to provide the independent national electoral commission (INEC) sufficient time to conduct bye-elections and provide grounds for deregistration of political parties and for other related matters was also approved by the lawmakers.

But the House rejected a bill for state creation and boundary adjustment to remove the ambiguity associated with the procedures and passed a bill seeking to provide immunity for members of the legislature in respect to spoken of written words at plenary sessions or committee proceedings and institutionalise legislative bureaucracy in the constitution and other related matters.

The lower chamber approved a bill to make the office of the Auditor General for the Federation and for the state financially independent by placing them on the Consolidated Revenue of the Federation and of state; the bill scaled through with 280 in favour and nine against.

They voted in support of financial autonomy for the state legislature with 286 in favour and 10 against.
Of the total of 30 bills considered by the House, 21 bills were passed while nine others were rejected by the House.

The House voting exercise was merely to establish concurrence with the earlier position of the Senate which voted Tuesday on the proposed amendment.

In some cases, whereby the upper chamber had voted against a particular bill, the House would only be making its position known to the public if it decided to vote in favour of same bill already opposed by the Senate. This is because as a bicameral legislature, it’ll require the assent of both Houses to pass a piece of legislation.
For instance, on the bill for state creation and boundary adjustment to remove the ambiguity associated with it, the Senate passed the bill while it was defeated in the House which voted 166 in favour and 125 against but it could meet the two-thirds majority votes needed to pass.

Also, though the citizenship and indigeneship bill passed in the Senate, it failed in the House with 208 members in support while 78 opposed it and thus fell short of the two-thirds requirement.

Furthermore, the House voted in favour of changing the name of the Nigeria police from Nigeria Police Force to Nigeria Police and approved the restriction of tenure of the president and governor to disqualify a person who was sworn-in as president or governor to complete the term of the elected president or governor from being elected to same office for more than a single term.

The green chamber, however, disapproved of a bill that provide for a change in the names of some local government councils and further rejected an alteration of the constitution to provide for the appointment of a minister from the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to ensure the capital city is represented in the Executive Council.

The lawmakers approved an amendment to the constitution to provide time for the determination of pre-election matters but voted in favour of a bill to amend the 1999 constitution to reflect the establishment and core functions of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps.

But a bill on citizenship and indigeneship suffered a setback in the House as it opposed moves to entitle married women to claim indigeneship of the state of their husbands. The voting caused some rows as a result of technical hitch from the electronic display board- and House Speaker, Hon. Yakubu Dogara had to appeal to members to vote thrice to be convinced on the results. At the end, the bill, largely supported by women members suffered a defeat as it couldn’t garner the two-thirds majority needed to scale through.

Furthermore, the House passed a bill seeking to provide for the procedure for passing a constitution alteration bill where the president withholds assent. Essentially, it read that:”Where the president withholds his assent and the bill is again voted upon by each House of the National Assembly by two-thirds majority, the bill shall become law. “

Also, a bill to amend the constitution to allow INEC conduct local government elections in states was rejected with 229 in favour and 51 against the bill.
The bill for the appointment of the FCT minister also failed with 191 in favour and 91 against while three abstained.

The bill to remove certain Acts including the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and the Land Use, national security agencies and the Public Complaints Commission from the constitution failed to garner adequate support to pass despite lobby from interested members including the speaker.

The bill seeking to separate the office of the AGF from that of the minister of justice was defeated because it couldn’t garner the two-thirds majority needed; 234 members voted in its favour while 58 opposed it.

At some point, the ignorance of some lawmakers in some of the bills was evident as some even voted against bills which were supposed to be in their favour. The speaker, intervening at some point made clarification and further educate them.

Some lawmakers merely followed the bandwagon. Spokesman of the House, Hon. Abdulrassaq Namdas described the exercise as successful but said the process of amendment was not yet over as action now moves to state houses of Assembly.