By Udora Orizu
The House of Representatives at plenary on Tuesday passed for second reading a Bill seeking to amend the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, to grant powers to the two chambers of the National Assembly and states’ Houses of Assembly to summon the president and governors of the states of the federation respectively, to answer questions on issues of national security or any matter whatsoever.
The House had on December 1, 2020, through a motion on the heels of the massacre of over 43 rice farmers in Zarbamari village, Borno State, invited President Muhammadu Buhari for briefing on security matters.
But the president failed to honour the invitation, following a statement by the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami, that the National Assembly has no power to summon him.
The AGF stated that the management and control of the security sector is exclusively vested in the President by Section 218 (1) of the 1999 Constitution as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces including the power to determine the operational use of the Armed Forces.
Leading the debate on its general principles, the Bill’s sponsor, Hon. Serguis Ogun (PDP, Edo), opined that while the assertions of the AGF may not be the correct interpretation of a combined reading of the relevant sections of the constitution on the subject, however the fact that there is no express provision in the constitution to the effect is perhaps the reason for such a misplaced interpretation.
The lawmaker said the amendment therefore seeks to make express provision in the constitution for the powers to so do.
Explaining the provisions for amendment, Ogun said: ”Clause two of the Bill provides as follows: Section 67 of the Principal Act is amended by inserting a new subsection (3) as follows: (3) Nothing in this section shall preclude any chamber of the National Assembly from summoning the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to attend a joint session of the National Assembly to answer questions on national security or on any issue whatsoever, over which the National Assembly has powers to make laws.
”While clause four of the Bill provides as follows: Section 107 of the Principal Act is amended by inserting a new subsection (3) as follows: Nothing in this section shall preclude the House of Assembly of the state from summoning the governor of the state to attend a sitting of the House of Assembly to answer questions on security or on any issue whatsoever, over which the House of Assembly has powers to make laws.”