Teddy Oscar, Abuja
Barring any twist in the future, the president would be mandated to address a joint session of the National Assembly on the state of the nation on a yearly basis.
This follows a bill to amend Section 67(1) of the 1999 Constitution, which scaled the second reading on the floor of the House of Representatives on Wednesday.
According to Section 67(1), “The President may attend any joint meeting of the National Assembly or any meeting of either House of the National Assembly, either to deliver an address on national affairs including fiscal measures, or to make such statement on the policy of government as he considers to be of national importance.”
Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, who led debate on the bill, observed on the floor of the House that “the presidency has either neglected or refused to sign the bill.”
This is even when the House and the Senate have both passed the bill, and sent to the President for accent.
According to the minority leader of the House, “the need to amend Section 67(1) of the constitution, was informed by the Attorney General of the Federation’s statement about the inability of the President to accentuate the bill.”
He said the amendment “replaces Section 67(1), substituting it with: ‘that the president shall attend any joint session of the National Assembly to deliver and address any such issues of the state of the nation to the National Assembly.’”
He explained further that the amendment would make the president to brief the two chambers and Nigerians once in every year, which would be for the future interest of the country.
In his contribution, Kingsley Chinda, who attempted to define the placement of ‘shall’ in the section, to not only implies compelling the president to appear before the session on national issues, Chinda emphasised that the constitution only makes it compulsory on ministers to appear before the National Assembly and explain issues affecting the country, since they represent various sectors of the country.
However, deputy House leader, Leo Ogor cautioned the law-makers to critically consider the amendment, so as to avoid further complication with Section 5 of the same constitution that talked about placement of the executive powers to the President.
The bill is entitled: a bill for an act to alter the provisions of Section 67 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 and for other matters connected therein.
In a related development, a bill seeking to include the Nigerian Police and other National Security Agencies in the first line charge of the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) of the federation aimed at providing them with direct funding sponsored by Samson Osagie also passed second reading.
Similarly, a bill that also scaled through the second reading was the one that seeks to uphold the validity of Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) result for upward three years before it expires.
The bill, which is sponsored by Mohammed Ibrahim Ebo, is entitled: a bill for an act to amend JAMB Act, Cap. J1 LFN, 2004 to strengthen the membership of the board and ensure the validity of results and scores obtained by candidates to gain admission into tertiary institutions in Nigeria within three subsequent consecutive academic sessions and for related matters.