The House of Representatives has altered the chamber’s standing rules in a move that will culminate in the provision of a more flexible way of overriding a President’s veto on Constitution Alteration Bills.
In the wake of the controversies that greeted President Goodluck Jonathan’s refusal to assent to the Constitution fourth alteration Bill, the parliament met behind closed doors, and directed its committee on Rules and Business to make adjustments to its rules.
Moving for the adoption of the panel’s recommendations on the floor yesterday, Chairman of the Committee, Albert Tanimu Sam-Tsokwa explained that the alteration became necessary as there was hitherto, no explicit provision in the House’s rules on the procedure to overriding a President’s veto on a constitution amendment Bill, as was the case with money and other Bills.
Meanwhile, the new adjustment shows that unlike in the past procedure, processing of such a Bill, if not concluded in the life of a subsisting Assembly, shall continue in the next Assembly, provided that it is re-gazetted and circulated, as well as the possibility of new Assembly to override the President’s veto on such a Bill passed by the preceding assembly, as outlined in section 58 of the Constitution.
Consequently, Order XIII has been amended by the introduction of a new sub-rules 10 to 13 under the extant Rule 98 of House’s standing orders, and these read;
“(10) The final copy of the clauses in the bill that received the support of two-third majority of the State Houses of Assembly shall be compiled and if passed by a concurrent resolution of the House, shall thereafter be transmitted to the President for assent.
“(11) When the President withholds assent, the Bill, if passed again by two-third majority of members of the House, as required by Section 58 of the 1999 Constitution shall become law.
“(12) Notwithstanding the provisions of these rules, the process of passage of a Constitution Alteration Bill shall continue from one session to the other and from one Assembly to the next Assembly.
“(13) When all requirements of sub rules (1) to (10) have been met and the President either withholds his assent or fails to communicate the withholding thereof, or any circumstance arises which makes it impracticable for the National Assembly to consider the issue of overriding the President’s veto before the end of the tenure of the Assembly, the succeeding Assembly may, upon such Bill being gazetted again and circulated, resolve to commence the process of veto override under Section 58 of the 1999 constitution.”
Specifically, President Jonathan had raised some reservations, including procedural non-compliance, as well as conflicting provisions in the fourth Constitution alteration Bill among others, while withholding his assent.