BY Emman Ovuakporie & Levinus Nwabughiogu
ABUJA— A proposal to amend the constitution to simplify the impeachment process of the president failed in the House of Representatives yesterday, after members of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, rallied to frustrate the plan.
The House, however, pushed through amendments to the constitution to compel the president to present an annual state of the union address to the National Assembly.
Members of the House also voted to protect themselves by providing immunity for legislators for words spoken in parliament and also by removing the constitutional provision that a lawmaker’s seat becomes vacant whenever such a lawmaker joins a government board or commission. By that amendment, the door is opened for lawmakers to sit on government boards and parastatals.
The plan to amend section 143 to simplify the impeachment process of the president failed to scale through despite a majority vote of 172 to 122 vote. The 172 who voted in support, fell short of the two-third majority 240 of the total number of members expected to vote in support of the amendment of the constitution. The House has a full complement of 360 members.
The proposal sponsored by Rep Yakubu Dogara, APC, Bauchi was to amend the section via the simplification of the impeachment process for chief executives at both the federal and state levels of the federation.
PDP members were unusually united in voting against the proposal, which ironically was the only one of the 19 clauses that failed to pass through yesterday at a session that was presided over by the deputy speaker, Rep. Emeka Ihedioha.
Voting on the amendment proposals was done by electronic means using the voting machine.
Among other amendments passed through yesterday was a proposal to provide life insurance for members of the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC.
Section 67 (1) was amended to stipulate that the president shall attend a joint meeting of the NASS once every year to deliver an address on any issue in respect with the state of the nation in a manner prescribed by NASS. All 293 members voted unanimously for that provision across party lines.
Members also voted to amend section 285 to compel election tribunals to deliver judgment within 160 days from the filing of an election petition.
Following the vote, the deputy speaker, described the successful voting on the clauses as a triumph of democracy and demonstration of the resolve of the House to always put national interest above all other considerations.
Ihedioha who is the chairman of the House adhoc committee on the review of the constitution, also commended his colleagues in the House for rising up to the challenge and displaying patriotism by turning out in their numbers to participate in the voting, saying the 7th House has by this successful event once again showed that it is committed to the wellbeing and welfare of all Nigerians.
Speaking shortly after the end of voting, the deputy speaker said it is commendable to note that members of the House put behind their individual, political, demographical and ethnic differences to vote on the clauses in an objective manner and in favour of the national interest.
The amendments are to be harmonised with those of the Senate before being passed through the State Houses of Assembly for adoption. Two-third of the states are expected to adopt an amendment for it to become valid.
Also yesterday, spokesman of the House, Rep. Zakari Mohammed said the House would commence deliberation on the 2014 budget from next week.