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Fighting For Nigeria

WE cannot remember the Senate breaking into a fight over anything, not even when there were threats to their juicy allowances. The House of Representatives is more famous for fights, including the 2007 one that claimed the life of Dr. Aminu Safana from Katsina State who died as opponents and proponents of Mrs Patricia Etteh, former Speaker of the House of Representatives battled over her tenuous tenure.

Two senators almost engaged in blows during a debate on the proposed State of the Nation Address. The bill is for the President to make an annual presentation on the state of the country to the National Assembly.

Whatever the motives for the law, it holds high hopes that it could afford Nigerians and the President opportunities to focus on certain actions in the cause of a year. During the next address, the President would be expected to review performances from the previous year.

The State of the Nation Address, borrowed from the practice in the United States of America, could be another platform for accountability. The President has refused to assent to it. Some senators support him. Others think he should sign. Where does a fight come into it?

President Jonathan in a letter to the Senate stated, “I am inclined to accede to the Bill subject to the incorporation of some fundamental amendments proposed to bring the bill in conformity with the dictates of the Constitution”.

Senator Ita Solomon Enang’s observation that considering amendments the President proposed amounted to breaching its own rules, hardly finished when the rowdy session that resulted in suspension of proceedings began.

“The question before us is the question of jurisdiction,” Enang said. “It is whether  we have power to determine what the President asked; it is when we answer this that we can proceed. He cannot make amendment or propose amendment to any bill. The procedure for making law is this- our Standing Order requires that when a law is to be made, first, you publish that bill in the gazette.

From 2003 (when the bill was proposed), there was Secretary to the Government of the Federation, there have always been Attorneys-General, there have always been Special Advisers to the President on National Assembly Affairs. Did any of them when this bill was being considered either in the House of Representatives or in the Senate, come to the public hearing or the committee handling the bill for the amendment they have proposed?”

Valid questions he might have asked. Options open to the Senate include a veto or a trip to the Supreme Court. Either way, senators should raise their passions for more important issues, yet without aiming punches at each other.


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