The Nigerian House of Assembly has moved to take a legal stand on how it would handle any future power vacuum created by a sick and incapacitated government official, or by any other circumstance. However leading political stakeholders failed to show up at the first organized public hearing to revise the country’s constitution on this matter.
In its descriptive memo, the Senate Committee explained that the Bill would amend the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of 1999, to enable the Legislature empower the Vice President or Deputy Governor to function as Acting President or Acting Governor in the absence of the occupier of the respective offices, for reason of vacation, ill-health or any other situation of temporary incapacitation.
An attempt by the Lower House to revise Section 145 of the constitution on Tuesday, February 16, suffered a setback as stakeholders invited to begin the process at a public hearing did not show up at the public hearing organized by the ad-hoc committee on the review of the constitution.
The Senate had mandated its Committee on Constitution Review to propose an amendment to Section 145 which reads: “Whenever the President transmits to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives a written declaration that he is proceeding on vacation or that he is otherwise unable to discharge the functions of his office, until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary such functions shall be discharged by the Vice-President as Acting President.”
Political stakeholders such as the Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Aloysius Katsina-Alu, governors of the 36 states of the federation, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Chairman, Prof. Maurice Iwu, and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Minister, among others, all did not turn up at the public hearing at the National Assembly in Abuja on Tuesday.
Lead sponsor of the Bill for the amendment of sections 145, 146, 190 and 191, Suleiman Abdulrahman Kawu, berated the stakeholders for failing to attend the public hearing.
However, senate president, Mr.David Mark called on the house of assembly to be at their best and be ready to contribute to an amendment. “This is a bill that will be fast-tracked. We will need two-thirds for the bill to go through. It won’t be voice vote, everybody will speak for himself,” Mr. Mark is quoted.
The proposed amendment is to make the transmission of letter by the President or the governor of a state to the National Assembly or the state House of Assembly in the event of embarking on any leave mandatory, as against the discretionary provision in Section 145 of the 1999 Constitution.
“The reason behind amending section 145 was as a result of the public outcry that there was a vacuum created by the absence of the President; and civil societies, eminent personalities, state governors and so many other interest groups came to the National Assembly to see the leadership about how we can salvage this country. And we were able to resolve the problem temporarily through a resolution”
“Now, we are looking for a permanent solution to the problem and what is expected is that those who have been calling for that should have been here to present their memoranda, their positions and opinion on this matter. It is not just for the House to sit down and do it. Yes, the House can sit down and do it, but it is part of our responsibilities to call for public hearing in order to hear the views of Nigerians in matters like this,” a statement from the ad-hoc committee on the review of the constitution read.