In what appeared a last-minute face-off, President Goodluck Jonathan has rejected amendments to the 1999 Constitution by the National Assembly.He said he would not assent to the amendments because they do not satisfy the strict requirements of Section 9(3) of the 1999 Constitution.
He queried the decision of the National Assembly to whittle down some Executive powers of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
He also faulted some amendments which will give Executive powers and duties to the Legislature and the Judiciary.
Jonathan made his position known in a seven-page letter to Senate President David Mark and House of Representatives Speaker Aminu Waziri Tambuwal.
The return of the Constitution Amendment Bill jolted Senators and members of the House.
The President listed 12 errors in the amendments.
They are as follows:
•Non-compliance with the threshold specified in Section 9(3) of the 1999 Constitution on amendments;
•Alteration to constitution cannot be valid with mere voice votes unless supported by the votes of not less than four-fifths majority all members of National Assembly and two-thirds of all the 36 State Houses of Assembly;
•Right to free basic education and primary and maternal care services imposed on private institutions
•Flagrant violation of the doctrine of separation of powers,
•Unjustified whittling down of the Executive powers of the Federation vested in the President by virtue of Section 5(1) of the 1999 Constitution;
•30 days allowed for assent of the President; and
•Limiting expenditure in default of appropriation from 6months to three months
The others are: •Creation of the Office of Accountant-General of the Federation distinct from the Accountant General of the Federal Government
•Empowering National Economic Council to appoint the Accountant-General of the Federation instead of the President;
•Allowing NJC to now appoint the Attorney-General of the Federation rather than the President;
•Unwittingly whittling down the discretionary powers of the Attorney-General of the Federation.
The President said he has no choice than to veto the amendments to the constitution as forwarded to him by the National Assembly.
He said: “In view of the foregoing and absence of credible evidence that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (Fourth Alteration) Act 2015 satisfied the strict requirements of Section 9(3) of the 1999 Constitution, it will be unconstitutional for me to assent to it.
“I therefore withhold my assent and accordingly remit Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (Fourth Alteration) Act 2015 to the Senate /House of Representatives of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
The letter reads: “May I draw Your Excellency’s esteemed attention to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (Fourth Alteration) Act, 2015 that has been passed by the National Assembly and transmitted to me for assent.
“I have accordingly examined the substance of the provisions and the procedure adopted by the National Assembly to pass the Act and wish to observe as follows:
“Section 4 of the Fourth Alteration Act, 2015 seeks to alter Section 9 of the 1999 Constitution by the insertion of a new subsection 3A, which dispenses with the assent of the President in the process of constitutional amendment.
“However, this alteration can only be valid if the proposal was supported by the votes of not less than four-fifth majority of all the members of each House of the National Assembly and approved by a resolution of the House of Assembly of not less than two-thirds of all the States as provided by Section 9 (3) of the 1999 Constitution.
“ This is a fundamental requirement of the Constitution and in the absence of credible evidence that this requirement was met in the Votes of Proceedings of the National Assembly, it will be unconstitutional for me to assent to this Bill.
“In light of the above, I am of the respectful view that I should withhold assent until it can be shown that the National Assembly has complied with the threshold specified in Section 9 (3) of the 1999 Constitution.