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NASS Says Constitution Amendments May Fail, Blames States

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The National Assembly has said the ongoing review of the 1999 Constitution is bound to fail as the state Houses of Assembly have failed to vote on the amendment bills passed and transmitted to them for concurrence.

President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan; and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, separately appealed to Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State to urge his co-governors to press on legislatures in their respective states to consider the bills.

Lawan and Gbajabiamila made the plea in Abuja on Monday at the second edition of the Distinguished Parliamentarians Lecture Series organised by the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies.

The 9th National Assembly had budgeted N4bn for the Constitution review, N1bn for each of the four years of its lifespan.

El-Rufai, in his remarks as chairman on the occasion, urged the National Assembly to enact a series of laws concerning security, education and the economy among others.

The governor listed the seven interventions he wanted from the National Assembly.

He said, “First is state and community policing. I think we are all clear now that the current policing system is broken. It does not work for Nigeria. And Nigeria is the only federation in the world with one centralised police system. I think this National Assembly can enact the state and community policing system that prevents the abuses of the past and takes into account the challenges of the present.

“Secondly, Value Added Tax has become a major source of survival of this country. This year NNPC has not paid a penny to the Federation Account. We have taxes, particularly Value Added Tax. The fact that VAT is not on the Exclusive List, is a major source of concern for the fiscal health of the federation. I think it is something that this National Assembly can do something about in its last six months.”

He also made a case for making 12 years of education free, adding that “This country can never make progress without educating everyone.”

Responding, Lawan and Gbajabiamila told the governor that state Houses of Assembly had yet to pass bills transmitted to them by the National Assembly for concurrence.

The National Assembly on March 29, 2022, transmitted 44 Constitution alteration bills to the 36 state Houses of Assembly for concurrence.

To amend a clause in the Constitution (two-thirds or four-fifth) majority of each of the Senate and the House has to approve the amendment after which it will be transmitted to the state Houses of Assembly, where two-thirds or 24 of the 36 of them have to concur.

Gbajabiamila stated that the success or failure of every significant governance initiative depends on the extent to which the objective is a shared priority of the different arms of government and, in some cases, of the state governments.

He said, “The National Assembly passed a raft of amendments to the constitution and advanced them to the states as required. That process now seems to have stalled in the state Assemblies.

“As it is today, it is doubtful that the current constitutional amendment effort will conclude before the expiration of this legislative term.”

Lawan also said in part, “We have sent the outcome of our Constitution review and we are yet to receive all from the states. So, we should be able to wind up this process by getting responses from the state Houses of Assembly.”

Earlier, El-Rufai said he was not willing to cross from the Executive to the Legislature after his second term as governor. He noted that he does not have the patience to lobby fellow lawmakers in the chambers.

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