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Veto to Four Bills: Osinbajo, Senate set for showdown



Veto to Four Bills: Osinbajo, Senate set for showdown
The Presidency and the Senate appear set for a showdown over Acting President Yemi Osibanjo’s refusal to assent to four bills passed by the National Assembly.
Prof. Osinbajo fired the first shot on Wednesday when he wrote separate let­ters to the two chambers of the National Assembly on his resolve to withhold his assent to the bills because of certain discrepancies.
He therefore returned the bills to the National As­sembly for the necessary legislative action, but some Senators kicked against the Acting President’s action and threatened to override his decision.
In four separate letters addressed to the Senate President, Bukola Sara­ki and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, Os­inbajo explained why he withheld his assent to each of the bills.
He said that certain words and phrases in the draft bills were inconsistent with the Principal Acts.
The bills are: Agricultur­al Credit Guarantee Scheme Fund (Amendment) Bill 2016; Currency Conversion (Freez­ing Orders) (Amendment) Bill 2016; Dangerous (Amend­ment) Bill 2016 and Assent to National Lottery (Amend­ment) Bill 2016.
On the Agricultural Cred­it Guarantee Scheme Fund (Amendment) Bill 2016, Os­inbajo said that he opted to withhold his assent because of “the concerns surrounding board composition, funding arrangements, limitation of liability of funds and propos­als to increase levels of uncol­lateralised loans from N5,000 to N250,000.”
According to the Acting President, he withheld his as­sent from the Currency Con­version (Freezing Orders) (Amendment) Bill, 2016, due to “the concern regarding mo­dalities for the communication of asset forfeiture orders.”
He further explained that he failed to assent to the Dan­gerous (Amendment) Bill, 2016, because of “certain words and phrases utilised in the draft bill that may be in­consistent with the Principal Act (for example Section 6 of the bill with Section 21 of the Principal Act) and the spirit behind the proposed amend­ments.”
Also, Osibanjo said that he did not assent to the Nation­al Lottery (Amendment) Bill, 2016, because the “rationale for withholding assent to the bill is the existence of pending legal challenge to the competence of the National Assembly to leg­islate on the matter.”
The Acting President’s ac­tion was greeted by protests from Senators who accused the Presidency of undermining powers of the Legislature. They argued that the Parliament was vested with powers to override Osinbajo’s veto.
The Chairman of the Sen­ate Committee on Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Sen­ator Dino Melaye, took excep­tion to Osinbajo’s withholding of his assent to the bill passed by the Senate on lottery.
He said: “I am particularly raising this Point of Order be­cause I am the mover of that bill or the sponsor of that bill.
“Section 413 of the Consti­tution, the legislative powers of the Federal Republic of Nige­ria shall be vested in the Na­tional Assembly for the feder­ation which shall consist of a Senate and the House of Rep­resentatives.
“Second, the National As­sembly shall have powers to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the federation or any part thereof with respect to any matter in­cluded in the exclusive list set out in Part One of the Second Schedule of the Constitution.
“The explanation for with­holding the assent as stipulated in the letter by the Acting Pres­ident is because there is pend­ing litigation on this matter,” Melaye said.
He noted that democracy is standing on the basic principle of separation of powers and it has divided it into three: “the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary. And the powers of the Executive are in Section 4 of the constitution while the powers of the Legislature are contained in Chapter 5. The power to interpret these laws is deposited in Section 6.
“The role of the Executive is to carry out their fundamen­tal objectives by signing any­thing that has being passed by this house. If withheld, it be­comes so dangerous for our democracy and our powers to legislate have been taken away from us as enshrined in Chap­ter 4 of the Constitution.”
Senator Melaye further ar­gued that the role of the Ex­ecutive is to assent to any law passed by the House and that anyone who had problem with it can go to court in com­pliance with the provisions of Section 6 of the 1999 Constitu­tion (as amended) .
“May it not be a pathway for democracy if we keep qui­et and allow the power of the Legislature to be usurped by the non-compliance to the provisions of the constitution,” Melaye warned.
Senator George Sekibo (Rivers East) said that the Na­tional Assembly has power to override the veto of the Pres­ident and opined that such powers be given effect.
He said: “The way the con­stitution is framed, they have their own roles to play, we have our functions. We check each other. The matter is in the court and based on our rule, we can­not discuss on it.
“If it is just that the Pres­ident did not give assent, we have to look at the merits of the particular bill. If it meets the standard and if the court matter is not going to impede on what we are going to do, then we can override the veto of the President.”
In his remark, Saraki said that the issues raised by the senators were noted and prom­ised to forward the returned bills to the National Assembly’s Legal Department for proper advice on the bills to enable them know the way forward.
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