Voting on the bills to amend the constitution was accompanied by uproar and a tinge of drama yesterday in the House of Representatives. Senators voted on Wednesday.
The House rejected the devolution of power to the states, the separatrion of the office of the Attorney-General from that of Justice minister, womens’s indigeneship right, and the plan to ensure the appointment of only indigenes as Federal Capital Territory (FCT) minister.
Yesterday, the House took votes on 22 of the 33 items listed for amendments in the constitution.
Deputy Speaker LasunYussuff, who heads the Constitution Review Committee said 32 alterations were treated by the Committee.
The move to put former Senate presidents and ex-speakers of the House of Representatives in the Council of State passed with 294 votes.
The threshold is 240 votes to pass any item.
Also the reduction of Authorisation of Expenditure of the President from six months to three months in case of non- passage of budget” was approved with 295 votes, but efforts to ensure that a minister emerges from the Federal Capital Territory was defeated as it could only rake up 191 votes.
The 35 per cent affirmative action was also passed alongside timeline for submission of nominees for Ministers/ Commissioners with portfolio attachment with a vote of 248 against the 46 and one abstaining.
The removal of the nomenclature “Force” from the Nigeria Police Force was effected with 280 votes as opposed to nine against and four abstaining.
Also, a bill seeking to make provisions for pre- election matters and the time for the determination of pre-election disputes passed with 288 votes. Three were against and one abstained.
Though the House agreed to give the Auditor- General independence with 289 votes, the attempt to separate the office of the Attorney General from the Minister of Justice was defeated as it only garnered 234 votes.
The House approved the power of the National Assembly to override the President on Constitutional Amendment should he withhold assent with a vote of 248 and a negative of 28 and four abstaining.
The lawmakers rejected devolution of power to decongest the Exclusive list, legislative list by transferring certain items contained to the concurrent list, thereby enabling the states to make laws in respect of those items passed with 210 votes which was less than the required 240 votes, and rejected State Creation and boundary adjustment.
It, however, passed the age reduction bill ( popularly known as Not too young to run,” Bill after spirited appeal for the Majority Leader Femi Gbajabiamila and the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, passed with 261 votes, 23 against and 2 lawmakers abstaining.
Women lawmakers became furious over a technical hitch that caused the House to vote against citizenship and indigeneship for women for their husbands’ states of origin.
The issue, which caused a spontaneous reaction from the women held up voting for about 15 minutes. The Speaker ordered for another vote.
In a flash, the women surrounded Speaker Yakubu Dogara’s seat, vehemently protesting the result of the vote.
The repeat vote still ended in a defeat for the item as it garnered only. 208 votes, a far cry from the 240 votes needed.
The consistent efforts from Hon. Mojeed Alabi (Osun State) through a point of Order to explain some procedural lapse got a tongue-lashing from the Deputy Speaker who considered it an attempt to truncate the voting.
Lasun’s remark did not go down well with Alabi who raised a point of Order 13 sub section 1(2), and referred to the preamble of the Constitution.
He was, however, ruled out of order by the Speaker Yakubu Dogara,
Dogara said: “We are taking vote on all the clauses despite the fact that most of them did not survive in the Senate, so that Nigerians will know our position on them,”
The Speaker regretted the failure of his colleagues to amend the 1999 Constitution to allow Abuja indigenes to be empowered henceforth to produce the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
The amendment would have also ensured that the FCT is adequately represented at the Federal Executive Council (FEC), like other states.
The proposal was rejected as it failed to meet the requisite two-thirds majority of votes cast with 191 for and 91 against; 240 votes were required to pass it.
Of all the rejected bills, the Speaker was also particularly disturbed that the recommendations of the Committee on Citizenship and Indegenship as well as separation of the office of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and the Office of the Minister of Justice were equally rejected by the lawmakers.
Dogara, confirming what transpired at the Committee of the Whole, said it was unfortunate that the law that would have allowed women married to someone from another State claimed the indegenship of her husband’s state did not scale through.
He also was shocked that the separation of the office of the AGF from that of the Minster of Justice to failed to sail trough, considering the debates the issue had gone through over time.
“It is rather unfortunate, our women in the House must have found this unfortunate. Well, this is democracy and we are still growing,” he said.
Dogara was optimistic that some of the rejected bills would find better favour in the next constitution review.