The upper chamber of the National Assembly has taken the battle to override President Muhammadu Buhari’s veto on the electoral act to January.
President Buhari in his letter to the Senate on Tuesday told the lawmakers why he will withhold assent to the Electoral Act. President Buhari in the letter dated December 13, 2021, had explained that his decision to withhold assent to the electoral bill was informed by advice from relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies of Government after a thorough review.
According to the president, signing the bill into law would have serious adverse legal, financial, economic, and security consequences on the country, particularly in view of Nigeria’s peculiarities, adding that it would also impact negatively on the rights of citizens to participate in the government as constitutionally ensured.
Angered by this development, some senators disclosed that they are gathering signatures to override the president’s veto. Some senators had disclosed that they have gathered over 73 signatures.
Shortly after their closed session, to deliberate on the President’s decision to withhold assent to the electoral bill passed by the National Assembly, the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan said that the Senate would consult with the House of Representatives on how to respond to President Buhari’s letter on the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill.
According to the Senate President, the provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) do not permit the upper chamber to exclusively take any action on such matters in the absence of the House of Representatives, since the latter has embarked on recess.
He, however, assured that a joint position would be reached with the House after due consultation with Nigerians to determine the appropriate line of action when both chambers reconvene from the Christmas break in January.
Speaking on what transpired in the closed session, Lawan said, “The Senate in a closed session deliberated on matters relevant to the workings of the Senate in particular and, the National Assembly in general.
“The Senate also in the closed session discussed how to respond to the letter from Mr. President on the electoral bill amendment. The Senate consequently resolved to consult with the House of Representatives in January when both the Senate and House will be in session”.
“Presently, the House of Reps has gone or recess and like we all know, the constitutional provision is for the Senate and House of Representatives to jointly take the appropriate action. The Senate also resolved to consult with our constituents during our recess in January. The Senate believes that our constituents have a role to play as the major stakeholders in the laws that we make in the National Assembly.”
Meanwhile, the Senate has passed the 2022 harmonized N17, 126, 873, 917, 692 budget on Wednesday. The budget passed by the Senate is not different from what the House of Representatives passed on Tuesday.
However, while the executive proposed 1,88mbpd for daily oil production, National Assembly approved 1.88mbpd, the Executive proposed US$57 for the oil price benchmark, while the National Assembly approved US$62.
For exchange rate, “executive proposal; N410.15US$1, Nass approval; N410.15 US$1. GDP Growth Rate: Executive Proposal 4.2%, NASS Approval; 4.2%. Inflation rate: Executive Proposal; 13%, NASS Approval; 13%.”
According to the Senate, “the increase in oil price Benchmark from US$57 to US$62 to reflect the current market value in the international market. “The Committee recommends that the additional revenues discovered should be provided to the following agencies that forwarded their requests for more funding for very critical projects: Works and Housing, Independent National Electoral Commission (NEC) for the 2023 General Elections, Defence and the National Population Commission (NPC) for the 2022 Population Census.
“A N98 Billion increase in deficit should be approved to take care of some of the additional requests from the executive arm of Government.
“N17, 126, 873, 917, 692 (Seventeen Trillion, One Hundred and Twenty-Six Billion, Eight Hundred and Seventy-Three Million, Nine Hundred and Seventeen Thousand, Six Hundred and Ninety-Two Naira) only, of which N869, 667, 187, 542 (Eight Hundred and Sixty-Nine Billion, Six Hundred and Sixty-Seven Million, One Hundred and Eighty-Seven Thousand, Five Hundred and Forty-Two Naira) only, is for Statutory Transfers, N3, 879, 952, 981, 550 (Three Trillion, Eight Hundred and Seventy-Nine Billion, Nine Hundred and Fifty-Two Million, Nine Hundred and Eighty-One Thousand, Five Hundred and Fifty Naira) Only, is for Debt Service, N6, 909, 849, 788, 737 (Six Trillion, Nine Hundred and Nine Billion, Eight Hundred and Forty-Nine Million, Seven Hundred and Eighty-Eight Thousand, Seven Hundred and Thirty-Seven Naira) only, is for Recurrent (Non Debt) Expenditure, while the sum of N5, 467, 403, 959, 863 (Five Trillion, Four Hundred and Sixty-Seven Billion, Four Hundred and Three Million, Nine Hundred and Fifty-Nine Thousand, Eight Hundred and Sixty Three Naira) Only is for contribution to the Development for Capital Expenditure for the year ending on the 31st day of December, 2022.”
In his remarks after the passage of the budget, the President of the Senate, Lawan highlighted the achievements of the Senate in 2021. He commended the Senate special and standing committees for working so hard to enable the upper chamber to once again back-to-back pass the budget before the Christmas break.
“This is one of our great legacy bringing back the budget cycle to that desirable and predictable January to December Budget Cycle. We promise Nigerians in 2019 that this senate and indeed the national assembly will bring back that cycle of the budget so that our economy is better influenced and supported. We thank God for making it possible for us to achieve that in the 2020, 2021, and 2022 budgets. That we have done this, we are not alone in it. The executive has also shown commitment, willingness and capacity to work with us at our own speed to ensure that the budget is passed before Christmas”.
“Let me also commend this Senate for standing tall in commitments that otherwise some would have thought impossible. This year, we are rounding the year on a very high note, we thank God for that. We have passed the Petroleum Industry Bill, now an Act, something that could not be passed for over 20 years. We have passed of course the supplementary appropriation of 2021 as well to enable the executive especially this administration fund the security agencies as well as provide some resources to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. We have also passed the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), Amendment Bill,” he said.
He added that with AMCON, Nigerians are not cheated but are saved from all kinds of criminal tendencies. Lawan further said: “We also recently passed the climate change bill and Mr. President has signed. All these bills that I have mentioned, Mr. President has signed.
“These are great achievements that this senate promised Nigerians that we will do that because they are fundamental and true pillars of our legislative agenda.
“Today we have passed the Budget for 2022, and that is a huge, very big milestone, very historic. And this is something that we are supposed to ensure that as long as we are in this senate up to our tenure, that we pass the budget as regularly as we have established.”
Speaking further on the Electoral Act, Lawan said, “let me say that we passed the so much sort after Electoral Amendment Bill but we know that there are some reservations raised by Mr President and we have stood down work on it to await when we reconvene together with our colleagues from the House of Representatives so that we look at the issues raised and then as National Assembly, we address the situation in whatever way is appropriate.
“I believe that this National Assembly and particularly this Senate has done so much and I believe that if we have to wait for too long maybe nobody will say we did a lot, but I’m sure that this Senate and the National Assembly has done a lot in the area of legislation.”
The Senate, has, however, adjourned the plenary to January 18, 2022, disclosing that the Appropriation Bill will be sent to Mr. President for assent on Thursday.
Lawan said: “Our desire is to provide good legislation for the good governance of this country.” (Daily Independent)