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Constitution: Lawmakers want extra powers

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  • Seek powers to sack ministers, others
  • Want force of law for resolutions

By Richard Ihediwa

Ahead of the next round of constitution amendment, there are indications of moves by some forces in the National Assembly to give the federal and state legislatures powers to exert more control over the executive so as to ensure greater checks and balances in the system.
Sources in the National Assembly hinted that some pro-democracy elements are already pushing for the inclusion of clauses in the constitution that will make resolutions passed by the two-third of the members in the two chambers of the National Assembly to automatically have the force of law.
They also want a clause that would empower the National Assembly to sack erring or non performing government officials including cabinet ministers.
Already, a bill seeking to make it mandatory for the President to specify intending portfolios for ministerial nominees as prerequisite for their clearance by the Senate has already been tabled for consideration in the National Assembly.
The move to secure the force of law for National Assembly resolutions is said to be coming against the backdrop of refusal by the executive to implement resolutions made by the legislature, which government officials largely consider as advisory and not binding on government.
Those pushing for the review of the powers of the legislature are irked by the failure of the executive to prosecute those indicted for fraud in the series of probes by the National Assembly despite evidences obtained against them.
They were angered by recent statements credited to Minister of Information, Labaran Maku and Special Adviser to the President on Media, Reuben Abati, who in reaction to the demand by the members of the National Assembly that those indicted in the House of Representatives subsidy probe and other probes by the federal legislature be prosecuted, noted that the resolutions were not binding on government.
Our source said though the issue is not officially in the list of items for consideration published recently by the Senate Committee on the Review of the Constitution, it already has the backing of some influential lawmakers who are now pushing for its inclusion in the list.
“I can tell you that there are moves by some very powerful elements to ensure the inclusion of a clause to make resolutions of the National Assembly to have the force of law. What I cannot confirm is if it is having support but I know that some members of the National Assembly are pushing it. But you know the process is only starting and people are lobbying for a lot of things.
“Many people are not happy that all the investigation conducted by the National Assembly amount to nothing even when people are indicted. Some members of the public have been complaining about it. So I will not be surprised if it surfaces”, the source said.
According to our source, lawmakers feel handicapped that their efforts in exposing corruption have always been in vain and want the inclusion of a clause that will ensure a process that will guarantee that those indicted were prosecuted.
They worry that while the constitution empowers the National Assembly to carry out investigation, it only restricts such for the purposes of lawmaking and exposure of corruption without specifying what sanction should be given to those indicted in the probes.
Also they are not happy that resolutions demanding that erring ministers and other government functionaries found wanting be sanctioned or sacked were not respected.
In empowering the National Assembly to conduct investigations, the section 88 (2) only states that the powers conferred on the National Assembly under the provisions of this section are exercisable only for the purpose of enabling it to -(a) make laws with respect to any matter within its legislative competence and correct any defects in existing laws; and (b) expose corruption, inefficiency or waste in the execution or administration of laws within its legislative competence and in the disbursement or administration of funds appropriated by it.”
It was gathered that the forces in the National Assembly have already started contacting their colleagues in the state to support the move as it would also give same powers to state legislators.

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