The House of Representatives has passed through Second Reading a bill which seeks to grant powers to the two chambers of the National Assembly and States’ Houses of Assembly to summon the President and State Governors to answer questions on issues of national security or any matter whatsoever and for other matters connected therewith.
The bill which passed through the second reading was sponsored by Hon Sergius Ogun (PDP-Delta), seeks to amend the provisions of Sections 67(3) and 107(3) of the Principal Act, with a view to addressing the crisis trailing the House resolution on the invitation extended to President Muhammadu Buhari to brief the House on the state of security in December 2020.
Ogun who decried the state of the nation and the urgent need for legislative intervention, argued that the proposed amendment became necessary owing to the Nigeria seems to have become a theatre of criminality, banditry, kidnapping and maiming of innocent citizens and yet the end seems not to be in sight.
The lawmaker while speaking on the general principle of the bill, explained that the bill seeks to amend the 1999 Constitution with a view to put to rest the public debate on the powers of the Parliament to demand accountability from any sitting President and Governor as the case may be.
“In his reaction to the summons of the House on the President, the Attorney General of the Federation, said that the National Assembly has no powers to summon the President. He averred that the management and control of the security sector is exclusively vested in the President by Section 218(1) of the 1999 Constitution as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces including the power to determine the operational use of the Armed Forces.
“He asserted that ‘an invitation that seeks to put the operational use of the Armed Forces to public interrogation is indeed taking the constitutional rights of law-making beyond bounds.’
While noting that the AGF’s assertions may not be the correct interpretation of combined reading of the relevant sections of the Constitution on the subject, Hon Ogun argued that the “fact that there is no express provision in the Constitution to the effect that the two chambers of the National Assembly have powers to summon the President to answer questions on issues of national security or any matter whatsoever, is perhaps the reason for such a misplaced interpretation of the Constitution. This amendment, therefore, seeks to make express provision in the Constitution for the powers to so do.
According to him, Section 67 of the Principal Act is amended by inserting a new subsection (3) as follows: “Nothing in this section shall preclude any chamber of the National Assembly from summoning the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to attend a joint session of the National Assembly to answer questions on national security or on any issue whatsoever, over which the National Assembly has powers to make laws.”
He also proposed that Section 107 of the Principal Act should be amended by inserting a new subsection (3) as follows: Nothing in this section shall preclude the House of Assembly of the State from summoning the Governor of the State to attend a sitting of the House of Assembly to answer questions on security or on any issue whatsoever, over which the House of Assembly has powers to make laws.”
On the powers of the National Assembly to legislate on public security, he maintained that: “By virtue of section 11(1) and (2) of the 1999 Constitution, the National Assembly has powers to make laws for the federation or any part thereof with “respect to the maintenance and securing of public safety and public order…”
He further added that by the provisions of sections 217, 218 and 219 of the 1999 Constitution, the President cannot carry out the “operational use of the Armed Forces” without the concurrence of the National Assembly. It is my considered view that Mr President is subject to the scrutiny of the National Assembly on matters of security.
“Whereas, Section 218 (1) of the 1999 Constitution provides that: the power of the President as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federation shall include the power to determine the operational use of the armed forces of the federation.”
“Section 218 (4) (a) of the 1999 Constitution provides that: ‘The National Assembly shall have the power to make laws for the regulation of- (a) The powers exercisable by the President as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federation…”
The lawmaker citing the American example, observed that the “Nigerian Presidential system of government is modelled after the American Presidential system of government and ever since America became independent, every American President has always given an annual “State of the Union Address” as prescribed in Article 2, section 3, clause 1 of the American Constitution. Whereas our Constitution has no such specific provision, section 4 of the 1999 Constitution, gives the National Assembly powers to make laws for the good governance of the nation or any part thereof.
“This power to make law also carries a corollary power to conduct an investigation into any matter or thing over which it has powers to make laws. This is as enshrined in section 88 (1) and (2) of the Constitution.
Section 4 (1) – (2) of the 1999 Constitution provides that: The legislative powers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be vested in a National Assembly for the Federation which shall consist of a Senate and a House of Representatives.
“The National Assembly shall have the power 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 Legislative List set out in Part I of the Second Schedule to this Constitution.”
While soliciting the support of members, Hon. Ogun maintained that “no one in our present-day society contests the fact that security has become a critical issue in our national life. This flows from the fact that Nigeria seems to have become a theatre of criminality, banditry, kidnapping and maiming of innocent citizens and yet the end seems not to be in sight.
“Therefore, for anyone to argue that the National Assembly has no powers to invite the President who is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federation to answer questions on security, is to live in self-deceit, self-disillusionment and self-inflicted confusion. Thus, this House seeks to eliminate chances of such unnecessary confusion by amending the Constitution to expressly state that the President is subject to the scrutiny of the National Assembly.”
While ruling, the Speaker, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, who presided over the session referred it to the Special Ad-hoc Committee on Constitution review for further legislative action.