The Senate yesterday rejected the proposed six-year single tenure for elected presidents and governors as the lawmakers overwhelmingly voted against it.
The single tenure proposal was shut down with a vote of 86 to 14 and one abstinence.
Interestingly, the Senate yesterday recorded the highest number of attendance in recent times with 101 members present.
For any of the new proposals in the draft constitutional bill to scale through, the constitution requires a two-thirds majority, which translates to 73, in a Senate that has 109 members.
The upper chamber, in a historical fourth attempt to amend some sections of the 1999 Constitution, also voted against the proposal to make the local government council autonomous through the abolition of the joint states/local government account.
It voted 59 in support and 38 against, with two abstinences to shoot down the proposal.
The lawmakers, however, voted in support of financial autonomy for the state Houses of Assembly, the State Independent National Electoral Commissions, SIECs, the state auditors- general and the state judiciaries by approving first line charges for them, whereby they derive their funds from the states’ consolidated revenue funds.
However, the proposal to separate the office of the attorneys-general of the federation and those of the states from the minister and commissioners for justice respectively and accord financial autonomy to the attorneys-generals failed to scale through.
This was also as the proposal to provide for a mayoral status for the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, suffered a serious setback with the senators opposing the proposal with 57 yes votes to the 39 no votes, with two senators abstaining from voting.
However, the Senate overwhelmingly okayed a proposal for drafting an entirely new constitution.
It also took a new step towards strengthening its legislative powers of ensuring timely passage of laws by passing the clause that makes bills sent to the president to become automatic law at the expiration of 30 days if the president does not assent to the bill or return it to the National Assembly.
“Where the president neither signifies that he assents nor that he withholds assent, the bill shall at the expiration of 30 days become law,” the proposal stated.
The Senate also resolved the lingering issue of whether or not president’s assent is required before a new constitution comes into effect. They voted against a presidential assent when the lawmakers had okayed the proposal.
“For the purpose of altering the provisions of this constitution, the assent of the president shall not be required.”
The proposal to remove the National Youths Service Corps, Public Complaints Commission, National Security Agency Act and the Land Use Act from the constitution to enable their easy amendment failed as the lawmakers voted overwhelmingly against the recommendation.
The proposal to legislate the marriageable age at 18 years failed to scale through. Former Zamfara State governor, Senator Ahmed Yerima, reminded his colleagues that such proposal goes against Islamic religion, which does not allow any age bar on marriage.
After a heated protest by the former governor, Senate President David Mark had to bend backwards to revisit the issue, leading to the senators now voting against the proposal after it had previously been approved.
Attempt to rename the Nigerian Police Force to the Nigerian Police Service was frustrated with 63 senators supporting against 33 others who opposed the change.
The proposal on the remuneration of past presiding officers of the National Assembly, including the Senate President and his deputy as well as the Speaker of the House of Representatives and his deputy expectedly sailed through.
The proposal, which scaled through with a yes vote of 86 to 13, with only one abstention states: “Any person who has held office as President or Deputy President of the Senate, Speaker or Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, shall be entitled to pension for life at a rate equivalent to the annual salary of the incumbent President or Deputy President of the Senate, Speaker or the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives.”
On devolution of powers, the Senate approved the proposal for the contraction of the exclusive legislative list and expansion of the concurrent list by removing some items from the exclusive list and transferring same to the concurrent list.
In addition to the existing items on the concurrent legislative list, the following items have been added to the list: arbitration, environment, healthcare, agriculture, public complaints, railways, road safety, stamp duties, wages, youths and pension.
However, the proposal to remove aviation and prison from the exclusive list and transfer same to concurrent list failed.
The Senate also voted in support of the proposal that every pre-election matter must be filed not later than seven days from the date of occurrence of the event and that every court adjudicating on such matters must deliver judgement in writing within 180 days from the date of filing of the suit.
It also okayed the proposal that an appeal from a decision in a pre-election matter shall be filed within 14 days from the date of delivery of the judgement, appealed against while such appeal must be heard and disposed of within 60 days from the date of the filing the appeal.
Mark thanked the senators for what he described as the historic decisions they made through their votes and the efforts of the constitution review committee in completing its assignment in good time and coming up with the very far-reaching recommendations.
He said: “Today is a historic day in the history of democracy in this country. We have voted in what we believed in and we voted for those issues that we think will ensure that democracy continues to mature and take a firm root in this country.
“I want to thank you because I believe that the committee worked very hard to be able to get us where we are now.
“Whatever emotions or sentiments people had to express we put them in practical terms.”
In a related development, the House of Representatives yesterday suspended consideration of its report on the review of 1999 Constitution.
The suspension was due to indecision on a method to adopt and complaints by over 20 lawmakers that they were yet to be served copies of the document.
The lawmakers shelved the adoption of the report after the Chairman of the ad hoc Committee on the Review of the Constitution and Deputy Speaker, Emeka Ihedioha, made a 40-minute delivery of an overview of the proposed amendments.
Earlier, the Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal, had ruled that debates on the report would not be allowed, except comments, reactions and observations on clauses.
Barely a few minutes into consideration of the report, Hon. Razaq Bello- Osagie (ACN-Edo), noted that members might not be able to contribute meaningfully as some of them were yet to have copies of the report.
Hon. Bitrus Kaze (PDP-Plateau) had raised another observation on the procedures adopted for the consideration, saying members ought to be allocated time to debate and make contributions. Tambuwal, however, ruled him out of order, insisting that the report had gone beyond the debating stage.
The House was confused as to whether to return to the tested procedure of consideration of bills or follow through on its adopted methodology of allowing the vote of Nigerians across Nigeria as contained in the report stand.
But when the atmosphere was getting too charged, the Speaker, who chaired the Committee of the whole, announced the deferment of the consideration of the report.
He said: “At the commencement of this process, Hon. Bello-Osagie drew our attention to the fact that some of us do not get copies of the report, and most of those that got, it was this morning. The consideration of the report is hereby deferred till tomorrow (today).”
The House Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution had two weeks ago presented its report before the House, proposing the stripping of immunity for the President and other executives and sundry proposals.