By Cecilia Ijuo
The Senate on Wednesday resolved to override President Muhammadu Buhari’s veto on the Constitution, 1999 (Fourth Alteration No. 28) Bill, 2018 and the Industrial Development (Income Tax Relief) Amendment Bill, 2018.
This followed presentation of a report by the Chairman, Technical Committee on Declined Assent to Bills by President Buhari, Sen. David Umaru at plenary.
The bills are two out of 17 bills the president declined assent to and returned to the National Assembly on Oct 10, 2018.
The Upper Chamber further resolved to represent 11 of the 17 bills while four of them would be withdrawn.
Umaru said the committee found that when the President withholds assent to a bill, the option available to the national assembly is to override the veto and pass the bill, either in its original form or pass the bill again and incorporate the observations of the president.
The constitution alteration bill No. 28, rejected by the President, seeks to provide for the time within which the President or Governor shall lay the Appropriation Bill before the National Assembly or House of Assembly.
He also said it is meant to encourage early presentation and passage of Appropriation Bills.
He explained that the bill sought to make it mandatory for the President and state governors “to cause to be prepared and laid before parliament, estimates of the revenues and expenditure of the federation for the following year.
“The bill will also make the parliament to pass the appropriation bill before the commencement of the next financial year.
“The Income Tax Relief Amendment Bill seeks to allow companies that expand their operations in pioneer industry or product, to apply for a new pioneer status.
“The President had declined assent to the bill on the grounds that `there are ongoing consultations by the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment with other Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) on the tax holidays incentive regime for expansion projects’.
“ This also covers investments in rural areas, as well as for Agriculture/Agro-processing to be concluded to pave way for presidential orders, or executive bills for consideration and passage by the National Assembly.
“That the consultations would result in fiscal measures that would greatly enrich the quality of the tax holidays incentive regime for these types of projects and investments.
“That at the end, these fiscal measures when finalised, would be subsequently submitted to the National Assembly by way of Presidential Executive Orders, or executive bills for consideration and passage into law by the federal legislature, in due course.”
Umaru said the 11 bills that would be passed again and transmitted for assent, was based on the fact that some of the observations made by the President were convincing.
“The committee from its findings discovered that Mr President outrightly withheld assent to some of the bills on the grounds that provisions of the extant acts are adequate enough to address the issues raised in the proposed legislations.
“Also, it is not every aspect of the economy that should be regulated by law but by policies of government.
“The passage of the Suppression of Piracy Bill that the President referred to in his Executive Communication when combined with the two bills currently before the senate on the same subject matter, would address the issues raised in the NIMASA Amendment Bill,” he said.
According to him, one of the 11 rejected bills the committee recommends for consideration and passage is the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999(Fourth Alteration, No. 8) Bill, 2018.
Others are: Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999(Fourth Alteration, No. 15) Bill, 2018, Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999(Fourth Alteration, No. 20) Bill, 2018.
Also, Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999(Fourth Alteration, No.22) Bill, 2018 was recommended for consideration and passage.
Others are the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999(Fourth Alteration, No. 24) Bill, 2018, Stamp Duties (Amendment) Bill, 2018, Petroleum Industry Governance Bill, 2018 and National Institute of Hospitality and Tourism(Establishment) Bill, 2018.
Furthermore, the committee recommended that the Senate does consider and pass again the National Research and Innovation Council Bill, 2018 among others.
Meanwhile, the Senate resolved to withdraw the Chartered Institute of Entrepreneurship (Establishment) Bill, 2018, Subsidiary Legislation (Legislative Scrutiny) Bill, 2018, Advanced Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences (Amendment) Bill, 2018 and Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency Amendment Bill, 2018.
Contributing, Senate Leader Ahmad Lawan congratulated the committee for a professional and thorough job.
He called for a filter system where before bills scale first reading, the Senate was properly advised on whether or not to consider it to avoid waste time and energy.
“We must also find a way to ensure that MDAs that implement such laws are present at public hearings,” he said.
Senator Emmanuel Bwacha(PDP-Taraba) commended the committee for a job well done.
He said:” some of the issues Sen. Lawan raised are true, but beyond that, there is behind the scene politics that lead to non-passage of some of these bills.
“For instance the Electoral Act Amendment Bill. Some lawmakers will be part of passage of bills and later go behind to deny the decision of the national assembly to support the Executive.
“We must all know it should be Nigeria first. There was no party politics in passage of the electoral bill but unfortunately it got swallowed up in political crisis.”
Senator James Manager (PDP-Delta) also commended the committee for a job well done.
He, however, expressed concern that “about 20 years down the line, we still have this problem.
“There are lots of things that can make both arms work together but that does not mean one arm must insist that its way must persist.
“It is worrisome how few persons sit and advise the president, creating problems not just for the national assembly but the country at large because laws are made for all even those unborn.
“ So, there must be a system where complicated issues like this are resolved for a win-win situation.”
The President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki, asked the Clerk of Senate to commence work on the bills slated for reconsideration to ensure that were passed within the life of the 8th Senate meant to elapse on June 9.
He, thereafter, put the recommendations of the technical committee to voice vote and they were all adopted.