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|Constitution Amendment Without President’s Assent Illegal – Court ! by wales(m): 6:41am On Nov 09, 2010|
A Federal High Court in Lagos on Monday said the ongoing amendments to the 1999 Constitution by the National Assembly would be illegal unless they received the presidential assent.
In his judgment in a suit filed by a former president of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), Justice Okechukwu Okeke also dismissed the preliminary objections by the defendants that he (Agbakoba) had no locus standi to institute the action.
But the Senate faulted the judgment by Justice Okeke, saying that it would definitely appeal.
Agbakoba had asked the court to challenge the claim by the National Assembly that the President’s signature was not necessary before the amended constitution could become a law.
He also joined the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr, Mohammed Adoke (SAN), as a co-defendant to the matter.
The National Assembly and Adoke, however, filed a preliminary objection to the suit, asking the court to dismiss suit with substantial cost.
The National Assembly had argued that the process of amending the constitution as provided for in Section 9 of the 1999 Constitution did not envisage that a single individual should approve the altered constitution when the supremacy of the people had been demonstrated in the process of amendment.
When the court first ordered the National Assembly to maintain the status quo, Agbakoba, explained that his action was not intended to jeopardise the 2011 general elections.
In his judgment on Monday, Okeke said, “The 2010 Constitution Amendment Act is null and void and will remain void until it is sent to the President for his approval.
“That the National Assembly can only go ahead to enforce the constitution where the President refuses to sign it 30 days after receipt.
“Having failed to comply with the provisions of Section 58 of the constitution, the purported 2010 amended constitution remains inchoate until it is presented to the President for his assent.”
He added that Agbakoba had sufficient locus standi to institute the action since he did not challenge the debate on the amendments to the constitution by the National Assembly.
According to him, the lawyer approached the court to ascertain if the claim by senators and members of the House of Representatives that the amended constitution did not require the President’s signature was right or wrong.
Citing Section 150 of the constitution, the judge added that the Attorney-General of the Federation was needed in the proceedings, being the chief law officer of the country even as a nominal party or at least, a witness to the proceedings.
Okeke, who also cited Section 2 of the Interpretation Act to back his verdict, said the constitution, having come into law through an Act, could only be amended through an Act.
He explained that an Act of the National Assembly could not become a law without the assent of the President.
Agbakoba had in his originating summons asked the court to hold that the ‘Constitution (First Amendment) Act 2010’ passed by the National Assembly could take effect as law without the assent of the President.
He added that the exercise by the lawmakers without the assent of the President was illegal and unconstitutional and urged the court to nullify the amendments on the grounds that the National Assembly had contravened section 58 of the constitution.
The former NBA president also asked the court to hold that in view of the provisions of section 58 (1) of the constitution, the assent of the President was a prerequisite before the amendments could become law.
According to him, unless the assent of the President is overridden pursuant to section 58 (5) of the constitution, Jonathan’s assent was sacrosanct before the amendments can become law
But the AGF had formulated three grounds for the court to strike out the suit. Apart from arguing that Agbakoba lacked the locus standi to file the suit, he said that the court lacked the jurisdiction to adjudicate on the matter.
In its reaction, the Senate faulted the judgment, vowing, “We shall definitely appeal this decision which we think did not reflect the spirit and intent of the constitution.”
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Information and Media, Senator Ayogu Eze, said. “Our attention has been drawn to the judgment of the Federal High Court in Lagos in respect of the alteration of the 1999 Constitution by the National Assembly.”
“We wish to state that it is within the jurisdiction of the court to reach the decision it did on the matter. However, we disagree with that judgment.”
Eze said the Senate believed that “the 1999 Constitution did not envisage that any single individual should sign the alteration after the people have spoken through the exercise of their sovereignty.”
According to him, members of the National Assembly believe that they were right in reaching the decision that the alteration of the constitution did not require the assent of the President.
He said, “One should have asked why the governors did not sign the amendment at the time it went to the states for approval. We were also guided by practice and conventions of other older democracies.
“The United States passed through the same argument after the Congress passed the bill of rights but the Supreme Court in that country ruled that the assent of the President was not required to alter the constitution.
“Members of the National Assembly embody the mandate and sovereignty of the people and the people speak through them. Sovereignty in a democracy belongs to the people and not to any office.”
Reacting to the development, the spokesman of the House of Representatives, Mr. Eseme Eyiboh, said the House would take necessary action and appeal against the verdict when it received a copy of the judgment.
|Re: Constitution Amendment Without President’s Assent Illegal – Court ! by wales(m): 6:42am On Nov 09, 2010|
Our senators,you are only representing your selfselves because it is in Nigeria that the senate president earns the 3times salary of American President
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