The Senate may today strip the president of powers of assent to any new draft Constitution before it comes into effect as the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
This is just as the upper legislative chamber yesterday empowered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to deregister any political party which fails to win an elective position in the country, including the offices of the president, governor, local government chairman, federal or state Assembly seats.
The imminent overrule of the Presidential assent in bringing to force a new Constitution followed the alteration of Section 9 of the 1999 Constitution by adding subsection (3A) which reads: “For the purposes of altering the provisions of this Constitution, the assent of the President shall not be required”.
The above subsection, if passed today by the senators, as it appears very likely, will now require only the consent of simple majority of Nigerians in two-third of states of the federation for any draft Constitution to become new Constitution of Nigeria.
This simple majority vote in two-third of the states would be arrived at through a referendum to be conducted by INEC, within six months of receipt of the draft Constitution from the Clerk of the National Assembly.
Other subsections added to the amended Section (9) of the Constitution seek to restrict the process of drafting a new Constitution to only the federal legislature, in as much as it bars the sitting president from initiating the process of drafting new Constitution.
It would be recalled that attempt by the Constitution Review Committee of the Senate, led by Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, to empower the president to initiate the process of drafting new Constitution met a brick wall, as majority of senators argued that it was a plot to delegate the duty of the legislative arm to the executive.
Meanwhile, the Senate yesterday altered Section 68 of the 1999 Constitution to include new Section 225A, which says “The Independent National Electoral Commission shall have power to deregister political parties on any of the following grounds.
“(i) breach of any of the requirements for registration. (ii) failure to win Presidential, Governorship, Chairmanship of a Local Government Area Council or a seat in the National Assembly”.
The Senate also extended the time for conducting a rerun election from 7 to 21 days, following the confirmation of the alteration of Section 134 by the Constitution amendment committee.
In addition, the Senate approved the alteration of Clause (8) of the 1999 Constitution which gives constitutional rights to the presidents of the Senate, all former presidents of the Senate, Speaker of the House of Representatives and all former speakers of the House of Representatives to become members of the Council of State.
The Senate also conferred exclusive jurisdiction on the Federal High Court to try offences arising from violation of the provisions of the Electoral Act, and any other election related Act of the National Assembly, saying this will ensure standard and uniformity.
It further approved that the Clerk of the National Assembly or State House of Assembly shall notify INEC within seven days to conduct a bye-election to fill any vacant seat in the respective parliament, which may arise from death, resignation or vacation by a lawmaker.
The lawmakers would today continue to vote on the alterations made by the Senate review committee on Section 9 of the Constitution, which requires the approval of 87 senators to scale the hurdle.
The senators had earlier rejected this entire section because it empowered a sitting president to initiate the process of writing new constitution.