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Emergency Rule: House Revokes Jonathan’s Powers over States'sFunds

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Senate queries decision  
•Ekweremadu: Constitution amendment bill underway

Omololu Ogunmade and Onwuka Nzeshi
The House of Representatives  Tuesday resolved to revoke the powers earlier granted President Goodluck Jonathan to utilise the statutory allocations of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States where emergency rule was declared on May 14.

Also  Tuesday, Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu unfolded plans by the Constitution Review Committee (CRC) to initiate the 2013 Amendment Bill, which would be debated in the Senate soon.

The House said it took the decision to review the president’s powers over funds of states under emergency rule because it had discovered that it would be unconstitutional to do otherwise.

Section 3(e) of the Emergency Powers (General) Regulations 2013 provides for the utilisation of the funds of any state of local government in the area where a state of emergency exists.

On Monday, Adamawa State Governor, Murtala Nyako, had vowed that the state would go to court to challenge the president’s powers to control funds meant for the states and local government areas under emergency rule, as it was unconstitutional to confer such powers on the president.

Apparently taking a cue from the governor’s reservations, the House, through a simple resolution, reviewed the approval of the two chambers of the National Assembly granted to Jonathan and deleted Section 3(2)(e) of the harmonised, adopted and approved Emergency Powers (General) Regulations, 2013.

It also urged the Senate to concur and adopt the new resolution.
A week ago, 253 members of the House approved the president’s request for declaration of emergency before the two chambers met to harmonise the differences in the document.

However, at  Tuesday's plenary, 194 lawmakers voted in support of the reversal while three others disagreed with the decision.

The dissenting voices were led by Hon. Kingsley Chinda (PDP/Rivers), who argued that granting the president access to the funds was a necessity, given the emergency nature of the assignment to flush out Boko Haram insurgents in the three states.

At the commencement of proceedings yesterday, former Chairman, House Ad Hoc Committee on the Collapse of the Capital Market, Hon. Ibrahim El-Sudi, had raised a motion on the need to amend the Emergency (General) Regulations, 2013.

In the lead debate on the motion, El-Sudi recalled that the House had  at an executive session  deliberated on  the circumstances that led to  the proclamation of state of emergency during which the provision that empowers the president to utilise the funds of the states  was unanimously rejected and deleted by the House.

But he added that the provision was retained by the conference committee of both chambers of the National Assembly when it met to harmonise the differences arising from the approval of the declaration.

El-Sudi said since the National Assembly approved the emergency proclamation, there has been a public outcry and outright opposition to its funding provisions by most Nigerians, especially indigenes of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States.

“We are mindful of the fact that there has been a near consensus among Senior Advocates of Nigeria and constitutional lawyers across the country regarding the constitutionality of the said section.

“We are further mindful of the provisions of Section 5(2) of the Emergency Powers Act No. 1 of 1961 (as modified) which provides that:

‘Any such regulation, order or rule may, without prejudice to the validity of anything lawfully done thereunder, at anytime be amended or revoked by resolutions passed by both Houses ...’
“We are also concerned that the Supreme Court of Nigeria has in a plethora of decided cases interpreted the intent and purport of Section 162 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federation, as amended, on the finances of the states and local governments of the federation and on whether the federal government via the National Assembly can validly make laws conferring powers or imposing duties on state functionaries.

"We are also concerned that by Chapter 1, Part 1 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federation, as amended, Nigeria is a federation and operates federalism as a system of government with states retaining a large measure of independence and autonomy,” El-Sudi said.
He urged the House to take a critical look at the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Attorney General of Abia State  vs Attorney  General of the Federation (2004 - 2007) for the National Assembly to acquaint itself with the decisions of the court on the issue of state funds and  avoid taking contrary actions.

El-Sudi said there was the need to ensure that laws, orders, resolutions and regulations emanating from the parliament were not in conflict with the constitution or any relevant court decision.

However, THISDAY learnt that the House’s decision might not get the backing of the Senate to make it effective, as the upper chamber has said the House cannot alter a section of the National Assembly's conference committee report.

Senate's spokesman, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, told THISDAY on the telephone that the House lacked the capacity to alter the conference committee's report.

According to him, once the conference committee of both the Senate and the House takes a position on any issue, the report is no longer subject to any debate and therefore cannot be altered by either of the two chambers.

Abaribe, who emphasised that it was impossible for the House to go back and work on a concluded issue, also explained that the section, which empowers the president to use the funds, was a Senate version that the committee adopted and therefore like the entire report, it became automatic.

He recalled how the conference committee of both chambers had adopted the House version of the report on the 2013 budget, which removed appropriation for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) even though that was not the Senate's position.

He said the action became binding on both chambers having been adopted by the committee and therefore this case could not be an exception.
Meanwhile, the deputy senate president has said the CRC would initiate the 2013 Amendment Bill in the Senate soon.

Ekweremadu, who is also the chairman, Senate Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution, said the current constitution amendment would deepen the nation’s democracy and strengthen its federal structures.

Ekweremadu, who hailed 14 years of uninterrupted democracy in Nigeria, also congratulated the president on the celebration of Democracy Day today.
According to him, this democracy has been “challenging, historic and rewarding,” adding that democracy is a process and not an event that will continue to mature over time through collective efforts and determination of the citizens.

“While we may not be where we want to be in our democratic experience, it is good news that we are certainly not where we used to be before May 29, 1999.

“We have made progress, especially in the areas of freedom, the electoral process and the independence of the federal legislature; and I have no doubt that the current constitution review exercise will help deepen our democracy and strengthen the nation’s federal system,” Ekweremadu said.

Article Credit: Thisday Newspaper

Updated 6 Years ago

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