The Senate on Wednesday rose from about two-hour executive session and announced the suspension of its threat to override President Goodluck Jonathan’s veto on the Fourth Alteration Bill 2015 which seeks to amend the 1999 Constitution.
Senate President, David Mark, who addressed the members after the closed-door session, said that as lawmakers, they owed it a duty to abide by a Supreme Court decision that the status quo be maintained.
Mark said,” I think it is proper for me because of the importance of the issue, to make a very simple but straight forward unambiguous statement. We are lawmakers and we will not be law-breakers.
“We are not just lawmakers, we are very senior responsible citizens and very senior lawmakers and this is the apex of law making in this country.
“Therefore, on the issue of the current constitution review that is before the Supreme Court, we want to assure Nigerians that we will not break any law in this country.
“We will take appropriate action that will ensure that democracy survives but I will also want to warn that we should not be taken for granted by the executive but once more let me assure Nigerians that as lawmakers, we will not be law-breakers.”
The Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma – Egba, who addressed journalists after plenary, said the Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution, had the privilege of briefing the Senate in plenary after President Goodluck Jonathan had vetoed the document.
He said the Senate would challenge the ex parte injunction by the Supreme Court asking it to maintain the status quo on the matter despite the fact that the necessary procedure for amending the constitution was followed by the National Assembly.
He said, “We have a legal option to vigorously challenge the order of the court which was made ex parte; it was made without us being put on notice. I believe we can get the court to quickly determine that and we intend to pursue that option. We should expect this legal challenge as soon as possible.
On the issue of four-fifth, Ndoma-Egba said the Executive was wrong by claiming that the National Assembly did not form the required quorum while amending certain sections of the constitution which required four-fifth votes.
He said, “It is not correct that we did not form the four-fifth quorum, our records are very clear, the votes and proceedings are there and we have gone through the records again and we certainly met the constitutional requirement of four-fifth.
“The Attorney-General of the Federation who is alleging that we did not meet that constitutional requirement has not exhibited any document to show that we did not but from our records we clearly did.
“We are to conclude that we are suddenly confronted with this ambush.We think it is in bad faith and it is regrettable. We are going to court to challenge the court order.
“We were not put on notice; we did not have any notice and we were not represented. We are lawmakers not law-breakers; if you look at the 1999 Constitution, the Jurisdiction conferred on the Supreme Court did not include this kind of situation where one arm of government is having an issue with another arm of government.
“That jurisdiction was conferred by an Act of the National Assembly in 2002, which means it is a jurisdiction that we voluntarily gave to the Supreme Court and because that jurisdiction came from us, we must be seen to be obeying the laws of the land.
“The constitution has given the judiciary the power to adjudicate in situations like this and the matter is before the judiciary, we acknowledge that.So the best way out is to go pursue that order and vigorously pursue its being set aside and that is exactly what we are going to do immediately.’’
The senators had on Tuesday vowed to begin the process of overriding the President’s veto today (Wednesday) by taking the first reading of the bill to adopt the gazette of the controversial amendment bill.
Jonathan had in a letter dated April 13 addressed to Mark and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, announced his decision to reject the Constitution (Alteration) Bill 2015.
He had cited deliberate attempts by the lawmakers to whittle down presidential powers and their failure to strictly adhere to constitutional provisions on the amendments to Section 9 of the constitution by observing four-fifth majority support in each chamber before it could amend it.
The president also claimed that the National Assembly only observed two-thirds majority support for the amendment instead of the four-fifth stipulated by the constitution before amending the section.
The proposed amendment to the section strips the President the power to sign an amendment bill before it could become effective.
Following the President’s letter, the Senate on April 15 demanded the return of the bill to the National Assembly.
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