Women were one of the big losers at the National Assembly on Tuesday, despite the historic visit last week of First Lady, Mrs. Aisha Buhari, to buoy support for Affirmative Action for Women in the Constitution Review process.
Traditional rulers also lost out as the bill to create a role for them in the constitution kissed the dust.
“This Bill seeks to alter the Constitution to establish the National and State Councils of Traditional Rulers respectively to advise the President and Governors on matters related to customary law, security and public order etc.
“As the rulers of various communities, and the custodians of the people’s cultures, they are well positioned to mobilize the people for action against insecurity in their domains”,
63 senators voted against the Bill while 17 for it. One lawmaker abstained.
The Senate voted on sixty eight amendment clauses of the 1999 constitution rejecting Affirmative Action, which seeks to create special seats for women. The House of Representatives appeared to controversially pass the women bills, but with the rejection in the Senate, they are dead, for now.
“The Bill seeks to create special seats for women in the Senate, House of Representatives and State Houses of Assembly by creating one special seat in each state of the Federation and the FCT reserved solely for women without prejudice to their eligibility to contest in the existing senatorial seats in each state and the FCT.
“For the House of Representatives, it is two additional seat for each state and the FCT that is to be reserved for women without prejudice to their eligibility to contest for the other seats. And finally for the Houses of Assembly of each state one additional seat from each of the three Senatorial District is reserved solely for women. This is to enhance/encourage women participation and representation in governance.
However, the vote failed, because out the 91 senators who registered to vote on the clause, 30 voted yes, 58 voted no and three abstained.
Another failure for the womenfolk was Clause 68 which seeks to alter the constitution to provide a minimum percentage of ten women nominees as Ministers and Commissioners in the Federal and State Executive Councils respectively, as it will guarantee inclusivity of women in governance.
44 voted in favour and 43 against with one abstaining. 73 Senators were required to make it sail through.
On Affirmative Action for women in political party administration, which requires “a minimum of 35 % of party executive members at all levels also failed. It was defeated by 53 votes against while 34 were in favour. Three abstained.
Of the 68 bills slated for alteration, 49 scaled through in the Upper Legislative Chamber, while 19 fell by the wayside.
President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, earlier explained before voting started only bills which passed in both chambers would be transmitted to the State Houses of Assemblies for concurrence.
According to him, any bill which fails to pass in the Senate or House of Representatives during voting automatically stands rejected by the National Assembly.
For State Governors, especially in the Southern part of the country, it was victory as the clause on inclusion of Value Added Tax on the Exclusive Legislative List failed to pass.
The objective of the bill, according to Omo-Agege Committee “is to avoid the confusion that will inevitably arise from states passing individual laws in respect of Value Added Tax thereby raising the specter of multiple taxation and extreme difficulty in the administration of the Tax.
“There is a need for a single Federal Legislation to regulate the administration of the Value Added Tax nationwide and ensure ease of doing business in Nigeria.”
44 senators voted to reject the bill while 41 wanted it.
Deputy Senate President and Chairman Senate Committee on Constitution review, Ovie Omo-Agege made frantic efforts to save clause 18 on Judicial Reforms, but Lawan stood his ground that what they have done should be respected, as it may open new requests for other clauses.
Senator Kabiru Gaya, Kano South supported Omo-Agege and added that the bill for a role for traditional rulers be revisited.
Abdullahi Adamu commended the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan on the way he led the day’s session, but said very important issues like roles for traditional rulers could be revisited since lawmakers are humans who can make mistakes.
However, Ali Ndume said they couldn’t sit and reverse themselves, adding the constitution can be amended in the next few years.
Lawan supporting this position said said if some couldn’t get what they canvassed for, they should bear with the Senate.
The Senate passed a bill to empower the National Assembly and State Assemblies to summon the President and State Governors to answer questions bothering on security or any other issues on which the National and State Houses of Assembly have powers to make laws.
The bill seeks alteration to Section 67 of the Principal Act by inserting after subsection (3), a new subsection (4).
The new subsection (4) provides: “Nothing in this section shall preclude the National Assembly from summoning the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to attend a joint session of the National Assembly to answer questions on national security or any issue whatsoever, over which the National Assembly has powers to make laws”.
The bill further seeks to alter Section 108 of the Principal Act to insert a new subsection (4) to provide: “Nothing in this section shall preclude the House of Assembly of the State from summoning the Governor of the State to attend a sitting of the House of Assembly to answer questions on securoty or on any issue whatsoever, over which the House of Assembly has powers to male laws.”
Out of a total of 93 registered Senators, 77 voted in favour of the bill to summon the President and Governors, 13 against and 1 lawmaker abstaining, bringing total votes to 91.
The chamber also approved a bill to include Presiding Officers on the membership of the National Security Council.
It also passed a bill to make it an offence, and to provide for the possible conviction of any person who refuses to honour the summons of the National Assembly or any of its committee.
The bill seeks to alter Section 129 of the Principal Act to insert after subsection (2), a new subsection (3).
The new section provides: “Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in this Constitution, any person who after having been summoned to attend, fails, refuses or neglects to do so and does not excuse such failure, refusal or neglect to the satisfaction of the House or the Committee in question, commits an offence and is liable on conviction to such punishment as shall be prescribed by a Act of the National Assembly.
Also rejected were bills to alter Part I of the Second Schedule to the 1999 Constitution (as amended) to include Value Added Tax on the Exclusive Legislative List; Removal of Transitional Law-making Powers of the Executive; to provide for Diaspora voting; to grant Mayoralty Status for the FCT; and appointment of Minister from the FCT.
The Senate approved financial autonomy for state legislatures, judiciary and local governments in the country.
Senators rejected pension for presiding officers of the legislature.
Out of a total number of 88 Senators registered to vote on the bill, 34 voted in support, and 53 against the bill.
Also rejected were bills to override Presidential veto in Constitution Alteration; and to override Presidential veto in respect of ordinary money bills.
The rejected bills require the mandatory four-fifth (votes of 88 Senators) and two-thirds majority (votes of 73 Senators) to pass, respectively.
The bill on Procedure for Overriding Presidential Veto in Constitutional Alteration seeks to provide for the procedure for passing a constitution alteration bill where the President withholds assent.
On the other hand, the bill for an Act to alter the provisions of the Constitution to provide the procedure for overriding executive veto in respect of money bills, seeks to provide for mode of exercising federal legislative power on money bills before the National Assembly.
While 94 Senators registered to vote on the bill to override presidential veto in constitutional alteration, 79 lawmakers of the chamber voted in support and 15 against it. The bill fell short of the needed 88 votes (four-fifth requirement) to pass.
On the bill to override presidential veto in respect of money bills, out of a total of 84 registered Senators, 44 voted in support, and 39 against the bill. The bill also fell short of the required two-thirds requirement (73 Senators) to pass.
In addition, the Senate also rejected bills to provide for the Removal of Presiding Officers of the Legislature; and to Change the name of Barikin Ladi Local Government Area in Plateau State to “Gwol” Local Government Area