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Thursday, 25 July 2013

CONSTITUTION AMENDMENT: REPS REJECT IMMUNITY FOR PRESIDENT, GOVS......

 by John Ameh

The House of Representatives on Wednesday passed 85 new clauses to the 1999 Constitution (as amended), among which was the rejection of immunity for the President and state governors facing criminal charges.

By the new provision on immunity, the President, Vice-President, governors and their deputies will vacate office, if convicted of any criminal offence.

A total of 339 out of the 360 members of the House voted on Wednesday to pass the clauses.

Voting and collation of results ended at about 10.43pm.

On immunity, 306 members voted to remove it, 17 opposed it, while 14 abstained.

The House retained four years as the tenure of office of elected officials.
Similarly, 293 lawmakers voted to endorse autonomy for local governments, as against 39 who opposed it. Seven others abstained.

This development meant that the House took a different position on the issue, compared to the Senate, which rejected autonomy for the councils.
Lawmakers also scrapped State Independent Electoral Commissions and transferred the responsibility of conducting council polls to the Independent National Electoral Commission.

Independent candidacy was also endorsed by the House, meaning that in future, persons who do not belong to any political party, can stand for elections as individuals.

A total of 313 lawmakers endorsed the provision, while eight opposed it. Twelve others abstained.

Like the Senate, the House retained the controversial proposal on life pension for the President, Vice-President, Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives and Deputy Speaker.

A total of 284 lawmakers endorsed the provision, with only 18 opposing it. Thirty-six others abstained.

Other highlights included the transfer of health, housing, electricity and railways from the Exclusive Legislative List to the Concurrent List.

This implies that states can now make laws on these issues.

However, the issue of minimum wage and labour matters were retained in the Exclusive List.

The House adopted all the recommendations of its report on the Peoples' Public Sessions it conducted across the Federation on November 10, 2012.

The sessions were conducted by its Ad-Hoc Committee on Constitution Review headed by the Deputy Speaker, Mr. Emeka Ihedioha.

Lawmakers had to resort to voting manually on Wednesday as attempts to use electronic voting system failed.

The much-hyped intervention by NigComsat to rescue the situation failed to work after more than three hours of trying.

The House had co-opted NigComsat on Monday to assist, by installing an improvised electronic voting system with the aid of ipads.

The improvised system was to serve as temporary replacement for the faulty voting system in the House.

The Director-General of NigComsat, Mr. Ahmed Rufai, who supervised the installation of the temporary system on Tuesday, had assured lawmakers that it would work perfectly for the purpose of voting.

However, as members got set to vote on Wednesday, the system failed to work.

Members waited for over three hours as Rufai and his technicians battled to fix the problem to no avail.

Rufai claimed to have tested the system earlier in the morning and ascertained that it worked, but it suddenly failed to transmit signals as voting was about to start around 11am.

In the face of the development, the Speaker, Mr. Aminu Tambuwal, opted for manual voting.

The manual voting was a tedious process, involving voting by 339 sitted lawmakers, collation of results and analysing the results to meet the constitutional requirement of two-thirds majority (240) to pass any proposal.

Each member voted using a document containing the 87 changes (clauses) proposed for inclusion in the constitution.

Two of the clauses were later dropped, leaving 85 as passed.

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