AS the National Assembly commences voting on 68 proposed amendments to the 1999 Constitution in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, The ICIR highlights the controversial and key issues.
Ten controversial proposals
1. Alteration of provisions of the 1999 Constitution to provide life pension for presiding officers of the National Assembly.
If this proposed amendment is passed by the lawmakers, the Senate President, the Deputy Senate President and the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly would join the president and vice president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on the list of Nigerians that enjoy life pension after holding political office at the federal level.
Already, many Nigerians, including civil society organisations, have kicked against the planned amendment.
2. Another controversial proposed amendment is the alteration of provisions of the 1999 Constitution to extend immunity to the legislative and judicial arms of government.
Currently, the president and the vice president, and state governors and their deputies, enjoy immunity while in office.
If this proposed amendment sails through, the Senate President, Deputy Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, as well as judicial officers such as the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), would join the list of Nigerians that enjoy immunity while in office.
3. The proposed amendment of Part I of the Second Schedule to the 1999 Constitution to include Value Added Tax (VAT) on the exclusive legislative list has also stirred controversy.
The Federal Government and the states are currently engaged in a dispute over who should collect VAT, and how revenue realised from the tax should be shared.
The dispute took a new turn when a Port Harcourt Federal High Court on August 10, 2021, granted an application filed by the Rivers State government to allow it to start collecting VAT within its jurisdiction.
The Federal Government appealed and the Court of Appeal ruled that the status quo should be maintained.
Lagos and some other states have joined the suit, which is currently pending before the Supreme Court.
However, if the proposed amendment before the National Assembly sails through, VAT will be moved to the Exclusive Legislative List, meaning that only the Federal Government will henceforth collect the tax.
4. Another controversial proposal is the alteration of the Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution to include Presiding Officers of the National Assembly in the membership of the National Security Council.
5. Equally controversial is a proposal for the inclusion of former Heads of the National Assembly in the Council of State.
6. The proposal to separate the Office of the Attorney–General of the Federation and of the State from the Office of the Minister of Justice or Commissioners for Justice of the state is another controversial issue.
The proposed separation is aimed at making the office of Attorneys–General independent and insulated from partisanship.
7. A proposal for alteration of the 1999 Constitution to provide for the Termination of Tenure of Certain Elected Officials on Account of a Change of Political Party is another controversial proposed amendment that will affect members of the National Assembly and other political office holders if it becomes law.
The proposed amendment is aimed at ensuring that certain political office holders who defect to another political party will lose their positions.
8. Another controversial proposal seeks to provide for Independent Candidacy in Presidential, Governorship, National Assembly, State Houses of Assembly and Local Government Councils Elections.
Should the proposal sail through, Nigerians can make choices outside the candidates presented by political parties in elections.
9. The plan to introduce Diaspora Voting is another proposed amendment that, should it sail through, would significantly alter the country’s electoral system.
10. The proposal for establishment of the Office of the Mayor for the Federal Capital Territory Administration Abuja is another controversial amendment.
Other key proposed amendments are:
* Provision to compel persons to obey or comply with the legislative summons.
* Provision for the procedure for passing a Constitution Alteration Bill when the president withholds assent.
* Provision for the procedure for overriding Executive Veto in respect of money bill.
* Provision for the procedure of removing presiding officers of the legislature.
* Establishment of the Federal Revenue Court and the Revenue Court of a State.
* Strengthening the judiciary for timely dispensation of justice.
* Provision for the timelines within which civil and criminal cases are heard and determined at trial and appellate courts in order to eliminate unnecessary delay in justice administration and delivery.
* Uniformity in the retirement age and pension rights of judicial officers of Superior Courts of Records.
* Exclusion of the period of intervening events in the computation of time for determining pre-election petitions, election petitions and appeals.
* Allowing court or tribunal proceedings to be conducted remotely, virtually, online or through any media platform or technological innovation.
* Abrogation of the State Joint Local Government Account and provision for a Special Account into which shall be paid all allocations due to Local Government Councils from the Federation Account and from the state government.
* Establishment of the local government as a tier of government and guaranteeing the democratic existence and tenure of local governments.
* Provision for the financial independence of state houses of assembly and state judiciary.
* Granting permission to public servants to engage in healthcare, education, production and services beyond farming.
* Moving airports from Exclusive Legislative List to the Concurrent Legislative List.
* Moving fingerprints, identification and criminal records from the Exclusive Legislative List to the Concurrent Legislative List.
* Deleting prisons in the Exclusive Legislative List and redesignating it as Correctional Services in the Concurrent Legislative List.
* Moving railway from the Exclusive Legislative List to Concurrent Legislative List.
* Allowing states generate, transmit and distribute electricity in areas covered by the national grid.
* Provision for Special Seat for Women in the National and state houses of assembly.
* Expanding the scope of citizenship by registration.
* Provision for affirmative action for women in political party administration.
* Provision for criteria for qualification to become an Indigene of a state in Nigeria.
* Empowering the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) to enforce compliance with remittance of accruals into and disbursement of revenue from the Federation Account and streamlining the procedure for reviewing the revenue allocation formula.
* Removal of transitional lawmaking powers from the executive arms of government.
* Specification of the time within which the executive shall present to the National Assembly any treaty between the federation and any other country for enactment.
* Specification of the period within which the president or the governor of a state shall present the appropriation bill before the National Assembly or House of Assembly.
* Requirement for the president or governors to submit the names of persons nominated as ministers or commissioners within 30 days of taking the Oath of Office for confirmation by the Senate or state houses of assembly.
* Establishment of State Security Councils.
*Giving the National Assembly and State Houses of Assembly powers to summon the president and governors of states to answer questions on issues on which the national and state houses of assembly have the power to make laws.
* Reduction of the period within which the president or the governor of a state may authorise the withdrawal of monies from the Consolidated Revenue Fund in the absence of an Appropriations Act from six months to three months.
* Replacement of the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation with the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federal Government.
* Establishment of the Office of the Accountant–General of the Federal Government separate from the Office of the Accountant–General of the Federation.
* Specification of the timeframe for the conduct of Population Census.
* Provision for a State of the Nation and State of the State Address by the president and governor, respectively.
* Enhancement of existing provisions on the formation of political parties.
* Provision for appointment of a minister from the FCT.
* Correction of the error in the definition of the boundary of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
* Making free, compulsory and basic education a fundamental right of all citizens.
* Requirement for the government to direct its policy towards ensuring rights to food and food security in Nigeria.
* Establishment of the National and State Councils of Traditional Rulers to advise the president and governors on matters related to customs, security and public order.
* Provision of reserved quota for women.