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Promoting Good Governance.

Rising Tempers Halt Debate On State Of The Nation Bill

The Senate on Wednesday adjourned indefinitely the debate on President Goodluck Jonathan’s request for amendment to the State of Nation Address Bill to calm rising tension among senators.

Jonathan had earlier requested the Senate to redraft some clauses of the bill to bring it in conformity with the Constitution.

But the senators on Wednesday argued that Jonathan’s request was an indirect refusal of assent to the bill, insisting that the Senate should override the President’s veto and pass the bill into law.

The Deputy Senate Leader, Abdul Ningi, said the bill should be returned to the President for assent or rejection.

He said the Senate could exercise its constitutional powers tooveride the veto  if the President refused to give assent.

Ningi also added that the content of the bill was not a duplication of the constitutional provisions, but an opportunity for the President to tell Nigerians where his government was headed.

“This is going to be an institutionalised culture for our democracy and not targeted at personalities. The letter has no merit. It has no basis and should be returned to him to sign or reject the bill and for us to veto the President for the first time,” he said.

Also contributing, Senator Ita Enang said that the executive could not request for an amendment when it did not make any presentation opposing aspects of the bill during the public hearings.

Enang said the Constitution only provides for the President to either give assent or reject assent to a bill and not to propose amendment.

“He is not a part of the legislature. So, he has only two options, either to assent or reject assent. This is an opportunity for the legislature to seek the interpretation of the Supreme Court on whether the President has power to propose amendment after a bill had been passed,” he contended.

In the same vein, Ahmed Lawan and Ike Ekweremadu, the Deputy Senate President, also urged the Senate to override the President because the bill was targeted to make the nation better.

“This bill is very important to the nation and we cannot afford to lag behind where other smaller nations are ahead of us,” Ekweremadusaid.

The debates became charged following the calls by majority of the lawmakers on the Senate to override the President’s veto on the Bill.

There was also an altercation involving Senators Kabiru Marafa(ANPP – Zamfara), Bashir Garba (PDP – Kano) and Paulinus Igwe(PDP- Ebonyi).

In another scene, Oluremi Tinubu (ACN- Lagos) and James Manager (PDP- Delta) were also involved in a verbal exchange with the two pointing fingers at each other.

The Senate spokesman, Enyinnaya Abaribe, however, explained to journalists that the argument involving  Marafa, Garba and Igwewas not related to the debate.

He explained that the trio was arguing over whose right it was to bring a motion on the proposed plan by Zamfara Governor,Abdulazzez Yari to arm vigilante groups in the state.

The Senate President, David Mark had to call off the debate when tempers began to rise resulting in hot exchange words with the plenary turning into a shouting match.

Mark urged Senators to live up to their responsibilities as democrats by avoiding any form of hostility in the course of resolving issues on the floor of the Senate.

“As democrats, we should resolve all the problems by talking and not by boxing,” he said, adding that: “In any case, for the first time in 14 years, I have seen an effort for people to put out boxing gloves. It is never necessary, we must never do that, we are distinguished senators and elder statesmen,” he admonished his colleagues.

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