Constitution Review: Reps Move against NASS Panels on VAT as Voting Begins, PLAC Says

Akanimo Sampson

Akanimo Sampson

Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC), a front line civic group says the plural bills jointly agreed by the Red and the Green chambers of the National Assembly Ad-hoc Committees on Constitution Review include Value Added Tax (VAT) on the Exclusive Legislative List. But, the move has failed in the House of Representatives.

About 200 members of the Green Chamber voted against the bill, while 91 were in favour.

The Ad-hoc panels also agreed to empower the National Assembly and state Houses of Assembly to summon Nigeria’s President and state Governors to answer questions on issues on which federal and state legislators have the power to make law.

According to PLAC on its website, there is also a bill that requires 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 House of Assembly.

This is coming as the Senate and the House of Representatives set Wednesday, March 2, and this Thursday to vote on proposals to amend the Nigerian Constitution.

Deputy Senate President and Reps Deputy Speaker, on Wednesday, February 23 separately presented before their respective chambers, proposals jointly agreed by both Ad-hoc Committees on Constitution Review.

The joint Constitution amendment recommendations of the Senate and House Committees had been agreed on at a retreat organised by both chambers and held last February 4 and 5.

The retreat was however, supported by PLAC and the UK Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO). The recommendations come from several consultative processes conducted by the Constitution Review Committees of both houses over several months, most of which consultations, PLAC and the UK FCDO had supported.

At the conclusion of votes by the National Assembly, bills that receive approval will be sent to the States for votes. The Constitution requires that each alteration passed by National Assembly must receive support of simple majority of votes in at least two-thirds of state Houses of Assembly in the Federation.

Amendments that pass the threshold of State votes will then qualify to be sent to the President for assent, after which it becomes law.

PLAC says the Constitution alteration bills to be voted on include: Abrogate the state Joint Local Government Account and Provide for a Special Account into which shall be paid all Allocations due to Local Government Councils from the Federation Account and from the Government of the State;

Establish Local Government as a Tier of Government and Guarantee their Democratic Existence, Tenure; Change the Name Afikpo North and Afikpo South Local Government Areas; Change the name of Kunchi Local Government Area; Change the Names of Egbado North and Egbado South Local Government Areas; and Change the Name Barikin Ladi Local Government Area.

Others are: Correct name Atigbo Local Government Area; Correct the Name of Obia/Akpor Local Government Area. Provide for the Financial Independence of State Houses of Assembly and State Judiciary; Compel persons to obey or comply with Legislative Summons; Regulate the First Session and Inauguration of Members-Elect of the National and State Houses of Assembly; and Institutionalize Legislative Bureaucracy in the Constitution.

Equally being considered are bills to: Provide for the Procedure for passing a Constitution Alteration Bill where the President withhold Assent; Provide the Procedure for Overriding Executive Veto in Respect of Money Bill; Provide for the Procedure of Removing Presiding Officers of the Legislature; Provide Pension for Presiding Officers of the National Assembly;  Establish the Federal Revenue Court and the Revenue Court of a State; and Further Strengthen the Judiciary for Timely Dispensation of Justice.

Others are bills to: Provide 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; Ensure Uniformity in the Retirement Age and pension Rights of Judicial Officers of Superior Courts of Records; Delete the Reference to the Provisions of the Criminal Code, Penal Code, Criminal Procedure Act, Criminal Procedure Code or Evidence Act.and Exclude the Period of Intervening Events in the Computation of Time for Determining Pre-election Petitions, Election Petitions and Appeals therefrom.

Allow Court or Tribunal Proceedings to be conducted remotely, Virtually, Online or through any Media Platform or Technological Innovation; Expand the Interpretation of Judicial Office to include Courts or Tribunals created by an Act of the National Assembly or a State House of Assembly; Provide for the Post Call Qualification of the Secretary of the National Judicial Council; and Permit Public Servants to Engage in Healthcare Education, Production and Services beyond Farming.

Impose the requirement of fair Hearing in the process of Recommendation of Removal of Judicial Officers by the State Judicial Service Commission; Include Judges of the National Industrial Court in the Composition of Election Tribunal; Move Airports from Exclusive Legislative List to the Concurrent Legislative List; Move Fingerprints, Identification and Criminal Records from the Exclusive Legislative List to the Concurrent Legislative List; and Delete prisons in the Exclusive Legislative List and Redesignate it as Correctional Services in the Concurrent Legislative List;

Also being proposed are bills to: Move Railway from the Exclusive Legislative List to Concurrent Legislative List; Allow States Generate, Transmit and Distribute Electricity in Area covered by the National Grid; Include Value Added Tax on the Exclusive Legislative List; Provide for Special Seat for Women in the National and State Houses of Assembly; and Expand the Scope of Citizenship by Registration.

Provide for Affirmative Action for Women in Political Party Administration; Provide Criteria for Qualification to become an Indigene of a State in Nigeria; Empower the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission to Enforce Compliance with Remittance of Accruals into and Disbursement of Revenue from the Federation Account and Streamline the Procedure for Reviewing the Revenue Allocation Formula; and Enhance the Independence of Certain Bodies.

Remove Transitional Lawmaking Powers from the Executive Arms of Government; Expand Immunity to the Legislative and Judicial Arms of Government; Specify the Time within which the Executive shall present to the National Assembly any Treaty between the Federation and any other Country for Enactment; Specify the period within which the President or the Governor of State shall present the Appropriation Bill before the National Assembly or House of Assembly;

Require 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 House of Assembly; Include Presiding Officers of the National Assembly in the Membership of the National Security Council; and Establish State Security Council.

Included are bills to: Empower the National Assembly and State Houses of Assembly Powers to summon the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Governors of States to answer Questions on issues on which the National and State Houses of Assembly have the Power to make Law; and Reduce the Period within which the President or the Governor of a State may authorize the withdrawal of Monies from the Consolidated Revenue Fund in the absence of an Appropriations Act from six months to three months.

Replace the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation with the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federal Government; Establish the Office of the Accountant –General of the Federal Government separate from the Office of the Accountant –General of the Federation; Specify the Timeframe for the Conduct of Population Census; and Establish the Office of the Attorney–General of the Federation and of the State separate from the Office of the Minister of Justice or Commissioners for Justice of the state in order to make the Offices Attorneys–General Independent and Insulated from Partisanship;

Provide for a State of the Nation and State of the State Address by the President and Governor; Include Former Heads of the National Assembly in the Council of State; Provide for the Termination of Tenure of Certain Elected Officials on Account of a Change of Political Party; Enhance existing Provisions on the Formation of Political Parties; and Provide for Independent Candidacy in Presidential, Governorship, National Assembly, State Houses of Assembly and Local Government Councils Elections;

Provide for Diaspora Voting 60; Provide for the Office of the Mayor for the Federal Capital Territory Administration Abuja; Provide for Appointment of a Minister from the FCT; Correct the Error in the definition of the Boundary of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja; Make Free, and Compulsory and Basic Education a Fundamental Right of all Citizens under Chapter IV of the Constitution;

Further define Acts that Constitute Torture, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment; Require the Government to Direct its Policy towards ensuring Rights to Food and Food Security in Nigeria; Reflect the Establishment and Core Functions of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps; Establish the National and State Councils of Traditional Rulers to advise the President and Governors on Matters Related to Customs, Security and Public Order; and Provide Reserved Quota for Women.

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