Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Constitution Review: House Seeks Amendment to Impeachment Process for President, VP

The House of Representatives Ad hoc Committee on the review of the 1999 Constitution yesterday submitted a report proposing an alteration to Section 143 of the constitution with a view to removing ambiguities in the process of impeachment and removal of the president and vice-president from office.

The amendment to the impeachment process is one of the 17 proposals submitted to the House by the ad hoc committee chaired by Deputy Speaker, Emeka Ihedioha.

In its proposal, the ad hoc committee recommends that the provisions of Section 143 should be amended to allow impeachment process against the president or vice-president to proceed once at least one-third of members of the House of Representatives have signed a notice of any allegation written against either the president of his deputy.

This is provided that the offence of the person targeted for impeachment is detailed, specified and a copy presented to him by the House speaker within seven days of the receipt of the notice.
Also, any reply to the allegation(s) against the person about to be impeached should be communicated to the legislators.

A fortnight thereafter, the House shall resolve, without recourse to debate, whether the allegations should be probed or otherwise, giving due consideration to the weight of each allegation of gross misconduct; and voting on the same “in accordance with the rules and procedure of the House of Representatives.”

According to the proposal, the president or vice-president stands removed once the allegations so considered by the House are served on him by two-thirds of lawmakers.
“Notwithstanding the removal of the office holder from office under sub-section 8 of this section, the Senate may, by simple majority, vote to prohibit the person so removed from holding any position of trust or public office in the future,” the ad hoc committee proposed.

It also provides that “no proceedings or determination of the National Assembly or any matter relating thereto shall be entertained or questioned in any court.”

Other proposed amendments to the constitution by the ad hoc committee are: alteration to Section 4 of the constitution to provide immunity for lawmakers for words spoken or written at the plenary or at committee proceedings; alteration to Section 6(6) of the constitution to allow for the justiceability of some parts of Chapter II of the constitution and alteration to Section 25 of the constitution on the definition of citizenship to include all persons indigenous to communities now forming part of Nigeria.

It also proposed a Bill for an Act to provide for national social integration of the country and alteration to Section 56 of the constitution to guarantee freedom of speech and legislative actions of members of the National Assembly.

In addition, it called for an alteration to Section 67 to secure compulsory attendance of the president to deliver a State of the Nation Address to a joint sitting of the National Assembly and alteration to Section 81(3) of the constitution to include the national security agencies and the Nigeria Police in the first line charge of the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation.

It also proposed an alteration to Section 85 and 125 of the constitution to ensure accountability and transparency in the management of the finances of all statutory corporations, commissions, authorities, agencies, including all persons and bodies established by Acts of the National Assembly or laws of a state House of Assembly and to further enhance the efficiency of the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation or of a state.

The ad hoc committee also submitted that Sections 89, 241 and 242 as well as 277 and 282 should be altered too, in addition to Sections 285, 292 and amendment to the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps Act, to provide for financial contribution from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) to enable the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) carry out its functions.

Giving a synopsis of its work, Ihedioha stated that the House had referred some bills to the committee for further legislative input.

“The committee treated most of them which formed part of the report submitted to the House in July, based on which the House conducted the votes on amendment to the constitution on 25th July, 2013.

“A few of the bills were omitted during that exercise; some were stood down as they did not undergo public hearing while a few others were referred to the committee after the voting had taken place.

“As a result, the leadership of the House and the committee thought it wise to conclude work on those bills before setting up a conference committee to liaise with the Senate for harmonisation purposes,” he said.

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