By Akinloye Oyeniyi
The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is not only very firm on how it should be altered but also strict on its supremacy as stated in its Section 1 saying “This Constititution is supreme and its provisions shall have binding force on all authorities and persons throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria.” Not stopping there, it is very sacrosanct in its subsection (3) of the same Section 1 which provides that “if any other law is inconsistent with the provisions of this Constitution, this Constitution shall prevail and that other law shall to the extent of the inconsistency be void.”
Premised upon the above provisions, it is therefore very plain that whatever law, policy or regulation in contrast with the Constititution shall to that effect be unconstitutional and illegal.
The above having needed to be upheld, consequently brought some of the fourth amendment bills passed by the National Assembly to have purportedly amended certain sections of the 1999 Constititution and assented to by President Buhari, under constitutional test to ascertain their validity forthwith.
The affected bills which are now refered to as Acts are: Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (Fourth Alteration, No.4) Act, 2017 ACT No.7, Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (Fourth Alteration, No.9) Act, 2017 ACT No.9, Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (Fourth Alteration, No. 16) Act, 2017 ACT No.10 and Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (Fourth Alteration, No. 21) Act, 2017 ACT No.8.
While the Fourth Alteration, No.4 Act, 2017 ACT No.7 is seeking to provide financial autonomy for the Houses of Assembly and judiciaries of States and the Fourth Alteration, No.9 Act, 2017 ACT No.9 seeks to provide INEC with sufficient time to conduct bye-election where no clear winner has emerged in an election; and further made provision for grounds for de-registration of political parties, the Fourth Alteration, No.16 Act, 2017 ACT No.10 seeks to disqualify a person who was sworn-in as president or governor to complete the term of an elected president or governor from being elected to the same office for more than a single term and the last Fourth Alteration, No. 21 Act, 2017 ACT No.8 is to provide for the time frame for the determination of pre-election matters.
Though the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) in Section 58 subsection (4) stipulates that “where a bill is presented to the President for assent, he shall within thirty days thereof signify that he assents or that he withholds assent”, failure of which will render such bill as vetoed automatically. But by records, the Fourth Alteration Numbers 4, 9,16 and 21 were passed by the National Assembly July 2017, transmitted on Tuesday 17th April, 2018 and were assented to by President Buhari on Friday 7th June, 2018 -thirty-five (35) working days excluding weekends and May 1st, 27th and 29th public holidays; a clear non-compliance with the said Section 58 subsection (4)
So, the President having received these bills and failed to assent to them within the constitutional thirty days, rendered the bills vetoed; and the National Assembly also having not carried out its constitutional overriding function till date by two-thirds majority of its Houses vote, all these bills shall stand null, void and therefore cannot constitutionally amend the affected sections of the 1999 Constitution.
It is worthy of note that though these alterations would have been advancements to our democracy, but since the supremacy of the 1999 Constitution is final, voiding the said alterations is not only constitutionally paramount but needed to preserve the old sections of the 1999 Constititution.
*Akinloye Oyeniyi Legislative Expert and Public Affairs Analyst.*