SPECIAL REPORT: Turf war, spelling errors top reasons why Buhari vetoed 45 bills in 2 years

OrderPaperToday – The 8th national assembly may have made record as the set of federal legislators with the highest number of bills vetoed by the President in Nigeria’s presidential democracy so far.

Since the inception of the current assembly in 2015 there have been no less than 45 bills rejected by President Muhammadu Buhari. While this unprecedented scenario may be attributed to strained relationship between the executive and legislative arms that have dominated the current tenure, reasons adduced by the President for declining assent in most cases appear to be germane. These range from belittling of his powers, constitutional and drafting issues as well as spelling errors.

OrderPaperNG took a look at all the rejected bills from November 22, 2017 to March 20, 2019 and chronicled the reasons given by the President below:

On 22nd of November, 2017, two bills were vetoed in a letter read by the Senate President, Bukola Saraki. They are: University of Wukari Establishment bill (2017) and Chartered Institute of Treasury Management Establishment bill (2017) Reason for rejecting the former has to do with “certain words and phrases used in the bill. For instance statutes should replace regulation throughout the bill for constituency. Paragraph 9 (1) of the first schedule should refer to the president and not the visitor…” while the latter is on “the scope of phrases used in the bill. For instance, the phrase ‘treasury management’ is not defined in the bill, greater clarity maybe required regarding the impact of the bill…”

On the 25th of January 2018, Buhari conveyed his refusal to sign Peace Corps bill into law for the following reason: “Security concerns regarding the proposed Nigerian Peace Corps being authorized to undertake activities currently being performed by extant security and law enforcement agencies; and financial implications of funding the establishment and operation…”

On the 6th of February, 2018, Buhari declined assent to three bills viz: police procurement fund establishment bill (2017), Chartered Institute of Public Management of Nigeria bill (2017) and Nigerian Council for Social Works establishment bill (2017). He cited lack of clarity regarding disbursement of fund and constraints regarding the powers of the National Assembly to appropriate funds allocated to the 36 state governments and 754 local governments as justification for rejecting the police bill. Lack of clarity over the scope of the profession of “public management” was the reason for declining the second bill; and lack of lucidity over the scope of the profession of social works for the third one.

On the 5th of March, 2018 the Biochemist and Molecular bill was vetoed for ownership infringement of an existing body, as well as drafting and administrative issues.

On the 5th of July, 2018, Buhari withheld assent to Radiographers Registration Amendment bill for creation of conflict among health professional and spelling errors. “We are concerned it will create disharmony in the health sector between radiographers and radiologists who are regulated separately. I also note that there is a minor error in section 2 (a) of the amendment bill where the word ‘substituting’ is misspelt as ‘substitituting’,” a communication from Mr. President said.

On the 13th of July 2018, the following four bills were vetoed: Corporate Manslaughter bill (2018), Agricultural Credit Scheme amendment bill (2018), National Child Protection and Enforcement Agency bill and the Courts and Tribunal Standard scales of fines and financial standard bill. Buhari cited inconsistency with 1999 constitution as reason for scuttling the first bill; increment of the credit threshold initially tagged at N100 million for the second and for third bill, he said duplication of duties of existing agencies such as National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP). For the fourth bill, he cited contradiction with existing laws.

Senate reacts…

In August, the Senate had to set up a technical committee to look into an avalanche of vetoed bills which include: National Transport Commission bill, National Reach and Innovation council bill, National Institute of Hospitality and Tourism bill, National Agricultural Seeds Council and Subsidiary Legislation bill, Stamp duties bill, Chartered Institute of Entrepreneurship bill, Industrial Development (Income Tax Relief) bill, Advance Fee Fraud Offences bill and Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency amendment bill.

The President had also rejected five constitutional amendment bills, namely: No. 8, 15. 22, 24 and 28. These bills sought to amend the constitution in the following areas: Immunity for members of the legislature, Change in the name of the Nigeria Police Force, Consequential amendment on Civil Defence to reflect establishment and core functions, Procedure for overriding Presidential Veto in Constitutional Alteration, and Timeline for the presentation of appropriation bill.

On the 18th of December, 2018, the National Broadcasting Commission amendment bill failed to get presidential nod because some important provisions in the initial bill was deleted.

From January to March 2019, not less than 10 bills have been vetoed for reasons ranging from drafting inconsistencies to conflicting provisions among others.

Buhari withheld assent to five bills on the 17th of January, 2019. These are: Revenue mobilization, allocation and fiscal commission amendment bill (2018), bankruptcy and insolvency bill (2018), Federal Polytechnic amendment bill (2018), Maritime security operations coordinating board amendment (2018) and Energy commission amendment bill (2018). On the revenue bill, Mr. Buhari cited interference with commission’s oversight and administration of revenue generating agencies of the federal government. He spoke of drafting issues that affect clarity and impede the effective operation of the bankruptcy bill; and said removal of governing council members, rectors of polytechnics ought to be on his accord and not the federal executive council in order to the process “less administrative cumbersome” was reason for declining assent to the polytechnic bill. He cited duplication of the functions of the NIMASA and stated that section 8 of the energy commission bill is “unconstitutional” because it proposed that the commission receive an annual subvention of less than 0.5 percent from the federation account in line with section 88 (4) of the 1999 constitution.

Also in January this year, Buhari cited the undermining of his powers as the Minister of Petroleum Resources as reason for refusing to sign the National Oil Spill Detection and Respond Agency (NOSDRA) amendment bill into law.

The most recent denial of assent was on the 5th of March, 1999 which affected five bills: Nigerian Film Commission, Immigration amendment act, Climate change, Digital Rights and Freedom and Chartered Institute of Pension Practitioners.

The first bill was rejected because it conflicts with the National Film and Video Censors board act, the second bill has “retroactive effect” on the ease of doing business initiative of the federal government, the third bill replicates the function of the federal ministry of environment, the fourth bill’s objectives are similar to that of the Signified Pension Institute of Nigeria while the fifth bill “covers to many technical subjects”

Petroleum industry and electoral amendment bills as points of friction…

There were some controversial bills that provoked serious friction between the legislature and executive and of course were equally dumped.

In this category is the Electoral amendment bill. One of its provisions sought to reorder the sequence of elections and accordingly ignited criticisms. Little wonder Buhari communicated his first rejection on the 3rd of March, 2018, citing infringement on the rights of INEC to determine the conduct of polls.

His second rejection were based on several presumptions that the President was against the use of card readers especially in an election he was a candidate. But the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Ita Enang in August 2018 said his principal’s decision was over “drafting issues.”

Again, Enang justified Buhari’s third rejection of the electoral bill on similar grounds of “drafting issues that remain unaddressed following the prior revisions to the bill.”

Buhari made his fourth refusal to assent to the bill on the 8th of December, 2018 on the basis that it will “create uncertainty and confusion” in the forthcoming general elections.

Another highly desired bill that did not receive the President’s assent is the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB) which had been stalled for over a decade.

One of the reasons given by Buhari is reduction of his power as Minister of petroleum resources.

VP vetoes…

The Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo who served as the acting President in 2017 equally vetoed five bills. These are: Dangerous Drug act because “certain words and phrases were inconsistent”, National Lottery Amendment bill because there was a “pending legal case in court”, Agriculture Credit Guarantee Fund bill due to “funding and the composition of the board” and Currency Conversion bill over “unclear modalities for the communication of asset forfeiture orders.”

Impossible override and lessons for next NASS…

The federal parliament at some time threatened to use its constitutional power by overriding the presidential vetoes but such moves were quickly quelled given the prospect of overheating the polity and sharply dividing the national assembly.

Hopefully, the 9th assembly’s legislative drafts receive more support from the President.

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