A simple majority vote of members in 24 States will be required for each amendment to be approved. This is usually in the form of a YES or NO vote. Note: In practice, State Assemblies have been known to “step down” or “defer” a bill they are unable to decide on instead of voting “No.” This still does not translate to a “Yes” vote.
7. When two-thirds of the States approve each clause by simple majority, returns are then made to the National Assembly after which it is adopted (usually in a ceremony) by the National Assembly before its transmittal to the President for assent. The Clerk of the National Assembly is expected to attach the Votes and Proceedings of the National Assembly and the State Houses of Assembly to show that the amendments meet the constitutional requirement for passage.
8. Note that some legislative experts argue that once the States approve the amendments, they should automatically come into effect as the Constitution does not expressly prescribe the requirement of the President’s Assent for constitution amendment bills. Further, in a Federal system, when the States have ratified an amendment, it should be seen as the final and authoritative will of the people. This is the system adopted by the U.S. where the President has no formal role in constitution amendment. Others argue that the bill should obtain the President’s Assent as Acts of Parliament require Presidential assent (see section 58 of the Constitution) and is a way of reinforcing checks and balances between the two government arms. If the process is defeated at any stage, it will end any further step and will have to start afresh.
9. The end of the Assembly of every legislative house breaks the cycle of the amendment process. Therefore, the Constitution amendment process cannot go beyond the fixed period stipulated for any given Assembly nor deliberations on the amendments continue at the convening of a new Assembly.
Since its emergence, the 9th National Assembly has been seen as a weeping institution, a clearing house and a reporting Chamber, where elected representatives of the people stoop to beg directors of parastatals to attend public hearings, at times issuing empty threats without any follow-up action. It was in the 9th Assembly that legislators approved over N300B for an agency (NDDC) without a functioning Board (repeatedly since 2015), where sole administrators illegally appointed into office turned the hallowed Chambers into some Nollywood movie scene through executive epilepsy, displaying fainting spells shamelessly with scant regard for public decency. And not long thereafter, the Minister of Niger Delta openly accused the legislators of corruption whereupon they then scampered like chickens, chorusing “off the mic”, to bury the emerging scandal. It is the same National Assembly that could not accept the challenge of the Minister of State for Labour, Festus Keyamo, SAN for an open debate on allegations of corrupt practices.
Without any doubt, one of the greatest challenges of the present National Assembly has been the amendment of the Constitution. As things are presently, no one can confirm the stage of that process, beyond the snippets that get to us from the news media. This is a process that cannot be toyed with so it will be necessary for the National Assembly to fast track the amendment procedure to ensure that public funds expended on it is not wasted. Given the analysis by PLAC as enumerated above, it will be too disastrous if this process is not concluded before the 2023 elections or the expiration of the life of the 9th Assembly. The burden on the legislature on constitutional amendment should be discharged to the satisfaction of Nigerians.
Adegboruwa is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).