Jonathan Withholds Assent To State Of Nation Address Bill

AddressPresident Goodluck Jonathan has refused to give assent to a law seeking to compel him to address the joint session of the National Assembly annually on the state of the nation.

The two chambers had early in May, passed the “State of the Nation Address Bill” and forwarded it to the president on 22nd May for his assent with Senate president David Mark calling on the president to “urgently sign it into law”.

According to the bill, the President, on the first legislative day of July of every year, must give a state of the nation address.

But Mr. Jonathan said the bill was unconstitutional as it contravenes section 67 of the 1999 constitution which states that, “the president may attend any joint meeting of the National Assembly or any meeting of either House of the National Assembly, either to deliver an address on national affairs including fiscal measures, or to make such statement on the policy of government as he considers to be of national importance”.

The President further argued that the Constitution has made ample provision for the kind of address contemplated by the bill and therefore amounts to duplication.

He said, “The proposed legislation seeks to circumscribe the president’s discretion regarding whether or not he should attend the joint meeting of the National Assembly. It is my humble view that the bill is inconsistent with the doctrine of separation of powers and letter and spirit of the constitution.”

Giving the only condition under which he would assent to the bill, the President said if the clause making it compulsory and mandatory on him to address the Joint session is altered to read thus: “Where for any reason the President is unable to present an address in accordance with section 1 of this Act, the president shall in writing inform the president of the senate and speaker of the House of Representatives, and either designate the vice president to present the address on his behalf or transmit the text of the address”.

The legislation stipulates that the president’s address will be debated by the National Assembly and its resolution communicated to him within 60 days from date of the address.

The National Assembly believes the proposed law would make the President accountable to Nigerian people as well as afford him the opportunity to render account of his stewardship to the nation and allow for input from the lawmakers towards the good governance of the nation.

 

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