The Attorney General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke, has given a word of advice to the National Assembly whose members appear set to override President Goodluck Jonathan’s veto of the planned fourth amendment to the 1999 constitution: Don’t.
However, the House of Representatives has given assurance that the controversy would be fully resolved before the tenure of the current government ends on May 29.
Adoke, who is also the Minister of Justice, gave the advice in a letter to both chambers of the National Assembly.
The letters, written through his lawyer, Chief Bayo Ojo (SAN) and dated 22 April 2015, were read on the floors of both the Senate and the House of Representatives at plenary on Thursday.
In the letters, Adoke notified both chambers of the fresh suit filed by the federal executive at the Supreme Court to challenge the passage of the Alteration Bill.
The letters were addressed to the Senate President, David Mark, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal.
The President has withheld his assent to the bill, citing among other grounds, the alleged failure of the National Assembly to fulfill the mandatory requirement for the passage of the bill.
He proceeded further by filing a suit at the Supreme Court challenging a possible override of his veto by the legislators.
Adoke maintained that doing anything further on the bill despite the pendency of the suit would be “an affront to the rule of law and democracy.”
The letter was entitled: ‘RE: SUIT NO. SC 214/2015 ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE FEDERATIONAND NATIONAL ASSEMBLY.
It read in part: “In the said suit, the Plaintiff claims for determination of two questions on the constitutionality or otherwise of the procedure adopted by the National Assembly in passing the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (Fourth Alteration) Act 2015 particularly as it relates to Sections 3, 4, 12, 14, 21, 23, 36, 39, 40, 43 and 44 purporting to alter Sections 8, 9, 34, 35, 39, 40, 42, 45, 58, 84, 150, 174 and 211 of the extant 1999 Constitution of Nigeria and for an order nullifying and setting aside those Sections of the Fourth Alteration Act.
“A copy of the Court Process is attached to this correspondence for ease of reference.
“In view of this development and the dictates of the principles of the rule of law on which any democratic system thrives, we use this medium to urge that the Supreme Court be allowed to determine the suit under reference before any further step is taken by the National Assembly on the move to pass the Fourth Alteration Act alluded to earlier in this correspondence into law.
“May we add that adopting such attitude will not only commendably be in line with the decisions of the Supreme Court on the absolute need to avoid self-help by all persons and authorities in resolving disputes, but will also yield to the rule of law as espoused in the decisions of the Courts. One of such decisions is the case of OJUKWU V. MILITARY GOVERNOR OF LAGOS STATE (1986) 1 NWLR (pt. 18) 621.
“To proceed with the process of passage into law of the Fourth Alteration Act 2015 despite the pendency of this suit under reference will be an affront to the rule of law and democracy. We are convinced, particularly from the commendable record so far of the current National Assembly that it will not do that.
“May we also use this medium to thank your Excellency and all distinguished Senators for your anticipated cooperation in abiding by the rule of law and suspending the Constitution alteration process in the circumstance.”
The AGF, who is the only plaintiff in the suit, wants the apex court to declare the passage as unconstitutional as it was not passed by at least four-fifths majority of all members of each House of the National Assembly as specified in sections 48 and 49 of the Constitution.
Meanwhile, the House Representatives said on Thursday, that it would act on the refusal of the President to sign the amendments before the expiration of his tenure.
Although he gave no hint of the course of action it would take, a member of the ad hoc committee of the House on constitution alteration, Sampson Osagie, who spoke with journalists in Abuja gave assurance that the matter would be disposed of before May 29.
Osagie, who is also the House Majority Whip, said that the House had reviewed Jonathan’s objections and would “decide the fate of the President’s veto before May 29.”