Paul Usoro SAN called for the cautious use of the constitutional power of the veto, saying that its essence is to provide checks and balances in the management of the country’s affairs.
Speaking as part of a panel chaired by Mallam Yusuf Ali, SAN, represented by K. Keleja, SAN on the first day of the NBA Young Lawyers Forum Seminar in Ilorin, the Kwara state capital, Mr Usoro discussed the subject of ‘Veto Power and the Role of the Executive’.
He noted that there are three types of veto powers, viz: Absolute Veto, Pocket Veto and Line item Veto. Absolute veto occurs when a President vetoes an entire bill. A line item veto means to veto specific provisions of the law while a pocket veto, which is an indirect veto, occurs when the President neither assents to the bill nor vetoes the bill.
Elucidating on the veto power of the President as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended, Mr Usoro considered the provisions of Sections 58 (4) and 59 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended. He pointed out that, “the veto power granted to the President is not absolute in the essence that it can be overridden by two-thirds of members of the National Assembly. The difficulty in overriding the President’s veto by the National Assembly, according to him, is usually in having two-thirds of legislators to pass the bill into law after the President has vetoed the bill”.
Furthermore, he said that while the Constitution does not require the President to state his reasons for vetoing a bill, the practice and normal thing to do is for the President to state why he does not agree with a particular provision of the bill or why he is vetoing the bill. According to him, “if the reason stated by the President resonates with the public, it actually can turn the public against the legislature, and even if the legislature overrides the President’s veto, public opinion traditionally will be against the legislature”.
The seasoned commercial lawyer goes on to state that it makes sense to have veto power, and a President who has real conviction should go ahead and exercise his power of veto. He concluded his presentation by advising that it is always wise to exercise veto power “very cautiously” because the legislature still has the responsibility to make the law.