With President Muhammadu Buhari counting down to his Aso Rock exit, he’s been ticking off last-minute items on his bucket list. The latest was granting assent to 16 constitution amendment bills on March 17.
Buhari received 35 bills from the national assembly but only assented to 16. So what are these bills, and how do they concern you?
Bill No. 1
If you’re from Ebonyi state, you want to pay attention to this bill. This bill, titled “Fifth Alteration (No.1)”, is to alter the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, to change the names of Afikpo North and Afikpo South Local government areas (LGA). They’re now known as Afikpo and Edda, respectively.
Bill No. 2
This bill concerns people from Kano and is titled the “Fifth Alteration (No.2)”. It’s to amend the Constitution to change the name of Kunchi LGA. It’s now known as Ghari LGA.
Bill No. 3
Gather here if you’re from Ogun state. The “Fifth Alteration (No.3)” is a bill to change the names of Egbado North and Egbado South LGAs. They’re now known as Yewa North and Yewa South, respectively.
Bill No. 4
The Fifth Alteration (No.4) is to correct the name of Atigbo LGA; and for related matters. The LGA is in Oyo state. Its correct spelling is Atisbo.
Bill No. 5
The Fifth Alteration (No.5) is to correct the name of Abia/Akpor LGA to Obio/Akpor; and for related matters. If you followed the elections closely in Rivers state, this LGA might ring a bell.
Bill No. 6
Fifth Alteration (No.6) is a Bill that seeks to alter the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, to provide for the financial independence of State Houses of Assembly (HOA) and State Judiciary and related matters. This means that state HOAs and state judiciary now have financial autonomy. That’s a good thing.
Bill No. 8
The Fifth Alteration (No.8) regulates the first session and inauguration of members-elect of the National and State HOA. This bill provides a procedure for how assembly sessions should go.
Bill No. 9
The Fifth Alteration (No.9) is to delete the reference to the provisions of the Criminal Code, Penal Code, Criminal Procedure Act, Criminal Procedure Code or Evidence Act from the Constitution. This makes the constitution less voluminous since these Acts are codified separately into law.
Bill No. 10
The Fifth Alteration (No.10) amends the Constitution to exclude the period of intervening events in the computation of time for determining pre-election petitions, election petitions and appeals, and related matters.
Essentially, periods in filing election petitions are sacrosanct, and no extenuating circumstances are considered. However, with this bill, pre-election petitions can now be excluded from the period if a party raises a preliminary objection or interlocutory issue (i.e. judgement given provisionally).
Bill No. 12
The Fifth Alteration (No.12) is to alter the Constitution to provide for the post-call qualification of the Secretary of the National Judicial Council; and for related matters.
Bill No. 15
The Fifth Alteration (No.15) Bill amends the Constitution to delete the item “prisons” in the Exclusive Legislative List and redesignate it as “Correctional Services” in the Concurrent Legislative List; and for related matters. While it may appear trivial, the name change is significant as it’s symbolic of what reform is, which is to correct behaviour and not necessarily punish for the sake of it. This bill also means states can now build correctional facilities instead of just the FG.
Bill No. 16
The Fifth Alteration (No.16) Bill is to move the item “railways” from the Exclusive Legislative List to the Concurrent Legislative List; and for related matters. As in the previous entry, states can now create railways—and earn revenue from them—just like the FG.
Bill No. 17
I like to call this the “Up NEPA Bill”. The Fifth Alteration (No.17) Bill alters the Constitution to allow states to generate, transmit and distribute electricity in areas covered by the national grid; and for related matters. Fingers crossed, many states will take advantage of this.
Bill No. 23
In Fifth Alteration (No.23), the Bill seeks to alter the Constitution to require the President and governors to submit the names of persons nominated as Ministers or Commissioners within sixty days of taking the oath of office for confirmation by the Senate or State House of Assembly.
The days of “Baba Go Slow”, when Buhari had to wait till September 2015—after being sworn in on May 2015—to submit a ministerial list, are gone. Publicly elected officials need to hit the ground running. However, it remains unclear what the penalty is if they default.
Bill No. 32
The Fifth Alteration (No.32), the Bill amends the Constitution to correct the error in the definition of the boundary of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, and related matters.
Bill No. 34
The Fifth Alteration (No.34) alters the Constitution to require the government to direct its policy towards ensuring Nigerians’ right to food and food security. More rights for us? Amen to that!