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The House of Representatives on Tuesday passed through Second Reading a bill which seeks to ensure that bills passed by the National Assembly are transmitted to the President for assent within seven days.
The proposed bill which seeks to amend the Acts Authentication Act, 2004 with a view to provide the timeframe for the performance of functions of the Clerk of the National Assembly and for related matters, was jointly sponsored by the Speaker, Hon. Tajudeen Abbas; Deputy Speaker, Hon. Benjamin Kalu and five others.
In his lead debate, Hon. Patrick Umoh explained that the Acts Authentication Act, 2004 was enacted to “provide for the authentication and recording of Acts of the National Assembly. It also prescribed certain duties to be performed by the Clerk of the National Assembly in preparation for, and including, the presentation of bills to the President for his assent. The enactment took effect on the 1% of January, 1962.
“The extant Acts Authentication Act, Cap. A2 LFN, 2004 contains certain defects that hinder the timely transmittal of bills passed by the National Assembly to the President for his assent.
“Sections 2 and 3 of the extant Acts Authentication Act task the Clerk of the National Assembly with the important duty of preparing and authenticating a clean copy of each bill passed by the National Assembly and presenting the Schedule and copy of such bill to the President for his assent respectively.
“However, it fails to prescribe an ascertainable time within which these duties must be carried out. This deficiency in the Acts Authentication Act has directly resulted in the undue delays observed in the process of transmittals of.bills passed by the National Assembly to Mr. President for his assent.”
It would recalled that Section 58(3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as altered) provides that: ‘Where a bill has been passed by the House in which it originated, it shall be sent to the other House, and it shall be presented to the President for assent when it has been passed by that other House and agreement has been reached between the two Houses on any amendment made on it.’
According to Hon. Umoh, “the basis for authentication of Acts. This read in conjunction with the provisions of the Acts Authentication Act shows that there is no time frame given within which the Clerk of the National Assembly performs this specific function of ensuring that the certified true copy of bills gets to the President for his assent.
“If this is cured, then we would be able to isolate the challenges related to the computation of 30 days required by the Section 58(4) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as altered), within which the President is expected to signify that he assents or that he withholds his assent.
“If the timeline is fixed for transmittal of bills passed by the National Assembly, then it would be clear when to begin to count the 30 days within which the President would assent or withhold his assent. On the other hand, if transmittal time is not clearly specified, it becomes difficult to assess the time allowed for the President to assent.”
He observed that the proposed bill which comprises four clauses seeks to provide a time frame for the performance of the functions of the Clerk of the National Assembly under the Acts Authentication Act, providing for 30 days within which the Clerk of the National Assembly must prepare a clean copy of the bill passed by the National Assembly and authenticate same (amendment proposed to section 2(1) of the Principal Act) and to provide for 7 days within which the Clerk of the National Assembly must transmit the already authenticated bill to the President for his assent (Amendment proposed to section 3 of the Principal Act).
“This will in turn mark the commencement of the counting of the 30 days required under Section 58(4) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as altered) within which the President must assent or signifies that he withholds his assent.”
He also emphasized that the country’s “legislative system must be optimized to ensure that identified gaps in the entire legislative process are addressed. This 10 National Assembly must ensure that the legislative system is optimized such that the number of bills passed and not assented to will not be blamed in any way on the process of transmittal or confusion associated with it.”