On March 17, 2023. the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives announced that former President Muhammed Buhari has signed 16 Amendment Bills into law. The Bills sought to alter, modify or amend sections of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.
In the 1999 constitution, there are many subjects that the state assembly cannot legislate on because such right is only reserved for the National Assembly. Some of these subjects include railways, power generation, and prisons. They have now been moved to the concurrent list, meaning that both the National Assembly and state parliaments may legislate on them. This article aims at highlighting some salient provisions of the Bills signed into law.
FINANCIAL INDEPENDENCE OF STATE HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY AND STATE JUDICIARY
The former position of the law: Section 121(3) of the 1999 Constitution stipulated that any amount standing to the credit of the judiciary in the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) of the state shall be paid directly to the heads of the body concerned. The section was not explicit about the financial independence of the state House of Assembly and state judiciary.
Amendment: The law is now very explicit on the financial independence of the state judiciary and State House of Assembly. Section 121 (3) of the constitution is now replaced with a new one. The new subsection 3 says any amount standing to the credit of (a) a State House of Assembly in the consolidated revenue fund of the state shall be paid directly into the account of the Assembly, and (b) the judiciary of a state in the consolidated revenue fund of the state shall be paid directly to the heads of the courts concerned.
A new subsection 4 has also been added to section 121 to the effect that all monies due to the House of Assembly and the judiciary for capital and recurrent expenditure shall be paid by the state Accountant-General into the House of Assembly and judiciary accounts in monthly installments respectively. Subsection (4C) states that the monies due to the House of Assembly and the judiciary shall be the amount appropriated in the appropriation law of the state for the year.
PRISONS REDESIGNATED AS “CORRECTIONAL SERVICES”
The former position of the law: Only the National Assembly could legislate on prisons.
Amendment: In the second schedule, part 1 of the Constitution, the word “prisons” has now been replaced with “correctional services”. The National Assembly now has the power to make laws for correctional services in any part of the federation, including the establishment of custodial centers. The State House of Assembly can now also make laws with respect to correctional services, including the establishment of correctional centers, in any part of the state.
RAILWAYS NOW ON THE CONCURRENT LEGISLATIVE LIST
Former position OF THE LAW: Before now, only the National Assembly had the power to legislate on railways.
Amendment: The national assembly now has the powers to make laws for the federation or any part thereof with respect to the construction and maintenance of inter-state railway tracks and infrastructures, the establishment of a national railway agency for the regulation of railway operations throughout the federation; and establishment and maintenance of a national railway carrier for inter-state transportation throughout the federation.
State parliaments may now make laws for the state with respect to the establishment, operation, and maintenance of a state railway carrier within the state, including the construction and maintenance of railway tracks and infrastructures within the state.
STATES CAN GENERATE, TRANSMIT AND DISTRIBUTE ELECTRICITY IN AREAS COVERED BY THE NATIONAL GRID
The former position of the law: In the second schedule, part II of the Constitution, the National Assembly, and state parliaments had the power to make laws on electricity and the establishment of electric power stations.
However, a State House of Assembly may make laws for the state with respect to the generation, transmission, and distribution of electricity to areas not covered by a national grid system within that state.
Amendment: A House of Assembly may now make laws for the state with respect to the generation, transmission, and distribution of electricity in areas covered by the national grid.
PRESIDENTS AND GOVERNORS ARE TO SUBMIT NAMES OF CABINET MEMBERS WITHIN 60 DAYS
What the law says: Section 147 of the constitution stipulates the requirement upon which the President or Governor shall follow in appointing a Minister or Commissioner.
New provision: New requirement has now been added to section 147 of the constitution for the appointment of a Minister or Commissioner.
The new requirements are as follows:
- Provided that no ministerial nominee shall be confirmed by the senate unless evidence of declaration of assets and liabilities of the nominee as prescribed in this constitution is presented.
- The nomination of any person to the office of a minister for confirmation by the senate shall be done within sixty days after the date the President has taken the oath of office, and
- Not less than ten percent of persons appointed as ministers shall be women.
POLICY ON FOOD SECURITY
What the law says: Section 16 of the constitution requires the government to harness the resources of the nation to promote national prosperity and an efficient, dynamic, and self-reliant economy.
New provision: Section 16 of the constitution which has been amended now makes it compulsory for the government to ensure that there is food security.
POST-CALL QUALIFICATION OF THE SECRETARY OF NJC
The former position of the law: In the third schedule, part 1 of the constitution, the Secretary of the Council shall be appointed by the National Judicial Council on the recommendation of the Federal Judicial Service Commission and shall be a legal practitioner.
Amendment: The secretary of the council shall be appointed by the National Judicial Council (NJC) on the recommendation of the Federal Judicial Service Commission and shall be a legal practitioner with at least fifteen years of post-call experience.
The Constitutional Amendment Bill, of 2023 is a welcome development in nation-building given the additional provisions in Section 121 (3) (4), second schedule Part 1, section 147, section 16, and lastly, third schedule Part 1 of the 1999 Constitution. The amendments tend to foster restructuring and a more robust pathway in the way of doing things Constitutionally as opposed to what obtains prior to the amendments.
The 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended
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