By ADEBIYI ADEDAPO, Abuja.
Senators and members of the House of Representatives, as well as state assemblies may soon combine their legislative responsibility with executive functions as members of commissions.
This is just as the new provision creates the ‘National Assembly Service Commission’ and empowers the National Assembly to provide for the powers and structure of this new body by subsequent legislation.
The proposed amendment to the 1999 constitution titled ‘A Bill for an Act to alter the provisions of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 to provide immunity for members of the legislature in respect of words spoken or written at plenary sessions or Committee proceedings and institutionalise legislative bureaucracy in the Constitution; and for related matters’, is one of the 23 items approved by the special ad-hoc committee of the House of Representatives on constitution review, headed by Deputy Speaker, Yussuff Sulaimon Lasun.
The 23 items have been adopted by a similar committee of the Senate led by the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekwerenmadu.
The National Assembly, in the ongoing constitution amendment, is seeking an alteration to sections 68 and 109 of the constitution to enable both state and federal legislators retain their seats if appointed to join a commission or any other body established by law.
Section 68(1) E stipulates that a member of the Senate or of the House of Representatives shall vacate his seat in the House of which he is a member if “save as otherwise prescribed by this Constitution, he becomes a member of a commission or other body established by this Constitution or by any other law”.
But in the on-going amendment, the section is altered to reflect otherwise. Section 68 (1) (e) of the Principal Act is altered by inserting, after the word, “Law” in line 3, the words, “except by virtue of office”.
This alteration seeks to prevent a situation where a Senator or a member of the House of Representatives is constrained to vacate his/her seat on appointment to a Commission or a body established by the Constitution or any other law.
In the case of members of a state Houses of Assembly, the alteration seeks to alter Section 109 (1) E, which provides that ‘save as otherwise prescribed by this Constitution, he becomes a member of a commission or other body established by this Constitution or by any other law’.
An amendment into the same section seek to insert after the word, “law”, in line 3, the words, “except by virtue of office.’
This alteration also seeks to prevent a situation where a member of the House of Assembly is constrained to vacate his/her seat on appointment to a Commission or a body established by the Constitution or any other law.
The Bill in another part seeks to Substitute for section 51 of the Principal Act, a new section ‘51’ to accommodate the Establishment of the National Assembly Service Commission and section 93 for a new section ‘93’ to reflect establishment of a State House of Assembly Service Commission.
The composition, tenure, structure, finance, functions and powers shall be as prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly and an Act of the House of Assembly as the case may be.
This, according to the lawmakers, is aimed at institutionalising the legislative bureaucracy in the constitution similar to Civil Service Commissions in the executive and judiciary.