Sen. Ita Enang, Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly (Senate), has urged Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) to check cases of tampering of Bills by National Assembly after passage.
Enang made the call at News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) Forum in Abuja and said that the call was necessary to stop continued “contamination” of Bills passed by the legislature before transmission to the President for assent.
He said that it had been observed that some bills did not go the president for assent the way they were passed, adding that some sort of “re-drafting’’ or alteration took place before the bills were transmitted for assent.
He explained that in passing a bill, once the presiding officer hit the gavel over it, “it becomes sacred,’’ adding that any alteration to it after that amounted to padding, re-drafting or alteration, which ought not to be.
“There is something I have always insisted on; when a bill is passed by the legislature and the gavel goes, no person can add coma or apostrophe or correct anything. You cannot even re-number it.
“What has been happening is that the legislature will pass a bill in a not-too-perfect form, the gavel will go and it will be reflected in the Votes and Proceedings.
“After that, the National Assembly legal department will re-draft it before forwarding it to the president.
“This process sometimes distorts the meaning or seeks to correct what actually ought to have been the intention of the legislature,” the president’s aide said.
He likened re-drafting of bills by legal drafting department of the national assembly to padding.
According to him, if a bill is re-drafted, it amounts to padding because you have added something or changed something from what the gavel and the legislature, in the presence of the mace, had come up with.
Enang said that he had raised the concern on different occasions, even when he was a member of the legislature, for the anomaly to be corrected but nothing had been done about it.
“Unless the national assembly is taken to court and the record is set straight, bills passed by federal lawmakers will continue to be altered before transmission for assent,’’ he stated.
He pointed out such bills already become “decrees” before they were transmitted for assent.
Enang, therefore, said that something urgent needed to be done to pave way for smooth signing of bills.
He said “perhaps the drafting issues pointed out by the president regarding the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, 2018, and other bills would not have been so.”
The liaison officer also called on legislative interest groups to take the matter up “or take the national assembly to court to have a determination on it’’.
According to him, they should determine whether after the Senate and House have passed a bill, the Clerk’s office or legal department can re-draft and add something to it.”
“When I chaired the Rules and Business Committee in the House for 12 years and Senate for four years, I used to lead every clause-by-clause debate on provision of bills.
“Even when we had national assembly open session, I brought this forward. I have been on this matter for a long time,” he said.