John Ameh, Abuja
Members of the House of Representatives, on Thursday, voted on new amendments proposed to the 1999 Constitution.
The House took largely the same position as the Senate, which voted on its own amendments on Wednesday.
But some of the striking differences included an amendment to give 35 per cent of ministerial slots to women.
However, the Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr Abdulrazak Namdas, told reporters that any amendment that failed in either of the chambers had failed automatically.
He said the House went ahead to vote differently on some items to make Nigerians know its position on the proposals.
“We have a bi-camera legislature and on this matter of the constitution, whatever we reject, that passed in the Senate, stands rejected.
“In the same way, any item rejected by Senate and passed by the House has failed automatically. But Nigerians must know where we stand,” he stated.
The amendments were proposed by the House Ad Hoc Committee on Constitution Review chaired by the Deputy Speaker, Mr Yussuff Lasun.
The House voted to amend Section 147 of the constitution to approve that ministers must be appointed “within 30 days after the date the President has taken the oath of office.”
In sub-section (c), the House approved that “at least 35 per cent of persons appointed as ministers shall be women.”
A total of 248 members voted in support of the amendment while 48 opposed it and one abstained.
But a proposal for women to be accepted as indigenes in both their states of origin and those of their husbands failed.
A total of 208 members supported the amendment while 78 opposed it.
However, the 208 was not up to the required 240 two-thirds majorities provided in the constitution to pass it.
The House, unlike the Senate, rejected the appointment of a minister from the Federal Capital Territory.
On many other proposals, the House took the same position as the Senate.
For example, the House rejected devolution of powers; approved independent candidacy for elections; autonomy for local government councils; autonomy for state legislature; and immunity for members of the National Assembly.
On devolution of powers, 210 members voted to support it while 71 opposed it, with eight abstaining.
However, the proposal failed to pass the amendment because 210 was below the required 240 votes.
On autonomy for local governments, 281 members voted to approve it, while 12 were against it. One member abstained.
Lawmakers voted 288 to support immunity for members of the legislature “in respect of words spoken or written at plenary sessions or committee proceedings.”
On the votes for an independent candidacy, 275 members approved it while 14 kicked against it. There was one abstention.
A total of 292 members voted in support of the proposal on the restriction of tenure of office of the President and governor.
The proposal is an ‘A Bill for an Act to alter the provisions of the constitution to disqualify a person who was sworn-in as President or Governor to complete the term of elected President or Governor from being elected to the same office for more than a single term, and for related matters’.
This amendment was proposed to prevent a repeat of the scenario involving former President Goodluck Jonathan and the late President Umar Yar’Aua.
Jonathan had completed Yar’Adua’s remaining term when he died in 2010 and also contested the presidential election in 2011.
There were several incidents of rowdiness on Thursday, putting pressure on the Speaker, Mr Yakubu Dogara, to restore order.
One of such instances was when lawmakers attempted to reject the proposal on the reduction of age qualification for presidential and governorship aspirants.
Better known as ‘Not Too Young to Run’ bill, it seeks to reduce the age qualification for presidential aspirants to 35 years and governors, 30 years.
It also recommends 25 years for members of the House of Representatives and State Houses of Assembly.
Although the Senate had passed the bill on Wednesday, some members in the lower House moved to reject it on Thursday.
As the plot to reject the bill leaked on the floor, some of the younger members broke out in a song, chanting “not too young to run”, “not too young to run.”
Sensing trouble, the House Majority Leader, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, appealed to members to pass the bill to send a message to younger Nigerians that they had space in the political space.
“Please, let us support this bill. For nothing, let us send a message to our people out there that we are with them,” he stated as the chanting continued.
When the voting took place eventually, 261 lawmakers endorsed it while 23 voted against it.
Earlier before voting commenced, a member from Osun State, Prof. Mojeed Alabi, tried to halt the process by saying that the House was progressing in error.
Alabi stood up to raise a point of order while Lasun, a fellow Osun lawmaker, was given the floor to present the amendments for voting.
But Dogara quickly corrected him that the House had long passed the stage he was quoting.
“You are taking us back. We passed this stage a long time ago. We have held hearings on the constitution and we are now at the point of voting.
“You are completely out of order. Take your seat,” Dogara added.
The House considered a total of 30 proposals, passed 21 and rejected nine items.
Under Section 9 of the constitution, any passed by the National Assembly must still secure the approval of a two-thirds majority (24) of the 36 state Houses of Assembly before it would be included in the constitution. (Punchng.com)