Jonathan declines assent to State of the Nation Address Bill

President Goodluck Jonathan

The president says the bill is inconsistent with the doctrine of separation of power.

President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday refused to assent to the State of the Nation Address Bill which was passed by the legislative arm because it disregards his discretion to choose whether or not to attend.

The bill provides for an annual state of the nation address by the president to the National Assembly on the first legislative day of July of every year.

Mr. Jonathan said it was impracticable because it is a duplication of the constitutional provisions.

“…the proposed legislation seeks to circumscribe the president’s discretion regarding whether or not he should attend the joint session meeting of either house of the National Assembly,” the president said.

Mr. Jonathan noted that the provision was “inconsistent with the doctrine of the separation of powers, the letter and spirit of the constitution.’’

Mr. Jonathan said this in a letter he sent to the Senate dated June 10, which was read by the Senate President, David Mark, on the floor of the Senate.

The president said that the bill, which was transmitted to him by the Clerk of the National Assembly for assent on May 22, amounted to a duplication of Section 67 of the Constitution.

The Senate passed the bill on March 13, after it was passed by the House of Representatives.

Mr. Jonathan said the constitution already provides for him to meet with a joint session of the National Assembly to deliver an address on national affairs or policy of government which was of national importance.

He observed that the provision of the bill which empowered the National Assembly to summon the president in the case of his failure to deliver the address on the specified date was, “coercive.”

“Your Excellency, in view of the express provisions of Section 67 above, I am of the considered opinion that the 1999 Constitution has made ample provision for the kind of address contemplated by the bill.

“It would, therefore, amount to a duplication to enact legislation on the same subject matter.

He urged the National Assembly to redraft some clauses to bring the bill in conformity with the dictates of the constitution which conferred discretionary powers on the president under Section 67.

The president urged that Clause 1 should be redrafted to read: “The State of the Nation of Address shall be delivered to a joint sitting of the National Assembly within 30 days of the commencement of the legislative year.’’

He also proposed that Clause 3, which empowered the National Assembly to summon him where he failed to make the address, should be replaced with a flexible clause.

Mr. Jonathan said if the president was unable to present an address, he should be allowed to designate the Vice President to present it on his behalf.

“Where for any reason the president is unable to present an address in accordance with the Act, the president shall in writing inform the senate president and the speaker of the House of Representatives.

The president added that he could, “either designate the vice president to present the address on his behalf or transmit to the senate president and the speaker of the House of Representatives, the text of the address.’’

The bill stipulates that the president’s address will be debated by the National Assembly and its resolution communicated to the president within 60 days from date of the address.

Mr. Mark, after passage of the bill, said the president’s State of the Nation Address would keep Nigerians abreast of the administration’s policy direction and programmes.

(NAN)


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