After many of its resolutions faced a string of embarrassing turndowns lately at the hands of the executive, the House of Representatives is pushing for a fresh constitutional amendment that will give legal teeth to its countless motions.
A mention in the constitution will mean the executive, judiciary or any other establishment affected by the decisions of the House or the Senate, will no longer decide whether or not to comply with the requirements. They will have to.
That will require a new bill for the amendment of the constitution to pass at both chambers, and a minimum of 24 state legislatures before it is signed by the president. The legislation, originating at the House, scaled second reading on Wednesday, and members heralded its progress.
“It will be necessary to include resolutions pass by the House in the constitution to give it bite,” said Minority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, who is sponsoring the move.
“We will have no business to be here if what we do here are not obeyed. This House will not make any resolution that will not be in the interest of Nigerians,” said Patrick Ikhariale, (PDP-Edo state).
Nigeria’s National Assembly, especially the House of Representatives, churns out some of the largest number of resolutions weekly, and without any clear legal backing, many of those mandates end after passage.
Daily, members struggle to outdo each other with motions that have been criticized as lacking in relevance and depth, and often times appear as the lawmakers’ attempts at justifying their earnings.
Almost at each sittings, there are motions on need to build or repair certain roads, airports, name edifices after personalities, summon government officials and conduct endless probes.
The outcome of the investigations, such as the recently concluded fuel subsidy inquiry, where a plethora of abuses were uncovered, are hardly implemented. On Wednesday, there were four resolutions and some days the figure reaches 10.
The executive routinely refers to them as advisory and at times argue that there can be implementation if both Houses affirm to the resolution.
January’s emergency resolution of the House asking the federal government to back off from removing petrol subsidy proved humiliating for the members after the “advice” was roundly ignored.
Presidential spokesperson, Reuben Abati, said the government was not obligated to obeying such decisions, even when the senate later backed the resolution of the house.
Still, the motions are seen as powerful enough to seat and unseat the president as it did usher in Goodluck Jonathan’s presidency in 2010.
A constitutional backing for motions and resolutions are seen as potential trouble as some lawmakers fear the provision may be seriously abused.