The House of Representatives is never short of surprises. It has a bag full of intrigues and could pull out any trick at any time. Last Tuesday, it came up with a bill seeking to amend the 1999 Constitution to simplify the process of impeachment of the President or Vice President in the country.
The bill seeks to remove the perceived ambiguities and constitutional impediments in the impeachment process.
The proposed law require the amendment of Section 143 of the Constitution to make it easy for a President or Vice President to be removed whenever there are allegations of gross misconduct against them.
It proposes to confer on the National Assembly, the powers to solely initiate and execute impeachment proceedings against a sitting President.
Proponents of the bill said the amendment would provide a more transparent and democratic procedure for such impeachments.
Section 143 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has specified the impeachment procedures, but the concern of the House was that “gross misconduct,” the only basis to initiate impeachment proceedings against the President was not clearly defined.
The 1999 Constitution describes ‘gross misconduct’ as a grave violation or breach of this Constitution or a misconduct of such nature as amounts in the opinion of the National Assembly to gross misconduct.”
But the lawmakers have faulted the provisions of the Constitution that the Chief Justice of the Federation should be the one to raise a panel to investigate the allegations of gross misconduct against the President or the Vice President rather than the National Assembly.
During the debate opinions were divided on the rationale behind this bill but the words of caution were not enough to abort the process of passing it through the second reading.
President Goodluck Jonathan has not enjoyed a harmonious relationship with the House of Representatives and the bill might just be one indication that the war is not yet over. This is like laying the landmines at the boundaries of a territory preparatory to launching an onslaught on an enemy.
Mid Term Scorecard
The Green Chamber celebrated two years of legislative activities and came up with an impressive self assessment report. It said it had done well in representation of constituencies, law making and oversight responsibilities.
A total of five hundred and twelve bills (512) were presented to the chamber during the period and all of the bills have passed first readings. Similarly, sixty (60) bills have so far been passed into law, while one hundred and thirty four (134) are undergoing legislative action, having undergone second reading and are at committee stage.
Some of the bills passed include NNDC Statutory Appropriation Act; State of the Nation Address Act; Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act; Terrorism (Prevention) Act; Maintenance of Public Infrastructure; Banking; Employment and labour issues; education; agriculture while some of the important ones at committee stage include the constitution Amendment Bill, the Petroleum Industry Bill, the Hydro-Electric Power Production Areas Development Commission (Amendment) bill among others.
Furthermore, over seven hundred (700) motions were raised on the floor of the House and resolutions passed on matters of concern to the citizens such as national disasters, communal violence, governmental oppression among others.
No doubt, the House has been active these past two years, but it might be necessary to remind the lawmakers that a lot still needs to be done. They should play less politics and act more like statesmen who have a patriotic vision for the country.