Any Attempt by the President or Faction of Senate to Forcefully Reconvene NASS on Legal Recess will Lead to Constitutional Anathema (Crisis)-Chief Ozekhome, SAN
Constitutional Lawyer and Human Rights Activist, Chief Mike Ozekhome SAN has said that the President of the country whether substantive or inherent does not have any powers, legal or constitutional, to reconvene a Senate already on recess saying that
Section 60 of the Constitution provides that “the Senate or the House of Representatives shall have power to regulate its own procedure”.
Ozekhome said, “It would tantamount to a grave constitutional anathema and legal hara-kiri for the president or any faction of the Senate to forcefully or unilaterally reconvene an already adjourned Senate which is on its annual recess, before the expiration of the vacation period.
The Senior Advocate of Nigeria added that only the Senate President, or in his absence, the Deputy Senate President, that can reconvene a properly adjourned session when the Senate is on its annual recess.
He stated this in a statement titled, ‘Does the President or Faction of the Senate have Power to Validly Reconvene a Senate Already on Annual Recess?
Ozekhome said, “There has, of recent, been some focus and hoopla about whether or not the president or some 30 APC Senators can forcefully reconvene an already adjourned Senate for the purpose of considering the N228b supplementary budget required by INEC for the 2019 election, or even for the purpose of impeaching the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki.
“The interesting times we are in as I predicted in my June 28, 2015 write up at the back page of Sunday Telegraph, are that the ruling APC controls the Executive, whilst the opposition PDP controls the legislature, at least at the Senate level.
“My humble take on this is that it would tantamount to a grave constitutional anathema and legal hara-kiri for the president or any faction of the Senate to forcefully or unilaterally reconvene an already adjourned Senate which is on its annual recess, before the expiration of the vacation period. It is only the Senate President, or in his absence, the Deputy Senate President, that can reconvene a properly adjourned session when the Senate is on its annual recess.
“The only time the president can be constitutionally and legally involved in matters concerning Senate or House of Representatives sitting is as provided for in sections 64(3) and 105 (3) of the 1999 Constitution, as altered.
“This allows the president to make a proclamation for the National Assembly to be inaugurated at the beginning of a legislative session.
“President Muhammadu Buhari did this on the 9th of June, 2015, when he duly inaugurated the 8th NASS, at which session Saraki and his Deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, were duly elected as Senate President and Deputy Senate President respectively.
“After this compulsory constitutional duty, the president ceases to have any claim over sittings of the bicameral legislature.
“What some politically motivated analysts fail to understand is that consideration of budgets for the purpose of appropriation of funds under sections 80 to 83 and 162 of the 1999 Constitution can only be done jointly by the Senate and House of Representatives.
“None of the two chambers, red and green, can unilaterally pass s budget or supplementary House.
“What goes around comes around. It must be noted by all that the sudden deft adjournment by the Senate on Tuesday rather than the initial envisaged Thursday, was a pre-emptive step by the Senate to prevent the carefully choreographed impeachment moves of the Senate leadership spearheaded by the Executive arm of government, which had successfully and manipulatively used the Police, EFCC and DSS to blockade the official residences of Saraki and Ekweremadu, for the sole purpose of illegally impeaching them.
“Such impunity and abuse of state institutions for the achievement of political objectives are doing much damage to our democratic ethos and moral nuances.
“The presidency thereby unwittingly cut its nose to spite its face. Those who bring maggot infested pieces of firewood to their homes should not complain about invasion of lizards.
“All hope is not lost as there are still two options and window of opportunity open to Mr. President where he genuinely believes that passage of the budget is of extreme national urgency and that there is no other available funds for immediate virement to take care of INEC before resumption of the NASS.
“He can write a passionate letter to the NASS leadership through their various Clerks requesting the two Houses to reconvene to consider the urgent issue of supplementary budget.
“The second option is to involve the 3rd arm of government, the judiciary, to use its judicial powers under section 6 of the Constitution to make a mandatory order of mandamus compelling the NASS to reconvene.
“It is to avoid this needless cul-de-sac that I’ve consistently warned the Executive to refrain from using raw brinkmanship and “strongmanliness”rather than diplomatic rapprochement in engaging the legislature and the judiciary.
“They are also equal partners and stakeholders in the tripartite government. The leadership of the NASS must however be put on notice in any court matter, to defend itself.
“Beyond these two options, the president does not have any powers, whether substantive, or inherent, legal or constitutional, to reconvene a Senate already on recess
“Section 60 of the Constitution provides that “the Senate or the House of Representatives shall have power to regulate its own procedure”.
“It is under this section that both Houses have made their own parliamentary rules and procedure. Any errant member of the Houses who does anything untoward may be disciplined in accordance with sections 20, 21 and 22 of the Legislative Houses (Powers and Privileges) Act, LFN, 2004.
“So, any member who illegally usurps the powers of the leadership of bicameral legislature to convene an illegal meeting of the Senate has run foul of the rules and is subject to discipline, using internal deodorizing mechanism.”
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