Flash! Accountability: Jonathan Rejects State Of Nation Address Bill, States Conditions For Assenting

President Goodluck Jonathan has rejected a law seeking to compel him to address the joint session of the National Assembly annually on the state of the nation.

The two chambers had early in May, passed the “State of the Nation Address Bill” and forwarded it to the president on 22nd May for his assent with Senate president David Mark calling on the president to “urgently sign it into law”.

However, in a letter dated 10th June addressed to the Senate President, Jonathan said the bill was unconstitutional as it contravenes section 67 of the 1999 constitution which states that, “the president may attend any joint meeting of the National Assembly or any meeting of either House of the National Assembly, either to deliver an address on national affairs including fiscal measures, or to make such statement on the policy of government as he considers to be of national importance”.

Jonathan argued that the Constitution has made ample provision for the kind of address contemplated by the bill and therefore amounts to duplication.

“The proposed legislation seeks to circumscribe the president’s discretion regarding whether or not he should attend the joint meeting of the National Assembly. It is my humble view that the bill is inconsistent with the doctrine of separation of powers and letter and spirit of the constitution.”

However, the President said he would only assent to the bill if the clause making it compulsory and mandatory on him to address the Joint session is altered to read thus: “Where for any reason the President is unable to present an address in accordance with section 1 of this Act, the president shall in writing inform the president of the senate and speaker of the House of Representatives, and either designate the vice president to present the address on his behalf or transmit the text of the address”.

The legislation had sought to compel the president to deliver the address to a joint sitting of the National Assembly on the first legislative day of July every year and it also makes it mandatory for the President to address a joint session of the National Assembly not less than six months from the date of enactment of the Appropriation Act by the National Assembly.

The MPs had contended that the proposed law only seeks to make the President accountable to Nigerian people as represented by the National Assembly and to render account of his stewardship to the nation and allow for input from members of the National Assembly towards the good governance of the nation.

it was gathered that this is the third time Nigerian presidents have rejected the bill as similar ones were also passed by the 5th, 6th, and 7th Assemblies.

Courtesy Daily Trust

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