President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday signed a Constitution Alteration Bill Number 16 disallowing any vice-president or deputy governor who succeeds his boss on account of death or resignation from seeking 2nd term in office.
The bill, which was orchestrated by the experience of former President Goodluck Jonathan, who after succeeding the late President Umaru Yar’Adua contested elections twice.
While he won the first election, he was defeated at the second attempt but both the preparation for the election and the outcome heated the polity like furnace as it marked the first time an incumbent president was defeated.
Briefing journalists after the president’s assent, National Assembly Liason Officer, Ita Enang said contesting and winning elections the second time would amount to taking an oath of office the third time.
Enang also said Buhari signed Constitution Alteration Bill Number 21 which authorises the conclusion of disputes arising from the nomination of candidates for elections before the general election.
The Act puts paid to situations where a number of elected politicians had to be removed from office after being sworn-in.
With the president’s assent on the bill, situations which saw the declaration of former Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi as governor without contesting election as a result of lingering pre-election matters can no longer arise.
Enang said: “There is another of the Act which has come into force today. It’s Constitution amended number 21 which relates to the determination of pre-election matters.
“It has reduced the date and time of determining pre-election matters to ensure that pre-election matters in court do not get into the time of the elections and do not pend thereafter.
“The relevant sections of the constitution had also been amended by this Act, therefore amending the Constitution.
“The other one is Bill Number 16 which is now an Act and the intent of that Act is to ensure that where a vice president succeeds the president and where a deputy governor succeeds a governor, he can no more contest for that office more than once
“And the fact is that having taken the oath as president once, and you can only contest for once again and no more. That is the intent of this amendment.”
Enang also disclosed that the president signed the Fourth Alteration Bill which grants autonomy to Houses of Assembly and the judiciary in the 36 states of the federation.
He explained that with the signing into law of the Constitution Alteration Bill, the state houses of assembly will now operate like the National Assembly by having their budgetary allocations automatically transferred to their accounts by the Federal Ministry of Finance.
According to him, the judicial arms in the states will also enjoy similar financial independence as their budgetary allocations will no longer go through the budgeting process of the executive arms in the states but will be transferred directly to their own accounts.
He said: “Well, this allows the State Houses of Assembly to operate like the National Assembly does, because the National Assembly does not get its money from the executive.
“It provides money in the statutory transfers which the Ministry of Finance will automatically transfer to the account of the National Assembly.
“Just like that of the (federal) judiciary, you see the judiciary sometimes gets N150 – N170 billion, sometimes, a little bit about N100 billion. It does not go through the executive and it does not go through the budgeting process of the executive.
“It is transferred directly to the account of the judiciary, which is the head of courts. When the Houses of Assembly are doing their budgets, the amounts standing to the credit of the judiciary will now be going through the statutory transfers which will be statutorily transferred to the heads of the courts. And then, that of the State Houses of Assembly will stand transferred to the House of Assembly of the state.’’
On the autonomy for states’ judiciary and states House of Assembly, Enang said: “I just want to inform you that His Excellency President Muhammadu Buhari today assented to the Constitution Fourth Alteration Bill which grants financial autonomy and independence to the Houses of Assembly of the respective states and to the Judiciary of the respective states.
“Therefore, upon this signature, the amounts standing to the credit of the judiciary are to be now be paid directly to the judiciary of those states, no more through the governors and no more from the governors.
“And then the amounts standing to the credit of the Houses of Assembly of the respective states are now to be paid directly to the Houses of Assembly of that state for the benefit of the legislators and the management of the States Houses of Assembly.”
The presidential aide also said Buhari signed Alteration Bill Number Nine which increases the number of days that the electoral commission has to conduct election run-off from seven to 21 days.
“The other amendment is Bill Number Nine, now an Act which gives the Independent National Electoral Commission sufficient time to conduct bye-elections. It has increased the number from seven to 21 days and generally widened the latitude of the Independent National Electoral Commission to handle election matters upon vacancy occurring.