Monday, April 12, 2021

The Power To Amend Or Repeal Constitutions Lies In The Hands Of The Lawmakers And The Electorate

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The  1997 Constitution has explained  how it should be amended. It reads:

“(1) Subject to the provisions of this section, an Act of the National Assembly may alter this Constitution.”

How is the National Assembly to amend the clauses of the constitution that are not entrenched? Section 226 states the way as follows:

‘’A Bill for  an  Act  of  the  National  Assembly under this section  shall not be passed by the National  Assembly  or presented  to the President for assent unless-

(a)    before the first reading of the Bill in the National Assembly, the Bill is published  in at least two issues of the Gazette, the latest  publication being not less than three months after the first, and the Bill is introduced into the National Assembly not earlier than ten days after the latest publication; and

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(b)      the Bill is supported on the second and third readings by the votes of not less than three-quarters   of all the members of the National Assembly.”

Once this is done, the Bill will be presented to the President for his assent. It becomes law when it is published in the Gazette like the amendment of the 65-year age limit.

What happens if the President fails to assent to a Bill passed by the National  Assembly to amend the Constitution? The answer is simple .

“(3)  If the President fails to assent within thirty days to a Bill passed  by the National  Assembly  in accordance  with subsection  (2), the Bill shall  be returned to the Speaker  who shall refer it to the Independent  Electoral  Commission. The Independent  Electoral  Commission  shall  cause  a referendum  to  be held on the Bill in accordance  with subsection  (4) and, if the Bill is supported  on such a referendum  by the majority of voters provided for in that subsection,  it shall again be presented to the President for his or her assent.”

On the other hand a Bill to amend an entrenched clause “shall not be passed by the National Assembly or presented to the President for assent unless-

“  before the first reading of the Bill in the National Assembly, the Bill is published  in at least two issues of the Gazette, the latest  publication being not less than three months after the first, and the Bill is introduced into the National Assembly not earlier than ten days after the latest publication; and

Secondly    ‘’ the Bill is supported on the second and third readings by the votes of not  less  than  three quarters   of  all  the  members  of  the  National Assembly;

Thirdly ,     “ the Bill has been referred  by the Speaker  to the Independent  Electoral  Commission  and  the Commission   has, within  six  months  of such reference, held a referendum on the Bill; and

Fourthly ,    “  at least fifty  per cent of the persons entitled  to vote  in the referendum have taken  part in the referendum  and the Bill is supported  in the referendum by a least seventy-five  per cent of those who voted.

Finally, “where a Bill which has been supported in a referendum by the 75 percent  majority  is presented to the President for assent, the President shall assent to the Bill within seven days.”

Only the National Assembly members and the people could amend Constitutions.

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