Kwara’s Executive-Legislative Parley: a case study of AbdulRahman’s quick assent to 23 Bills
Section 100 (1) of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria (CFRN) states that “the power of a House of Assembly to make Laws shall be exercised by Bills passed by the House of Assembly and, except as otherwise provided by this Section, assented to by the Governor.” Subsection 2 of this section states that “a Bill shall not become Law unless it has been duly passed and, subject to subsection 1 of this section, assented to in accordance with the provisions of this section. These Constitutional provisions underline why the assent to any bill passed by the Kwara State House of Assembly (KWHA) is desirable before it becomes a Law. I used the word “desirable” because the Governor’s assent is not absolutely compulsory. This will be explained in my subsequent paragraph.
The Rule 74(1) of the KWHA Standing Rule states that “when a Bill has been passed by the House, a clean copy certified correct by the Clerk shall, as soon as possible, be presented to the Governor for his assent. This Rule 74(1) emanated from Section 100(3) of the CFRN which provides that “where a Bill has been passed by the House of Assembly, it shall be presented to the Governor for assent.” Neither the CFRN nor the Standing Rule of the KWHA prescribed any timeframe within which the Clerk must prepare and present the clean copy of a passed bill to the Governor for assent – no minimum and no maximum period. The clerk is at liberty to avail the clean copy for assent within a period he/she considers suitable.
Apart from the limitless timeframe for the Clerk to prepare and present a clean copy of a passed Bill to the Governor for assent as explained above, the legislature (lawmakers) do not also have a timeframe within which they must pass a Bill. Apparently, the legislature may decide to ignore a Bill for 4-year legislative period. No wonder the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill in Kwara State has been a perfect victim of this Constitutional lacuna that has given the lawmakers a latitude to decide not to perform their legislative duty on any bill of public interest that does not go well with their political calculation. The powers (without limit) given to the Lawmakers and the Clerk are among the ways to prove that the legislature has a very high constitutional power especially on issues related to what will be and what will not be.
Despite the limitless power of the legislature, the Governor’s power is highly limited and his/her decision on any Bill passed by the Assembly is time-bound. Section 100(4) of the CFRN states that “where a Bill is presented to the Governor for assent, he shall within thirty days thereof signify that he assents or that he withholds assent.” This makes it clear that Governors are not as powerful as lawmakers especially as regards legislation. In fact, the CFRN further reduced the power of the Governors to almost nothing by giving more overriding power to the legislature in Section 100(5), which states that “where the Governor withholds assent and the bill is again passed by the House of Assembly by two-thirds majority, the Bill shall become law and the assent of the Governor shall not be required.” Similarly, Rule 74(2) of the KWHA Standing Rule states that “where the Governor has withheld his assent to a Bill within 30 days and the Bill has been passed again by the two-third majority, then the Bill shall become Law and the assent of the Governor shall not be required.” All what a determined and serious-minded legislature need to do on a bill declined by the Governor is to pass the bill for the second time and that bill shall become a Law without the Governor’s assent. These are also applicable to the President and the National Assembly (NASS), buy the focus of this article is strictly Kwara state, thus, I will not discuss on the National scenario. The question I keep asking myself is, how else can the legislature be more powerful on legislation? How else can the legislature be more empowered to override executive arbitrariness and rascality? The Constitution is indeed pro-legislature! How well have the legislators in Nigeria explored this provision?
Having given the legal background on preparation and transmission of clean copy and assent to Bills, it is important to help members of the Kwara public to document these events since 2019, especially under the 9th KWHA and Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq. This is what ENetSuD has been impeccably known for under our #KwaraBillsTracker project that monitors the legislative activities of KWHA, starting with the 9th Assembly. As at the time of writing this article (exactly two and half years of the legislative calendar), a total of 23 Bills have been passed by the 9th KWHA, and all of them were assented to by the Governor. It was a 100% success.
A total of 6 Bills were assented to by the Governor the same day they were passed by the KWHA. These 6 bills (and their dates of assent) include Political Offices (Gender Composition) Bill, 2021 (7th December, 2021), Public Audit (Re-enactment) Bill 2021 (9th November, 2021), Supplementary Appropriation Bill, 2021 (16th September, 2021), Governor and Deputy Governor (Payment of Pension) (Repeal) Law, 2021 (26th January, 2021), Revised Appropriation Bill, 2020 (27th July, 2020), and Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Bill, 2020 (15th October, 2020). If we did not know that there could be assent to a Bill the same day it is passed, now we know. This information is important for future public engagement on legislative matters.
In addition, four Bills were assented to by the Governor a day after they were passed by the KWHA. They include Sports Commission (First Amendment) Bill, 2021 (9th June, 2021), Public Audit Bill, 2021 (30th June, 2021), Geographic Information Service Bill, 2020 (15th October, 2020), and Appropriation Bill, 2020 (30th January, 2020). Only the Sports Commission Bill, 2019 was assented to by the Governor on the 26th day after its passage by the KWHA, while other bills were assented to after the range of five to sixteen days of passage. What does this mean, especially when we compare this record to the rate at which the President declines assent to Bills passed by the NASS?
The essence of preparing a clean copy of a Bill is to reflect any correction/input/alteration made by the lawmakers during their debate in the plenary while passing the Bill. Even though some persons may view the immediate preparation and transmission of clean copy of passed Bills by the KWHA to the Governor as an act of meticulousness, some may also see it as an act of lack of thoroughness. In fact, it may mean that there was nothing to correct especially if the content of the Bill was not altered at the passage stage, making the Bill already clean before its passage by the lawmakers. Whatever the case is, the quick passage of Bills, preparation and submission of the clean copy, and immediate (in addition to 100%) assent to the bills by the Governor is suggestive of an executive-legislative parley in Kwara State.
ALAGBONSI Abdullateef, Ph.D.,
Coordinator, Elites Network for Sustainable Development (ENetSuD)
9th December, 2021