Three Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN), Chief Mike Ahamba, Mr. Seyi Sowemimo and Mr. Norrison Quakers, have said that the National Assembly can override the president’s veto, if he refused to append his signature to any law passed by the lawmakers. The lawyers made this assertion while reacting to the refusal of President Muhammadu Buhari to append his signature to the recent amendment carried out on the Electoral Act by the National Assembly.
The lawyers, in separate interviews with New Telegraph, were of the view that as far as the president reserves the right to veto a bill, it also within the powers of the National Assembly to override such veto. Speaking on the issue, Ahamba said with the president’s refusal to assent the bill, the lawmakers will have to re-debate it. He added that the legislators are equally empowered by law to override the president’s veto.
He said: “The lawmakers have to take the bill back and re-debate it. The lawmakers can override the president’s veto. However, before doing that, they must consider the reasons adduced by the president for withholding his assent.
“If the president is saying he cannot sign the bill because it infringes on the rights of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), I think he has a right to say why he vetoed it. But, the Electoral Act was done by the National Assembly and the lawmakers can amend it.
“However, despite the fact that it is within their powers to make the law, I see the lawmakers’ action in amending the Act as trying to change the goal post during a match.”
Another silk, Sowemimo, recognized the lawmakers’ powers to override the president’s assent in the circumstance. “I think it is a political decision and in this circumstance, the lawmakers can override the president’s veto. They will need a certain majority to do that. But, it’s really a question of political expediency and everybody is guarding their own interests. The issue is more of politics than anything. There is not much of national interest involved in it.
“But, in actual fact, the lawmakers are entitled to pass the bill because it is their duty to do so and the discretion to decide on which law to be passed resides in them. If they persist and decide to override the president’s veto, then the law will operate as if it was passed and we will live with its consequences. Besides, the order in which next year’s election will be held will depend on which law is in existence,” he said.
To Quakers, the power to veto the president’s assent was donated to the National Assembly by the Constitution. He said: “Section 58 (5) of the Constitution gives them the right to override the president’s veto. Vetoing the president’s assent has to go through two-third majority before the bill is passed to law.
“The president reserves the right to withhold his assent while the National Assembly also reserves the right to veto the passage of the law. That is the beauty of constitutional democracy. If the lawmakers believe in the potency of the law and the advantage it will confer on the citizens, they reserve the power to override the president’s veto and pass the bill into law. This is because it is their function as the legislative arm of government to pass laws.
“Besides, it does not lie in the mouth of the president to say that the amendment done on the Electoral Act infringes on INEC’s rights. INEC is referred to as an independent election arm. So, its independent has already been guaranteed by the Constitution.
“The Electoral Act is a product of the National Assembly and, as such, whether or not they have the power to set election timetable will flow from their constitutional power as the legislative arm of government. So, we should not have an Executive that will be dictating to the legislative arm what its powers are in terms of lawmaking. “Even the power vested in the president is defined by an Act of the parliament. As the president of the country, he is also subservient to the National Assembly.”
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