SAN FRANCISCO, June 13, (THEWILL) – The Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki on Monday asserted that the declaration of a state of Emergency in any state of the federation should not be a reason for the removal of an elected governor.
He clarified that the Emergency Powers Bill 2017 being worked on by the upper legislative chambers is not meant to encourage the removal of governors and installation of sole administrators.
Saraki stated this while declaring open a public hearing organised by the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters on four bills, namely: the National Commission for Peace, Reconciliation Establishment Bill 2017, Revised Laws of the Federation Bill 2017, Emergency Powers Act 1966 (Repeal and Re-enactment) Bill; and the Arbitration and Conciliation Act Amendment Bill 2017.
The bills were respectively sponsored by Senators Shehu Sani, David Umaru, John Enoh and Monsurat Sunmonu.
According to the Senate President, “The Emergency Powers Bill 2017 seeks to repeal the 1961 Act and provide for a legal framework for the declaration of a state of emergency in Nigeria. A state of emergency could result from insurgency, arson, civil unrest and unmanageable natural disasters in any part of Nigeria.
“The Emergency Powers Act No. 1 of 1961, which came into operation on March 30, 1961, has been utilised for the purpose of maintaining and securing order and good government during the period of emergency in the country.
“The Act actually predates the 1963 Republican Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and it is not contained in the 1990 compilation of the Laws of the Federation of Nigeria and the current compilation of the 2004 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria.
“It must be clearly stated today that this bill has nothing to do with removal of state governors and appointment of sole administrators during a state of emergency.
“Under the present constitutional arrangement, as contained in Section 188 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, an elected state governor can only be removed or cease to hold office by impeachment, resignation, permanent incapacitation, death and by expiration of tenure.
“Any attempt to remove an elected state governor under the guise of declaration of state of emergency will be undemocratic and unconstitutional.”
The Senate President noted that the National Commission for Peace and Reconciliation Establishment Bill would go a long way in dousing the pockets of tension and violence in different parts of the country as it seeks to create an administrative mechanism for creating bonds, unity and reconciliation.
He added that the bill when ultimately passed into law would stem the tide of disenchantment and secession bid from the Nigerian state.
“The onus lies on us all to admit whether or not the establishment of a commission of this sort, with accordant powers to grant amnesties for serious violations of human rights rather than adopting punitive measures, is the best way to ensure a peaceful coexistence among various ethnic groups and individuals living in Nigeria,” he said.
On the Revised Laws of the Federation Bill 2017, Saraki explained that it sought to address the major shortfalls associated with the review and codification of the laws of the federation.
“The primary purpose of this bill is to provide a legal framework for the periodic review, codification and publication of Acts of the National Assembly and other subsidiary legislation of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in order to prevent the duplication of laws and ensure ease of reference by members of the general public.
“As a matter of fact, the absence of a timeframe for the conduct of the codification of our laws and the prevailing practice, whereby the National Assembly is required at all times to pass a law to approve every compilation, is uncoordinated and makes it very difficult for lawyers and constitutional researchers to keep tabs with the existing laws in operation,” he added.
Speaking on the amendment to the Arbitration and Conciliation Act 2004, the Senate President observed that arbitration had become the modern way of dispute resolution, stressing that it was important “we tweak our own law to update our statutes in order not to be left behind by the international community”.
His words, “This bill seeks to achieve this by making ‘interim awards’ made by arbitral panels immediately binding on parties, as opposed to having to go through the court process for enforcement in the middle of arbitration, thereby delaying the process of adjudication.
“With increased potential for disputes arising from increased foreign and local investments in Nigeria, it is very important we make our litigation process less cumbersome and guarantee the swiftness of getting dispute resolution through arbitration and conciliation.”