Former Clerk of the House of Representatives, Mr. Gani Ojagbohunmi on Tuesday affirmed that the voting during the election of the two Presiding Officers of the Senate and House of Representatives is usually a secret ballot.
This is coming on the heels of recent agitation over a plot to doctor the House of Representatives Standing Order (10th Edition) with a view to compelling all the Members-elect to openly declare the names of their Nominees during the election of the two Presiding Officers.
Mr Ojagbohunmi stated this during the presentation of a paper titled: ‘Opening of a new Parliament: The case of National Assembly’, delivered during the ongoing induction programme organised by the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS) for Senators-elect and Members-elect of the 10th Assembly.
He said: “If more than one Member-elect is proposed as the Presiding Officer and after the second candidate nominated has concluded his speech of acceptance of nomination and submitted himself to the service of the House, the CNA shall ask whether there are further nominations.
“If there are no further nominations, he shall declare the nominations closed. The House shall then go into division with the proposers and seconders of the nominations as Tellers, Voting shall be conducted by the Clerks-at-Table using the Division List of the Senate/House with the Tellers in attendance.
“Voting is usually a secret ballot. After the result has been collated, they are handed over to the Clerk of that House who shall submit the result of the division to the CNA. The CNA shall then declare the Member-elect with the majority of votes duly elected the Presiding Officer.
“Where more than two candidates have been nominated and seconded, the division is conducted as stated earlier and the Member—elect with the majority of votes (which must be more than half of the votes cast) shall be declared duly elected.
“In the event of none of the candidates receiving a majority vote in the division, the name of the candidate with the smallest number of votes shall be dropped and he shall be excluded from further division.
“A further division is held for the remaining candidates. If there is equality of vote at the top, the division shall be retaken. The division shall continue until one candidate emerges with the majority of votes. Then that candidate is declared duly elected as the Presiding Officer.”
On the appointment of the Party Leaders in both Chambers, Mr Ojagbohunmi said: “After the adjournment of the two Houses on the first sitting day, it is incumbent on the political parties in the Houses to meet in their different caucuses to select their Leaders, Deputy Leaders, Whips and Deputy Whips.
“This is strictly a political party affair and it is not conducted in public view. When the parties have selected their Leaders and Whips, the names are submitted to the Presiding Officers who will announce the names in a plenary session.
“If, however, the political parties had agreed on their Principal Officers before the election of the Presiding Officer, the names are given to the Senate President and Speaker to announce before the adjournment of the first day’s sitting.”
While speaking during the panel discussion, the outgoing Chairman, Senate Committee on Navy, Senator George Sekibo urged the Senators-elect and Members-elect to muster the courage to exercise the constitutional powers to override the incoming President when necessary.
While presenting a paper titled: ‘Legislative Practice and Procedure in the National Assembly with Reference to bill process’, former Clerk of the House of Representatives, Otunba Niyi Ajiboye observed that the decisions of the National Assembly are determined by the required majority of members present and voting on the issue.
According to him, “Except as otherwise provided in the constitution, the required majority for the purpose of determining any question shall be a simple majority. Voting may be done orally (voice votes) or electronically.
“However, a two-thirds majority may be required in special cases. For example, for purposes of constitutional amendment, and impeachment processes for the removal of the President or his vice.
“Once the National Assembly has completed action on the bill (together with all the amendments as carried), a neat copy of the bill is produced and certified by the Clerk of the National Assembly.
“Thereafter, the Clerk of National Assembly sends the Bill and the attached schedule in triplicate to the President for assent.
“After his assent, the President sends the 3 copies back to the NASS; the NASS retains one copy, 3 sends one back to the Presidency, and a copy to the Supreme Court.
“The President is enjoined to assent to the bill or veto the bill within 30 days upon receipt of the bill as passed.
“The National Assembly has powers to override Presidential vetoes (if after 30 days the President refuses to assent bill).
“The National Assembly has overridden Presidential vetoes on two occasions – passage of the Niger – Delta Development Commission Establishment Bill (2000), and the Nigerian Order of Precedence Bill, 2001.
“Once the President signs the Bill, the Bill automatically becomes an Act of the Federation and takes effect as from the date it is published in the Federal Gazette. Any law made in Nigeria without following due process is liable to be set aside by the Courts,” he noted.
In the bid to ensure the smooth passage of their bills, Otunba Ajiboye tasked all the lawmakers who sponsor bills to ensure that the subject matter of the bill is well researched,” as well as get the buy-in of other lawmakers.
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