Ike Nnachi, Abakaliki
Constitutional and rights Lawyer, Femi Falana, has slammed President Muhammadu Buhari for refusing to assent to Child Education Rights amendment law.
This is as he lamented that Nigeria has the worst case of out of school children which he put at over 20 million.
Mr Falana stated this in a statement he issued on Monday April, 10, 2023.
He noted that sometime in January 2023, the National Assembly forwarded 35 Constitutional Amendment Bills to President Muhammadu Buhari for his assent.
According to him, for reasons best known to him, the President assented to 16 out of the 35 Bills.
He said: “Out of the 16 approved by the President, seven amended the names of some local government areas by correcting typographical errors.
“However, the President has been commended for assenting to Bills 31, 32 and 33 which changed prisons to correctional services and transferred them along with railway and electricity from the Exclusive Legislative List to the Concurrent List.
“The implication of such amendments is that state governments have been empowered to establish and run their own prisons, establish their own railway systems and own electricity power grids, even in areas where the Federal Government covers.
“Another important amendment is Bill No. 6 which has granted financial independence to the state houses of assembly and the judiciary,” he said.
Mr Falana however lamented that while a section of the media and advocates of restructuring have celebrated these amendments no attention has been paid to the refusal of President Buhari to assent to the Constitution (Fifth Alteration) Bill No. 63 (Fundamental Human Rights).”
He explained that the bill seeks to alter the provisions of the constitution to make free, compulsory, and basic education, a fundamental right of all citizens under chapter IV of the constitution.
He described the refusal of the President to assent to the said bill as sad.
He further noted that the Federal Government has refused to adhere to similar rulings by various courts on the issue which has worsened the country’s out of school children crisis.
“In the cases of SERAP v FRN (2010] ACHPR 109 and LEPAD v Federal Ministry of Education (unreported suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/978/15) decided by the ECOWAS Court and the Federal High Court respectively, the Federal Government was directed to provide education for every Nigerian child.
“But due to the failure of the Federal Government to comply with both judgments, the population of out-of-school children in Nigeria has increased to 20 million, the highest figure in the world,” he noted.
He further argued that the President had no right to veto any constitutional amendment which was ratified by National and State Houses of Assembly.
He said: “In Olisa Agbakoba v Attorney-General of the Federation & Ors (unreported Suit No: FHC/L/CS/941/2010), the Federal High Court ruled that the President is required to assent to constitutional amendment bills passed by the National Assembly and the two thirds majority of the states of the Federation.
“But the Court did not rule that the President is empowered to veto a constitutional amendment which has been ratified by the National Assembly and the Houses of Assembly of the States.
“In other words, while the President has the power to assent to or withhold assent to bills passed by the National Assembly pursuant to section 58 of the Constitution, he lacks the power to withhold assent to constitutional amendment bills passed by the National Assembly and the Houses of Assembly of the States under section 9 of the Constitution.
“To that extent, the remaining 19 constitutional amendment bills are deemed to have come into force,” he added.