President Muhammadu Buhari‘s Senior Special Assitant on National Assembly Matters, Senator Ita Enang has stated that the President has assented to the highest number of bills than any other president since 1999.
Enang stated this in his reaction to the news making rounds that President Buhari has declined assent to the highest number of bills since 1999.
He stated that the 8th Senate had passed the highest number of bills since the return of democracy which is a sign that the President had signed such bills.
“Under the 8th Assembly, the highest number of bills have been passed in the life of the legislature from 1999 to date.”
“Also, it is President Muhammadu Buhari that has assented to and brought into law the highest number of bills. So, he deserves accolade on this,” he said.
He claimed that anytime the President declined assent the decision is based on the public interest.
“Whenever Mr President assents to a law and there is something wrong with that law, it is the public that will question both the legislature and the Executive through the court.”
“So, what the President has done is to state detailed reasons why he withholds assent to some of the bills.”
“I know that when Mr President withholds assent, the legislature looks back again at the reasons the president gives.”
“Some is that it runs contrary to the Constitution. Some may be that it runs in conflict with existing laws.”
“Some maybe that there is a drafting error which if assented to in the manner it is, will create ambiguity in the course of interpretation. Some may be that it will cause revenue leakage,” he said.
While pointing to the Competition Commission Act which was assented to by the President few months ago, he stated that Buhari decisions were always in consultations with stakeholders.
He said that beginning from 2018, that the bill had problems, and had to be withdrawn, worked on and then re-presented for Mr President’s assent.
“On the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), for instance, the president said there will be too much money available to the Petroleum Regulatory Commission than will be available to be distributed to the other tiers of government.”
“Also, the amount of money that will go to the agency will be too high for that agency alone as against what money will be made available to be distributed to the local governments and the state governments,” he said.
The presidential aide stated that the National Assembly was aware of such concerns and had made efforts to address such issues.
Enang, however, contended that the president was not bound to sign every bill, but that the most important thing was that he communicated his assent or withholding of assents within 30 days.
He also called on the National Assembly, particularly the Senate, to prioritise passage of the 2019 Budget and Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF), the Minimum Wage Bill, as well as the budgets of about 64 revenue generating agencies currently before it.
Enang added that Ministries, Agencies and Departments, MDAs, were ready to defend their budgets when called upon.