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TALK TO US: Senate to compel President on State-of-the-Nation address

A bill to compel the President to periodically address the nation on the state of affairs in governance and development has scaled second reading in the Senate.

Senators, on Thursday, supported the bill which emanated from the House of Representatives, even though it has been pending at the National Assembly since 2004.

They however expressed their readiness to override the President’s veto, should he refuses to sign the bill into law this time.

Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, who presided, said he had sponsored the original bill in 2004, but it was not signed into law after its passage.

The bill, he added, suffered a similar fate after it was passed in 2008.

He said, “Essentially the aim of the state of the nation address is to get the President to point a direction for the country and then for the parliament through their debates to reflect the policy direction. It is on a need to know basis, because those who are being governed are entitled to know what the government is doing.

“I introduced the original bill sometime in 2004 and it went through a public hearing. The government sent its representatives to oppose it on the basis of section where they said that the section 67 has made provision for the President to come to the National Assembly during a joint sitting or sitting of Senate or House.

“But if you look at section 67, it is not compulsory. It is actually optional for the President to come. Those who crafted the Constitution, I believe, meant well but unfortunately they did not make it as compulsory as it is obtained in other countries.”

Leading the debate, Leader of the Senate, Victor Ndoma-Egba, said the bill would not foreclose presentation of annual budget nor duplicate its functions.

He said, “The idea of the bill is to take stock of the nation, its condition, the government and its performance as well as the people and their well-being.”

According to him, many of the advanced and emerging democracies around the world have entrenched similar provisions in their process of governance.

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