Lawyers express misgivings about referendum bill withdrawal from Parliament

Martin Kpebu, a legal Practitioner, has insisted that for the cancellation or postponement of the upcoming December 17, referendum, the bill to amend Article 55 (3) can be withdrawn from Parliament.

“Though some have indicated that the process for the referendum, per Article 290 of the 1992 Constitution, is too far-gone in for a cancellation, the bill to amend Article 55 (3) can be treated like any other bill,” he noted.

An amendment of Article 55 (3) of the 1992 Constitution will enable political parties to sponsor candidates for local level elections.

But John Ndebugre, another lawyer, who had earlier maintained that the referendum could not be derailed, used Article 290 to contend that the government could no longer withdraw the bill.

“The matter is no more with the president, it is no more with parliament, it is with the Electoral Commission,  the president has to wait, parliament has to wait, when result is read, they are duty bound to pass the bill without debate and send it to the president.

“The referendum is meant to approve the bill, if it is withdrawn from parliament, how can the referendum go on? It is not possible, if we concede that referendum is part of processes of approving a bill, we can withdraw it because nobody is challenging the power of the executive to withdraw a bill,” Mr Ndebugre asserted.

But debate over referendum has heated as December 17 approaches, with some persons advocating for a ‘no’ vote and others calling for referendum to be scrapped altogether because of concerns with preparation and implementation of possible amendment.

The bill shall also be published in Gazette, but shall not be introduced into Parliament until the expiry of six months after publication in Gazette under the clause, after the bill has been read first time in Parliament, it shall not be proceeded further unless it has been submitted to referendum.

At least 40 per cent of the persons entitled to vote, must vote at referendum and at least 75 per cent of the persons who vote, must cast their votes in favour of  passing of bill, if it is approved at referendum, Parliament shall pass it and the president assent to it.

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