A Technical Committee set up by the Senate has engaged the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen over 17 bills passed by the National Assembly but to which President Muhammadu Buhari declined assent.
President Buhari had, in a letter to the Senate, stated that he rejected the bills based on advice he received from the Chief Justice earlier in the year.
Specifically, the committee sought clarifications from Justice Onnoghen over the nature of advice he offered the President to refuse assent to Judiciary Amendment Bill 2017, No. 22, which seeks to strengthen the judiciary for speedy dispensation of justice.
In a question to the CJN, the chairman of the committee, Senator David Umoru (APC, Niger East) said, “Your Lordship, this committee on behalf of the Senate and by extension, the National Assembly wants to hear from you directly on why you advised the President refusing assent to the bill.
“We believe that information made available to us via his letter of refusal to assent to the bills on account of advice given by your lordship is also available to you”.
However, before the CJN could respond, the chairman of the committee ordered journalists and members of the CJN’s protocol team to leave the venue of the meeting.
Consequently, journalists could not obtain the details of the CJN’s response, as the meeting.
Attempts by journalists to get comments from the CJN after the meeting were fruitless as Justice Onnoghen declined comments.
Also invited to the Senate committee hearing were representatives of the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS) and the Post Master General of the Federation.
The meeting with the representatives was also held behind closed doors. Snippets from the meeting however indicated that discussions centred on how the rejected Stamp Duties (Amendment) Bill, 2018 can be redrafted and forwarded to the President for assent.
President Buhari had, in another letter to the Senate, hinged his decision to reject the bill on the ground that it could impair the implementation of the Federal Government’s Financial Inclusion Strategy, e-payment programmes and cashless banking policies.
The said bill proposed the imposition of stamp duties on savings accounts and electronic transactions.
After the closed session, the chairman of the Senate technical committee hinted that the panel will meet with heads of other government establishments and the Attorney General of the Federation next week, to discuss how to revive the rejected bills.