A bill to amend the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria to reintroduce a parliamentary system of government has passed first reading in the House of Representatives.
Nigeria practiced the British-styled “Westminster” parliamentary system until the collapse of the First Republic on January 15, 1966 when the military took power.
The 1979 Constitution introduced the country to the US-styled presidential system of government, with framers of the constitution largely citing the tensions and acrimonious politics of the First Republic as reasons.
The bill which was sponsored by 71 members of the House and read on Thursday seeks to change the system of government from presidential to parliamentary where the government will be run by the parliament.
The lawmakers consist of members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), All Progressives Congress (APC), All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and African Democratic Congress (ADC).
Prominent amongst the sponsors of the bill are Abdussamad Dasuki (PDP, Sokoto), Tahir Monguno (APC, Borno), Nicholas Ossai (PDP, Delta), Ossey Prestige (APGA, Abia) and Kingsley Chinda (PDP, Rivers).
Addressing journalists at the National Assembly on Thursday, the lawmakers said the parliamentary system of government will help achieve economic growth and development in the country.
“We are 71 bi-partisan members of the House of Representatives, who feel that the parliamentary system of government promulgated by the Lyttleton Constitution of 1954 is the best for Nigeria since the presidential system has reduced us to the poverty capital of the world,” they said.
“Studies have shown that countries run by presidential regimes consistently produce: lower output growth, higher and more volatile inflation, and greater income inequality relative to those under parliamentary ones.”
“Presidential regimes consistently produce less favourable macroeconomic outcomes which prevail in a wide range of circumstances for example in Nigeria.
“Due to the excessive powers domiciled to one man under the presidential systems, consensus building that is often required for economic decision is always lacking.
“The level of liability and volatility of presidential systems makes it difficult to achieve economic objectives.”
The lawmakers said the parliamentary systems promote inclusion and collectiveness “which is critical to equality of income distribution and opportunities.”
The bill, if passed, will however require the assent of the president to become law and be enshrined in the Constitution.
If the president declines to assent, the National Assembly can override his veto with the votes of two-thirds of the members.