EXPLAINER: Why National Assembly still sits after presidential inauguration

Have you been wondering why the Nigerian Senate and House of Representatives held plenaries on Thursday, May 30, a day after the inauguration of the President and state executives?

Are you surprised both chambers will still hold plenaries (valedictory session) one more time before the expiration of the 8th assembly? Then this explainer would be a piece of good information for you.

Inaugurated on June 9 2015, both houses of the National Assembly are expected to sit for four years, according to the Constitution.

The Constitution also recognises May 29 as hand over date for new governments in Nigeria. The date has been there since the return to civilian rule in 1999.

However, despite the inauguration of the president, the Senate and House of Representatives continue to hold plenaries.

Constitutional provision

According to the 1999 Constitution, the two arms of the National Assembly still stand open until the last day of a four-year period of legislative sitting.

Section 64(1) of the Constitution allows the legislators to sit beyond the date of presidential inauguration so far it does not extend beyond the first day of inauguration.

The section reads, “The Senate and the House of Representatives shall each stand dissolved at the expiration of a period of four years commencing from the date of the first sitting of the House.”

Going by this section, the National Assembly can still sit until at least June 9, the date the first sitting was held in 2015.

Only in rare cases can the National Assembly sit beyond this time.

According to the Constitution, “If the Federation is at war in which the territory of Nigeria is physically involved and the President considers that it is not practicable to hold elections, the National Assembly may by resolution extend the period of four years mentioned in subsection (1) of this section from time to time but not beyond a period of six months at any one time.”

Even with the completion of a four-year tenure, members of the National Assembly do not have the power to convene or inaugurate themselves.

The Constitution provides that the president will have to issue a proclamation before the two houses hold their first session. This proclamation could only come after the president himself is inaugurated.

This power is derived from section 64(3) of the Constitution.

“Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the person elected as the President shall have power to issue a proclamation for the holding of the first session of the National Assembly immediately after his being sworn in, or for its dissolution as provided in this section.”

President Muhammadu Buhari is expected to issue a proclamation for the inauguration of the 9th National Assembly to hold on June 11, 2019.

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