The process of lawmaking generally requires a long period of deliberation and consideration of many interests and implications of a bill. A bill passes through four stages in the parliament, which include three readings before it is passed into law.
The first stage is the Presentation and first reading: At this stage, the bill is introduced and the Clerk of the House or Senate reads the short title and gives a brief statement and background on the bill. The Rules and Business Committee then sets a date for its Second Reading.
The second reading is the stage where the bill’s general merits and principles are debated. If the bill is read the second time, the House/Senate is deemed to have approved the bill in principle. If, on the other hand, the bill is defeated on the floor of the chambers at the second reading, that will be the end of the bill.
Following the second reading, the bill is submitted to the relevant committees for further consideration and public hearings where necessary. The committee may approve the bill unaltered, amend it, rewrite it, or even block it. However, the practice in Nigeria is that the committee should not kill a bill, but rather, report its findings and recommendations to the House for further action.
When the committee is done with the bill, it presents its report to the House/Senate. If it is adopted, the bill progresses to the third reading.
At the third reading, the lawmaker in charge of the bill reports to the House that the Committee of the Whole has considered the bill and passed it with or without amendment and moves a motion that “the bill be now read the third time.”
When a bill originating in either the Senate or House of Representatives has been read the third time, a Clean Copy of the bill signed by the clerk of that chamber, and endorsed by the presiding officer of the originating chamber, shall be forwarded by its clerk to the clerk of the other chamber, with a message that it desires its concurrence.
“Where amendments proposed by the originating chamber are accepted by the other chamber, then the Clerk of the other chamber retains the bill and sends a message to the originating chamber “that the Senate or House of Representatives, as the case may be, has agreed to the bill without amendments,” the law states.
However, where the other chamber does not agree with the originating chamber on the bill; or it agrees to the bill, but with its amendments; a conference or harmonisation committee will be constituted comprising members of both chambers with the duty of reconciling differences on the bill and proposing a single position that would be adopted by the plenary of each chamber.
After the recommendations of the conference committee are adopted, the bill then moves onto the assent stage.
Here, the Clerk of the National Assembly sends a copy of the “clean bill” to the president for assent.
In order words, the Clerk of the National Assembly only sends the “clean bill” to the President for assent when the two chambers of the National Assembly have fully – through their stages- agreed on the content.
The law provides that if the President is satisfied with the bill, he gives his assent, but where he rejects or vetoes it, or does not communicate his assent to the bill within 30 days from the date the bill was sent to him, the National Assembly by a two-thirds majority vote can override the veto.