Nigeria’s upper house of parliament voted on Wednesday to weaken the power of the presidency and strengthen the legislature.
The move came with approval of a series of amendments to the country’s constitution. If approved by the lower house and signed by the president, it would be only the second time the 1999 document has been changed. The first was in 2011 under former president Goodluck Jonathan. Major amendments passed by the upper house include providing certain legal immunity to members of the legislature, reducing the president’s ability to withhold assent for a bill passed by parliament, and removing law-making powers from the executive.
The Senate also voted to impose time limits on key presidential decisions such as nominating ministers and proposing federal budgets, both of which have been much-delayed under President Muhammadu Buhari. It also passed an amendment to reduce the minimum age requirements for the president, governors and members of the Senate and House of Representatives. The age limit would be reduced for the president and senators from 40 to 35 years old, for state governors from 35 to 30 and for House of Representatives members from 30 to 25. The issue of youth representation in Nigeria has come under the spotlight recently with Buhari, whose official age is given as 74, on medical leave for an undisclosed ailment in Britain.
Buhari has spent more time away for medical reasons this year than he has in Nigeria. The lower house is set to vote on the proposed amendments this week, and possibly as early as later on Wednesday.