One of the most fundamental principles of the Constitution is the right it accords citizens to petition the Parliament for redress of grievances. This right, which is the only way individuals can directly bring their complaints before parliament was recognised in the Magna Carta of 1215, and the Bill of Rights of 1689 to extricate citizens from overbearing powers and influence of the State.
A petition simply put, is a formal request for action from one or more people to the Parliament to redress rights violations, administrative breaches or infractions committed by public officers.
The Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions is a very important Committee of the Legislature whose activities and work have direct impact on citizens . The Committee is empowered to take on wide ranging issues provided that they relate to issues that the Senate has the authority to act. Each year, the Senate receives hundreds of petitions from several quarters on a variety of matters , which are processed by the Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions on its behalf.
There is no cost required for submitting a petition and the Committee is devoid of technical and judicial legalese, making it an attractive option for any body seeking urgent or a quick remedial intervention to approach.
Anybody (private and corporate) can petition the National Assembly either by himself or through a representative such as a legal practitioner . It is important that the petitioner or his representative must attend the investigative hearing and defend the petition.
There is no specific format a petition may assume. However, it is expected that a petition must be intelligible and contain relevant information as provided in the checklist below.
Note that a petition must:
- Be directly addressed to the Senate President through the Senator representing the petitioner’s constituency
- Refer to a matter, which is within the jurisdiction of the Senate to intervene (eg matters before a competent court or those which are the responsibility of private entities may not be made the subject of a petition to be presented to the Senate).
- Identify the petitioner or petitioners, then a statement of grievance or complaint explaining or underlying the request for the Senate intervention
- Set out the prayer or request for action by succinctly stating what specific action the petitioners wish the Senate to take in response to the grievance.
- Written or printed on paper in language that is respectful or temperate in nature
- Written in English, but if it is written in a language other than in English, it must be accompanied by a certified translation, including the contact details of the translator
- Free of erasures and interlineation
- Not contain attachments, letters, affidavits, photos or supporting documents. (The Committee will request the petitioner to provide any document or material, which it deems necessary for the proper determination of the petitioner’s case)
- Consist only of original, handwritten signatures (printed, photocopied, faxes or electronic signatures are not accepted)
- Contain the signature of the petitioner(s) on pages, which detail at least the request for action exactly as on the first page of the petition.
SUBMITTING A PETITION
There is no cost for presentation or submission of a petition or filing of any other process
It is only a lawmaker that can present a petition to the Senate
An electronic petitioning system is not yet available; every petition is expected to be submitted by post, courier services or directly by the petitioner to a senator for presentation in plenary
Petitions not sent from the floor of the Senate to the Committee cannot be processed
- Petitioner addresses petition to the Senate President, National Assembly, Abuja through the Senator from his/her/their constituency or any Senator of his/her/their choice
- The Senator will present the petition at the Senate Plenary.
- After presentation, the petition is officially transmitted to the Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petition (CEPPP) for necessary action.
- Petitioners and Respondents are invited by the Committee for legislative investigations
- When the Committee completes its legislative actions/investigation on the petition, report on the outcome is laid on the floor of the Senate by the Chairman of the Committee for consideration and adoption.
- After adoption of the Committee report, the Clerk to the National Assembly transmits the resolution to the concerned Institution or Authority.
- The time frame of each petition is determined by the flexibility of its investigation.