State Assemblies reject proposal for local government autonomy

The Senate on Wednesday formally ratified the amendments to the 1999 Constitution as approved by the state houses of assembly with the state legislatures rejecting the proposal for local government autonomy.

According to the document presented by Deputy Senate President and Chairman of Senate Committee on the Review of the Constitution, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, only 16 of the 36 states supported the autonomy for local governments, while 20 rejected it. Two-thirds of 36 states amounting to 24 are required to push an amendment through.

While 34 of the 36 states overwhelmingly voted for the separation of the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation from that of the Minister of Justice, they also approved the incorporation of independent candidacy into the constitution.

While they also rejected the deletion of State Independent Electoral Commission from the constitution as well as the provision seeking the conduct of local government elections by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the state legislatures approved the renaming of the Nigeria Police Force as Nigeria Police.

The new amendment also empowers the INEC to de-register any political party that fails to win at least one seat at an election or found to have breached any of the requirements for its registration.

Also the new amendment has incorporated national address by the president once in a year into the constitution, thus laying to rest several failed efforts by the National Assembly to enact a law compelling the president to present a national address before a joint session of the National Assembly every year.

While the new amendment also barred the president from signing further amendments to the constitution, the lawmakers approved immunity for themselves regarding any word or comment spoken in the hallowed chamber.

They also approved indigeneship of a citizen who was born in another part of the country or has resided in the area for at least 10 years.

While the new constitution also states that every Nigerian is entitled to free basic education and right to health, it empowers a National Assembly bill to become law after 30 days of the president’s refusal to assent to it without returning it to the lawmakers.

It also creates the Office of Accountant General for the Federal Government and empowers the Federal High Court to exercise jurisdiction on the trial of offences arising from violation of the provisions of the Electoral Act and any other act of the National Assembly.

Ekweremadu told his colleagues that with the incorporation of the provision outlawing presidential assent to new amendments into the constitution, this would be the last amendment that would be signed by the president.

He said following the successful amendment, the new amendment would be sent to President Goodluck Jonathan for his last assent.

Credit: ThisDay