09-03-2017, 01:28 AM
The 36 State Houses of Assembly will begin work on the proposed amendment to the 1999 Constitution any moment from now, The Nation gathered yesterday.
They are to consider the bills already adopted by the Senate and the House of Representatives in respect of the amendment.
National Assembly sources said the adopted proposals have been transmitted to houses of assembly for consideration and concurrence.
The National Assembly Constitution Review Committee led by Senate Deputy President Ike Ekweremadu formulated 33 bills for the purpose of the constitution amendment of which 29 were adopted while four were rejected.
The source said that with the transmission of the adopted proposals to the state houses of assembly “the battle to amend the 1999 Constitution has shifted to the states.”
He said: “Any proposal that meets the approval of at least 24 state houses of assembly will be processed and transmitted to the President for assent.”
The panelist who does not want his name mentioned explained that the National Assembly does not have to “vote on proposals that meet the mandatory approval of 24 state houses of assembly.”
The fear now, he said, “is what the state houses of assembly will do with the adopted recommendations transmitted to them by the National Assembly for concurrence.”
He said: “The fear becomes even palpable when it is recognized that state houses of assemblies are fundamentally in the pockets of the state governors. The implication is that no proposal passes without the approval and endorsement of the governors.
“During the 2010 amendment bid for instance, state assemblies were granted autonomy by the National Assembly. The proposal was rejected by the same state assemblies the National Assembly wanted to liberate from the strangle hold of state governors. They elected to remain tied to the apron string of state governors.”
The source said that though talking about rejected items is important, “what is even more important to the country is to mount pressure on state houses of assembly to pass all the items transmitted to them.”
“There are many approved amendments, which are critical for restructuring and reforming the way we do business of government, and strengthening critical institutions of democracy to promote efficacy, transparency, accountability, and checks and balances.
“For instance, if we devolve powers to the States without strengthening the state legislatures for effective checks and balances, then it will be business as usual.
“You would also see that the authorization of expenditure before a budget is passed has been reduced from six months to three months. The Office of the Accountant General of the Federal Government has been separated from Accountant General of the Federation. Also there is financial autonomy for the Auditor General of the Federation.
“As for local governments, the alterations are aimed at strengthening local government administration in Nigeria by guaranteeing the democratic existence, funding and tenure of local government councils.
“Take the issue of distributable pool account as an example. We sought to alter Section 162 of the Constitution to abrogate the state joint local government accounts and empower each local government council to maintain its own special account into which all allocations due to the local government council shall be directly paid from the Federation Account and from the Government of State and also to make provisions for saving in the Federation Account before distribution to other levels of government.
“All these will enhance accountability and war against corruption and engender development.
“Also, the way we recruit leaders matters even more. There are approved amendments to set a timeframe for determination of pre-election matters. You know that while all elections petitions (post-election matters) have since been determined in line with the amendment of 2013, some pre-election matters still linger. Even the reform of local government for autonomy is a critical arm of restructuring.”
Nigerians, he said, should follow the process of the constitution review to the state houses of assembly to ensure that all recommended resolutions transmitted to them are passed.
“Going forward, constitution amendment all over the world is open ended. That a particular proposal fails to sail through does not mean it is the end of the proposal. Constitution making is work in progress all over.”
The leadership of the two chambers of the National Assembly has already pledged to deliver a clean copy of adopted resolutions to the Presidency for assent before the end of the year long before the commencement of electioneering activities for the 2019 general elections.
The National Assembly rejected moves to devolve powers to the states, removal of the Land Use Act from the Constitution, states creation/boundary adjustment, 35 per cent affirmative action for women and a recommendation to alter Section 25 of the Constitution to guarantee a married woman’s right to choose either her indigeneship by birth or by marriage for the purposes of appointment or election..
The Senate however adopted the followings: inclusion of former Presidents of the Senate and former Speakers of the House of Representatives as members of the National Council of State; authorization of the president to continue withdrawing funds from consolidated account after expiration of the annual budget has been whittled down from six to three months; financial autonomy for state assemblies; financial autonomy for local governments; guaranteed tenure for local government chairmen and councillors; as well as immunity for legislators for anything they say on the floor duri Constitution amendment
battle shifts to state assemblies ng plenary or when they hold committee briefings.
Also adopted are: empowering the Independent National Electoral Commission to deregister any political party that fails to meet some criteria, including failure to win at least one elected seat from councillorship to presidential after a general election; stopping the president’s power to reject, veto or refusal to sign a bill passed by the NASS after 30 days of transmitting such to him; compelling the president to announce his cabinet within 30 days of his inauguration and attach the portfolios of ministerial nominees to their names; compelling state governors to do same; and independent candidates for elections.
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