Govs Move against Planned Removal of Immunity Clause

09 May 2012

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Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers

By Chuks Okocha

The proposed removal of the immunity clause from the constitution will be the major issue to be discussed by the governors of the 36 states at a meeting Wednesday, THISDAY has learnt.

The controversial clause, which shields the president, vice-president, governors and deputy governors from prosecution while in office, has been slated for possible amendment by the National Assembly.

But many governors have often expressed misgivings that removing the clause would expose them to endless litigations over their actions in office, as well as making them vulnerable to political persecution, especially by the Federal Government.

THISDAY gathered that the governors are not happy that the Alfa Belgore-led constitution review committee has recommended that the immunity clause be removed.

No section of the constitution can be amended without endorsement by at least 24 state houses of assembly, a provision that gives the governors significant influence over the amendment process.

The meeting, which is expected to commence at noon, will take place at the Rivers State Governor’s Lodge.

Other issues to be discussed are the precarious security situation, especially the unending threat of Boko Haram, and the need to prevail on President Goodluck Jonathan to present a supplementary budget to augment the shortages in the provision for fuel subsidy this year.

The meeting will discuss and adopt the outcome of the three separate committees that deliberated on the withdrawals from the federation account, it was further learnt.

The governors, it was gathered, would also be finalising their proposals for constitutional amendment to the revenue sharing formula, in which they are proposing that the Federal Government would be getting 35 per cent, State 42 per cent and councils 23 per cent.

The meeting, THISDAY learnt, will discuss the outcome of the three separate committees that discussed the continued withdrawals from the federation accounts, especially by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the Petroleum Products Price Regulatory Agency (PPPRA).

According to a governor  who spoke with THISDAY, the state chief executives are calling for a stop to the continued withdrawals from the Excess Crude Account and the to limit the oil subsidy withdrawals to the approved budgetary provision of N74 billion per month and not the N150.2 billion currently being deducted from the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC).

Over N304 billion was withdrawn from the FAAC Accounts by the NNPC and PPPRA in January and February, a process that led to the delay in the payment of the allocation for the month of March and April.

A governor from the Northwest, who confirmed the meeting, said: “We are worried because of what the Central Bank governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, said that the subsidy budget is not enough and if an amicable resolution is not found… there are the imperatives of a supplementary budget to fund the oil subsidy. The country may run into the hitch of inadequate fuel supply.”

Sanusi had last month said the N888 billion budget for subsidy would not be enough for the entire financial year.

The source explained that the governors were worried because the continued deductions by the NNPC and PPPRA from the FAAC account have a negative impact on the administration of the state because of the new minimum wage, which the states are paying grudgingly.

On the need for a supplementary budget, the governor said: “The more the matter is addressed the better or there would be return of the long queues at the filling stations. There is a process in the appropriation modalities. It takes a time to approve a budgetary and more released for the importation of fuel.”

He explained that continued withdrawals by the NNPC and PPPRA would eventually amount to N1.8 trillion this year.

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