Damilola Oyedele in Abuja
The Senate Deputy President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, has reiterated advocacy for a single term presidential and governorship tenures, in addition to the need for autonomy for Local government and states’ houses of assembly.
Ekweremadu, speaking when he received the Ambassador of Mexico to Nigeria, Ambassador Garcia Moreno Elizondo on a courtesy visit, said Nigeria would understudy the Mexican presidential system with a view to benefiting from the single term for the President and the Governors.
Details of the visit were made available in a statement issued by Ekweremadu’s Special Adviser (Media), Mr. Uche Anichukwu, on Monday.
The Deputy Senate President said Nigeria is considering the possibility of constitutional reform that can guarantee a single term so that the struggle by chief executives using state resources and instruments, to facilitate election for second tenures, can be eliminated.
Ekweremadu observed that the states in Mexico had substantial autonomy with their respective constitutions, which indicates that Nigeria can look to Mexico when talking about devolution of powers and strengthening federalism.
“Presently, we are trying to see what we can do to empower not just states, but also the local governments, so as to strengthen our federalism. And part of the things we are looking at is to get autonomy for the local governments such that they are able to get their funds directly from the federal government to special accounts created by each local government. So they get their funding from the federation account straight to their own account at the various states,” he said.
“I used to get my funds directly from the federal government as a council Chairman before 1999. But in 1999 all that changed with the introduction of what they call the joint state/local government account. Unfortunately, this has been abused in some states, but in some states it has worked. In those states that it has been abused, what we found is that the state governments use those funds to do other projects they call common projects to the detriment of some local governments,” Ekweremadu added.
Ekweremadu further reiterated National Assembly’s commitment to strengthening institutions of democracy such as the state Houses of Assembly by “placing them on First Line Charge so that their funds are guaranteed from the consolidated revenue funds from respective states , so that they can be independent of the state executive”.
He stressed that strengthening the nation’s local governments and parliaments would help in a big way in promoting checks and balances and deepen the nation’s democracy.
On his part, Ambassador Elizondo said Nigeria and Mexico had the common challenge of improving the well being of their citizens, which he said could only be effectively addressed with political stability and very strong democratic institutions.
He canvassed political cooperation and dialogue of the highest level between the two countries, such as through their national parliaments to boost and diversify economic relations.