By Christopher Isiguzo in Enugu

The South-east Constitutional Review Forum yesterday warned against the adoption of voice vote by state Houses of Assembly on the proposed amendments on the 1999 Constitution.

The forum, which is an umbrella body of civil society organisations as well as the Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) in the South-east, insisted that lawmakers should be allowed to vote according to their conscience.

The Enugu State House of Assembly will today  hold a public hearing on the constitutional amendment.

Leader of the forum and Project Manager of Advocacy Partnership for Good Governance (APAGG), Onyebuchi Igboke, who spoke during a press conference in Enugu said they were more concerned with nine out of the 21 issues in the proposed amendments.

Igboke said the caution was to ensure that legislators voted according to their conscience and not manipulated by those who would not want certain proposed amendments to sail through.

“We want the legislators to vote through the raise of hands and not by voice vote. This is to enable us see those who are against the people they represent,” he said.

He said the group had organised constitutional review forums in all the states in the zone and articulated areas of special interest for the people of the area.

The leader of the forum added that out of the 21 clauses that would be considered, nine were of particular interest for the people in the area and that they would want states in the zone to vote in their favour.

He said those areas were critical to the development of the local government areas and empowerment of the people at the grassroots.

Igboke named some of the nine areas of particular interest as: distributable pool of accounts for local government areas, local government funding and administration, financial autonomy for state houses of assembly.

Others are immunity for legislators in the course of their work; reduction of age for election; independent candidacy; and attachment of portfolios for ministerial/commissioner nominees.

Igboke said the people of the area would monitor closely how each legislator vote with a view to responding when appropriate.

Earlier, the NULGE President in the state, Mr. Kenneth Ugwueze, said a vote for local government autonomy was a vote for the emancipation of majority of Nigerians.

Ugwueze said the clause for local government autonomy had always been present in every constitutional amendment but regretted that it had always been sabotaged.

He appealed to the legislators to be part of the historic move to make the third tier of government functional.

Ugwueze said no arm of labour needed to feel agitated as to the workability of the local government autonomy as the amendment had no lacuna.