Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
The Rivers State House of Assembly on Monday approved nine and rejected six proposed amendments to the 1999 Constitution as it considered the Constitution (Fourth Alteration) Bill 2017 transmitted to it by the National Assembly.

At its sitting yesterday presided over by the Speaker, Hon. Ikuinyi-Owaji Ibani, the Assembly approved alteration number 24 which outlines the process for the amendment of the 1999 Constitution where the president withholds his assent.

The assembly also approved Fourth Alteration Number 27 which provides for the reduction of the age for qualification to contest the position of president, governor, National and State Assembly seats in order to accommodate youths in the electoral process.

The assembly further voted to approve alteration number eight which permits immunity for legislators during sitting and to strengthen the legislative process.

Also approved by the assembly was alteration number 28, which specifies the period within which the president or state governor must present an appropriation bill to the legislature for consideration.
It also voted to approve alteration number 4 which confers financial autonomy on State Assemblies and alteration number 2, which reduces the period that the president or state governor can spend money before the passage of the next budget from six months to three months.

However, the assembly rejected alteration number 5, which seeks to abrogate the local government joint account and permit local government councils to operate separate accounts.
It further rejected alteration number 9 which seeks to permit INEC sufficient time to conduct by-elections and de-register political parties.

It also rejected alteration number 14 which seeks to provide for independent candidates in the course of elections.
In his remarks after the assembly voted on the 15 alterations of the Constitution (Fourth Alteration) Bill 2017 transmitted to it by the National Assembly, Speaker of the state assembly, Hon Ikuinyi-Owaji Ibani, urged the National Assembly to revisit the issue of devolution of power, as too much powers are concentrated at the National Assembly.

He explained that the over concentration of powers at the federal level is making the country to drift to a unitary system.
Ibani said by the voting on the proposed amendments, the Rivers State House of Assembly has contributed to the process of deepening the nation’s democracy.

He directed the clerk of the assembly to immediately transmit its resolutions to the National Assembly for necessary action.
Giving an insight to why the Assembly rejected financial autonomy for local government councils, the Leader of the Assembly, Hon. Martins Amaehule, told THISDAY that the country should not be in a hurry.

He said the assembly was aware that the ultimate aim of proponents of local government autonomy was for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct local government elections.
“We are not in a hurry for that. We should tread carefully so that we do not create more problems for ourselves,” he said.