Lagos, Ekiti, Benue Reject LG Financial Autonomy Bill, Adamawa Abstains
Sunday Aborisade in Abuja
Fresh facts have emerged on how 20 states have so far voted in the ongoing constitution amendments with Lagos, Ekiti and Benue states, rejecting the Local Government Financial Autonomy Bill.
A member of the Senate Ad hoc Committee on the Constitution Review, who disclosed this to THISDAY on condition of anonymity, however, said 24 states were required by law to vote on the 44 bills transmitted to the state Houses of Assembly.
He said no fewer than 20 out of the 36 state Houses of Assembly in the country, have so far voted on the bill.
He also expressed optimism that the remaining four states needed to vote, which would make the National Assembly pass the bills, would do so before the end of the month.
He said: “Only 11 states had voted the last time the committee addressed the journalists but we have had 20 so far and we are hoping that we should achieve the 24 required by law to enable us to go ahead with the exercise, before the end of November.”
The breakdown of those that already voted indicated that Abia, Kogi, Edo, Ogun, Katsina, Delta, Akwa-Ibom, Anambra, Nasarawa, Niger, Kaduna, Cross River, Osun, Enugu, Kano and Bauchi state houses of assembly voted in support of the Local Government Financial Autonomy Bill.
It also indicated that Adamawa State’s lawmakers abstained from the exercise.
The National Assembly had on October 18 this year, alleged that state governors were using lawmakers in their states to stall the process of amending the constitution alterations being carried out by the nation’s legislative institution.
The Chairman, of the Senate Ad hoc Committee on Constitution Review, who is also the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, made the allegation at a news conference in Abuja.
He noted with concern that the Conference of Nigeria Speakers had vowed not to pass the 44 Constitution Review Bills transmitted to them by the National Assembly until the four bills they proposed are passed.
He disclosed that only 11 states had considered and performed their constitutional role of passing amendments to the constitution.
He lamented that the Speakers of the state Houses of Assembly through a letter to the National Assembly Joint Committee on Constitution Review had given four conditions upon which the remaining 25 states would pass the amendments.
He described the letter as the “hands of Esau and voice of Jacob”, saying “state governors are behind the action of the speakers to stall the process.”
He said: “Six months after the transmission of these Bills to State Assemblies, it is most disheartening to inform you that only 11 state Houses of Assembly have demonstrated their independence and loyalty to the Constitution regarding the 44 bills.
“Twenty five state Houses of Assembly are yet to consider and vote on these bills.
“So far, only Abia, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Delta, Edo, Kaduna, Katsina, Kogi, Lagos, Ogun and Osun States had successfully considered, voted on, and forwarded their resolutions on the 44 bills to the National Assembly.
“More worrisome is that while we are still expecting the receipt of the resolutions of the remaining Houses of Assembly, we received a letter from the Conference of Speakers of state assemblies informing the National Assembly that the remaining states will not act on the 44 Bills unless the National Assembly passes four new Bills they had proposed in the letter.
“The bills they proposed, seek to amend the Constitution to Establish State Police; Establish State Judicial Council; Streamline the procedure for removing Presiding Officers of State Houses of Assembly; and, Institutionalise Legislative Bureaucracy in the Constitution.”
Defending the parliament, however, Omo-Agege said the National Assembly was in no way averse to acting on any proposed bill or memoranda appropriately tabled before it, “at any time in its life.”
But in a swift reaction, the Conference of Speakers of State Legislatures of Nigeria had accused the National Assembly of blackmailing and undermining the powers of the state assemblies.
The Speakers also said the National Assembly lied about their different position on the review of the 1999 Constitution.
The position of the Speakers was made known by their Chairman and Speaker of the Bauchi State House of Assembly, Abubakar Sulaiman, in a statement.
Sulaiman said: “Contrary to the figure given by Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, the actual number of the state Houses of Assembly that have, so far, passed the resolutions of the National Assembly on the Constitution Review was 16.
“They are Abia, Anambra, Enugu, Delta, Edo, Akwa Ibom, Lagos, Ogun, Osun, Ekiti, Kogi, Benue, Nasarawa, Kaduna, Katsina, and Adamawa States.
“We believe the misrepresentation was deliberate to demonise the Honourable Speakers and the State Houses of Assembly in the eye of the citizenry.
“This is also regrettable and disappointing.”
Sulaiman justified the Speakers’ insistence that the four bills must be considered by the National Assembly.