Constitution Amendments: State Assemblies Reject LGs’ Autonomy, Eight Other Bills

Constitution Amendments: State Assemblies Reject LGs’ Autonomy, Eight Other Bills

Sunday Aborisade in Abuja

State houses of assemblies across Nigeria have rejected nine constitutional amendment bills including the proposed legislation for financial and administrative autonomy for local government councils.

The rejected bills were part of the bills that the National Assembly transmitted to them for concurrence.

The federal parliament had in March last year, voted on 68 bills aimed at amending the 1999 Constitution.

At the end of the exercise, 44 of the bills were approved by both the Senate and the House of Representatives and transmitted to the state assemblies for concurrence.

A simple majority of votes was required in at least two-thirds of state assemblies (24 out of 36) and the amendments that sail through would be sent to the president for assent.

The Senate, in a motion by the Chairman of the Senate ad-hoc committee on Constitution Review, Ovie Omo-Agege (APC, Delta) during yesterday’s plenary, said 27 out of the 36 state assemblies had forwarded their resolutions on the constitution amendment bills to the National Assembly.

Omo-Agege, whose motion was presented by Opeyemi Bamidele (APC, Ekiti) said 35 bills satisfied constitutional provision, having been approved by not less than 24 state assemblies.

He, however, said nine bills could not scale through.

Prominent among the bills voted against by the state parliaments was the one seeking to grant financial and administrative autonomy to the country’s local governments. 

Others were abrogation of state-local government joint account; establishment of local government as a tier of government; institutionalisation of legislative bureaucracy in the constitution; and inclusion of presiding officers of the National Assembly in the membership of the National Security Council.

There has been debate over the issue of autonomy of the local government, which usually operate joint accounts with state governments.

The joint ad-hoc committee on constitution review had, in October last year, knocked state governors for preventing the various State Houses of Assembly from concurring with constitution amendment proposals, especially the ones on autonomy for the 774 local government areas.

Omo-Agege had last year said, “No doubt, some state governors have worked tirelessly to turn the Conference of Speakers and some state assemblies into political puppets, thereby undermining and delegitimising the legislative institution at the state level.

“This interference has been ramped up, especially in opposition to the bills granting financial and administrative autonomy to local governments.”

Among the 35 bills approved by state assemblies were that for financial autonomy of state legislatures and state judiciary; power devolution to allow state government build and operate airports, prisons, railways and power grid system.

Others were legislative powers to summon president and governors; timeframe to submit ministerial and commissioner nominees; timeframe for submission of national budget and separation of the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and of the State from the minister or commissioner for justice.

The Senate, therefore, directed the Clerk to the National Assembly to transmit the 35 approved bills to President Muhammadu Buhari for assent. It also urged the state assemblies in Gombe, Jigawa, Kebbi, Kwara, Oyo, Plateau, Sokoto, Taraba, Zamfara to forward their resolutions on the bills to the National Assembly.

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