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Published On: Tue, Nov 4th, 2014

1999 Constitution alteration: Why state lawmakers must veto govs

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David Mark -senateBy Ikechukwu Okaforadi

The National Assembly recently transmitted the Constitution (Fourth Alteration) Bill, 2014 to the Conference of Speakers of State Legislatures. This was done in compliance with the provisions of Section 9(2) of the 1999 Constitution.

This Section stipulates that for any alterations in the 1999 Constitution to become enforceable as a law, there is need for two/third majority of the states, which translates to Houses of Assembly in twenty four states of the country.

Amendments to the Constitution was obviously arrived at after series of public hearings organized at the zonal, state and local government levels by both the Senate and House of Representatives Committees on the Review of the 1999 Constitution.

Therefore, the alterations recommended in the amendment exercise which the Senate President transmitted to the State Speakers, represent the yearnings and desires of the average Nigerians, which analysts have said would help deepen the democracy and good governance.

These alterations are summed up into 21 items, all of which the State Houses of Assembly are expected to vote either in affirmative to scale through, or in negative to terminate. These items and the reflected votes of the House of Representatives are as follows:

[1] Should State Houses of Assembly be granted financial autonomy/Independence?

Yes – 324; No – 26; Undecided – 10; Total: 360

[2] Should section 162(6) be amended to abolish “State Joint Local Government Account” so that allocations due to the Local Government Councils would be paid to them directly?

Yes – 295; No – 62; Undecided – 3; Total: 360

[3] Should the Local Government Councils be accorded the status of a third-tier of government properly so called with its own legislative list?

Yes – 291; No – 66; Undecided – 3; Total: 360

[4] Should the Constitution be amended to deny revenue allocation to unelected Local Government Councils?

Yes – 277; No – 70; Undecided – 13; Total: 360

[5] Should there be a defined tenure for Local Government Council Chairmen/Councillors in the Constitution?

Yes – 331; No – 26; Undecided – 3; Total: 360

[6] Should section 197(1) (b) be amended to abolish the State Independent Electoral Commission in order that all elections are conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission?

Yes – 261; No – 95; Undecided – 4; Total: 360

[7] Should a provision be instead in the Constitution for rotation of Office of President between the Northern and Southern parts of Nigeria?

Yes – 80; No – 275; Undecided – 5; Total: 360

[8] Should there be a provision for independent candidacy in elections?

Yes – 292; No – 66; Undecided – 2; Total: 360

[9] Should Nigerians living in the diaspora be granted voting rights?

Yes – 46; No – 311; Undecided-3; Total: 360

[10] Should the country abolish the existing bicameral legislature and allow for only one chamber National Assembly?

Yes – 47; No – 307; Undecided – 6; Total: 360

[11] Should the Constitution be amended to provide for a parliamentary system instead of the present Presidential System of Government?

Yes – 29; No – 236; Undecided – 5; Total: 360

[12] Should the derivation component of revenue allocation be increased to at least 20%

Yes-125; No – 224; Undecided-11; Total: 360

[13] Should a role be created for Traditional Rulers in the Constitution, such as their having representation in the National Council of States?

Yes – 202; No -155; Undecided – 3 Total: 360

[14] Should the Constitution be amended to address issues of electoral reform, including the time for conducting bye-elections, time limit for determining election petitions, etc?

Yes – 259; No – 93; Undecided – 8; Total: 360

[15] Should there be separate offices of the Accountant-General of the Federation and Accountant-General of the Federal Government?

Yes – 277; No -27; Undecided – 56; Total: 360

[16] Should the Office of Attorney-General of the Federation be separated from that of the Minister of Justice?

Yes – 282; No – 24; Undecided – 54; Total: 360

[17] Should the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission be empowered to forward proposals for revenue allocation directly to the National Assembly rather than through the President?

Yes – 257; No – 46; Undecided – 57; Total: 360

[18] Should indigenship of an area be defined to include person who have resided in an area for a continuous long period, and therefore entitled to accruing rights, duties and privileges?

Yes – 188; No – 167; Undecided – 5; Total: 360

[19] Should the aspects of the Constitution related to the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy in Chapter II which deal with political, economic, social, educational and cultural objectives be made justiciable or enforceable like the Fundamental Human Rights in Chapter IV?

Yes – 279; No – 78; Undecided – 3 Total: 360

[20] Should the Constitution be amended so the power to create Local Government Areas now rest exclusively with the states, such that states assume responsibility for the funding of Local Governments?

Yes – 78; No – 276; Undecided – 6 Total: 360

[21] Should Section 214(1) be amended to enable the establishment of a State Police?

Yes – 53; No – 307; Undecided – 0 Total: 360

However, with the National Assembly already voted in favour of these items aimed to improving democracy in Nigeria and bringing good governance closer to the people, the hard nut to crack now is how the state lawmakers can rise above the parochial and political interests of the Governors, to do what is right.

From antecedent, it had been witnessed that any attempt to grow Nigeria’s democracy is often truncated by the state Governors. There were also cases where the state lawmakers were forced by the governors to reject financial autonomy for the State Houses of Assembly.

Given the above situation, the fear among Nigerians has remained whether the state lawmakers would defy the odds and get it right this time around, irrespective of the pressures that would come from their Governors.

Buttressing the need for the state lawmakers to be objective and courageous treating this amendment, the Senate President, David Mark, urged the state lawmakers to make sacrifices while considering the proposed alterations to ensure that government is brought closer to the people.

He added that it is not right for local governments to be administered by caretakers, charging the state lawmakers to take decisions that would engender good governance, especially at the grassroots.

Speaking on the same vein, the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, tasked his counterparts at the state level to do their best to meet the needs of the people while considering the proposed amendments.

He charged them to endeavor to get things right this time, regretting that previously, the state lawmakers were subservient to the state governors.

In his speech, Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, emphasized that at no point did the Senate or the National Assembly impose its will on Nigerians.

“This Bill, being the product of people’s will, it behooves on you to do all within your individual and collective capacities to ensure its smooth passage in obeisance to popular will. As lawmakers, this ranks as one of the highest compliments we can pay the people”, he said.

He added “I believe you would hasten to play your part as we all seek to consolidate democratic gains and continue to nurture a vibrant democracy”.

Meanwhile, analysts have continued to paint pictures of how governance would look if these proposals scale through in the State Houses of Assembly.

Observers have argued that if the state lawmakers can muster the courage to veto the interest of their Governors, and grant financial and administrative autonomy to the local government, there would be rapid development at the third tiers of government.

This is mainly because the governors would no longer have access to the funds meant for the development of the local governments.

Analysts have submitted that real development and democracy dividend would be better felt if the local governments are made autonomous.

This is most likely because the chairmen of these councils would be able to independently initiate programmes and policies that will make life better at the grassroots without the interference of the governors.

From the above scenario, there is no gain saying that transition of the Nigeria’s democracy to another level, now depends on the state lawmakers. It therefore lies on those concerned not to let Nigeria down at this critical stage.

They should endeavor to get it right in this invaluable and rare opportunity which time has provided for posterity to be fair on them.


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