20180301

Lawmakers Revolt Against Governors

Despite opposition by governors, Houses of Assembly have voted for financial autonomy for the legislature at the state level.

They also endorsed an amendment to the 1999 Constitution, which will grant the National Assembly and State Houses of Assembly autonomy.

But the Houses rejected proposals for Local Government autonomy and abrogation of the State-Local Government Joint Account.

By the development, states will still be interfering with statutory funds allocated to the 774 local government areas from the Federation Account.

Also rejected is a proposal for independent candidature.

But governors were said to have initiated last-minute moves to reject financial autonomy for Houses of Assembly.

The Speakers of the 36 Houses of Assembly will today submit their resolutions on constitution amendments to the Chairman of the National Assembly, Dr. Bukola Saraki, who is also the President of the Senate.

According to the highlights of the decisions and votes by the Houses of Assembly, 31 out of 36 approved financial autonomy for the state legislature.

Thirty-two voted for legislative autonomy.

The approved proposals are:
Reduction of Executive’s power to engage in extra-budgetary spending from six to three months. The President cannot continue to withdraw funds from consolidated account after the expiration of the annual budget.

Financial autonomy for State Assembly
Autonomy for legislatures at all levels
Change of the name of Nigeria Police Force to Nigeria Police
Early laying of Budget
Avoiding oath taking for the office of the President or Governor more than twice. This proposal seeks to ban anyone who succeeds a president or a governor and completes the tenure of such president or governor from contesting for that same office more than once.
Pre-election matters will now be decided with the substantive case within 180 days.
Not too young to run bill, which will review downward age restrictions for standing in elections.
Strengthening the Judiciary for speedy dispensation of justice.
Constitutional Establishment of Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) in line with global standards.

The amendments rejected are abrogation of State-Local Government Joint Account; LG autonomy; independent candidature; and the proposal to give the legislature the power to override the president’s veto on matters of amendment to the Constitution without the President’s final signature.

A source, who spoke with The Nation in confidence, said: “All the 36 State Houses of Assembly have finalised consideration of proposed amendments to the 1999 Constitution in line with Section 9 of the Constitution.

“All the Speakers will converge on Abuja on Thursday to submit our decisions and the details of our pattern of votes to the Chairman of the National Assembly, Dr. Bukola Saraki, who is also the President of the Senate.

“It was not easy because most state Houses of Assembly resisted the pressure from their governors to reject financial autonomy for the legislature at the state level.

“But we stood our ground to exercise our constitutional right in line with Section 9 of the constitution. We believe that our democracy can be robust and meaningful if the principle of Separation of Powers is upheld and State Houses of Assembly are financially independent.

“It is sad that most governors have turned state Houses of Assembly to puppets. We will never allow such oppression again.”

Section 9 of the 1999 Constitution says: “The National Assembly may, subject to the provision of this section, alter any of the provisions of this Constitution.

“An Act of the National Assembly for the alteration of this Constitution, not being an Act to which section 8 of this Constitution applies, shall not be passed in either House of the National Assembly unless the proposal is supported by the votes of not less than two-thirds majority of all the members of that House and approved by resolution of the Houses of Assembly of not less than two-thirds of all the States.

“An Act of the National Assembly for the purpose of altering the provisions of this section, section 8 or Chapter IV of this Constitution shall not be passed by either House of the National Assembly unless the proposal is approved by the votes of not less than four-fifths majority of all the members of each House, and also approved by resolution of the House of Assembly of not less than two-third of all States.

“For the purposes of section 8 of this Constitution and of subsections (2) and (3) of this section, the number of members of each House of the National Assembly shall, notwithstanding any vacancy, be deemed to be the number of members specified in sections 48 and 49 of this Constitution.”

It was however learnt that some governors have vowed to resist the approval of financial autonomy for Houses of Assembly.

A governor said: “It amounts to insincerity on the part of the Houses of Assembly to approve financial autonomy for themselves and refused such for local governments.

“He who seeks equity must do so with clean hands. We are opposed to financial autonomy for Houses of Assembly. Some people are trying to use them to achieve selfish ends.”