By: Valentine Adese,
Several Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) operating in the Middle-Belt zone (North Central states) of Nigeria, have called on the Houses of Assemblies in the zone, to emulate the members of the Plateau State House of Assembly (PLHA), to vote in favour of Local Government Autonomy.
The NGOs made this call after a Media and Civil Society Technical Session on Constitutional Amendment Review organized by Partnership to Engage, Reform and Learn (PERL), at Crown Luxury Hotel, Lafia, Nasarawa State.
Comrade Steve Aluko-Daniel, flanked by other members of the CS after the programme, called on the Governors and Speakers of Nasarawa and Kogi States in the Middle-Belt zone to emulate the Governors and Speakers of Bauchi, Plateau, Niger, Cross-Rivers and Ogun states in supporting and voting for Local Government Autonomy in their states and in the country at large.
He explained that the Governors must not stand to give President Muhammadu Buhari a bad name since he is personally an advocate of LG Autonomy.
According to Comrade Steve Aluko, “A vote for Local Government Autonomy will annul the long quest for State Joint Account Allocation Committee (JAAC) and empower each Local Government Council (LGC) to maintain its own special account through which their funds will be paid directly from the Federation Account.
Stressing that, “The bill if voted for, will strengthen primary education through improved funding and this is very important as it will make sure that the government closest to the people is in charge of its resources. More also, it will provide a uniform tenure of 3 years for Local Government Councils and empowers the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC) to remit Local Government Area (LGA) allocations only to LGAs with democratically elected officials.”
Adding that, “In the long-run, this will entrench accountability, transparency, and responsiveness at the local level since citizens at those levels will be better positioned to demand for these.”
You would recall that the National Assembly (NASS) in December 2016, constituted Ad-Hoc Committees on Constitution Review to initiate the process of amending relevant sections of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) based on the wishes and aspirations of various stakeholders and their representatives.
After due consultations, the NASS Committees decided to limit their focus to the issues contained in the 4th alteration that was passed by the NASS and the State Houses of Assembly (SHoAs) but not assented by President Goodluck Jonathan over some items he had reservations with. He questioned the process adopted by the NASS which he felt did not meet the requirement of section 9 (2) of the Constitution.
At the moment, both Houses have passed some of the recommendations proposed by the Committees while others were rejected. About 21 bills seeking the amendment to different sections of the Constitution have been passed and have been transmitted to State Houses of Assembly for their approval.
For each item/clause to be successfully amended, it will require a simple majority in at least 24 out of the 36 state Houses of Assembly. While the SHoA has the constitutional mandate to vote on the amendments, it is expected that the SHoAs will consult with their various constituents before casting their votes in line with the wishes of those they represent.