Constitution Amendment: State Assemblies Commence Debate

David Abakpa         Posted:    9 months ago
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Constitution Amendment: State Assemblies Commence Debate

Some State Houses of Assembly have commenced debate on the 1999 Constitution Amendment as transmitted by the National Assembly three months ago.

Indication emerged yesterday that the National Assembly sent only 15 bills to State Houses of Assembly for adoption out of the 21 bills adopted by the National Assembly.

It is revealed that presiding officers of the National Assembly committed a technical error during voting on the bills and as such, some of the bills could not be transmitted to the state Houses of Assembly.

Recall that the National Assembly Constitution Review Committee led by Senate Deputy President Ike Ekweremadu formulated 33 bills for the purpose of the constitution amendment.

But at the end of the day, both the Senate and the House of Representatives, in July, separately voted in support of 21 bills, rejected four bills and disagreed on eight bills.

Out of the 21 bills passed, only 15 were sent to the state legislators.

Any proposal that meets the approval of at least 24 state Houses of Assembly will be processed and transmitted to the President for assent.

A member of the joint committee of the National Assembly on the Review of the 1999 Constitution as amended noted that since presiding officers allowed legislators to move motion for amendment of the bills during voting, noting that the affected bills could not be harmonised afterwards.

The lawmaker, who spoke to LEADERSHIP on condition of anonymity, explained that after the joint committee of the National Assembly had concluded its assignment on harmonisation of the bills, the presiding officers ought not to entertain any debate or amendment during voting.

“They went ahead to entertain further amendment during voting, which in effect, made nonsense of the already harmonised version of the bill.

“Only 15 bills were transmitted to the state assemblies, and this is because of the technical error committed by the presiding officers. Normally after the bills have been harmonised by the joint committee, there shouldn’t be further amendment.

“Even if attempts were made to harmonise for the second time, it cannot be brought back to the committee of the whole for the second time, as that will amount to voting on the same bill twice. The error has no remedy, so those bills suffered ill fate,” he stated.

Meanwhile, speakers of state Houses of Assembly in the six geopolitical zones have agreed to meet and harmonise position in what has been described as regional interest.

It was gathered that the meeting will discuss extensively the bills that should be supported by Houses of Assembly in each geo- political zone and what should be rejected.

“I can assure you that the bills will be handled in the same pattern according to geo- political zones. Meeting has been scheduled to consider what they call zonal interest and at the end of the day, the state legislators in each zone are likely to vote in the same pattern.”

In Nasarawa, the state House of Assembly has approved the amendment of some laws in the 1999 Constitution in the interest of peace and for good governance in the country.

The speaker of the Assembly, Alhaji Ibrahim Balarabe Abdullahi, who stated this at the plenary on Wednesday, in Lafia, disclosed that the House had approved 13 out of the 15 alterations as requested by the National Assembly.

Some of the items adopted include, independent candidate for election, financial autonomy for state Houses of Assembly, political age limit for President to be reduced from 40 to 35 years, among others.

According to the speaker, two of the items that were not adopted during the day’s sitting would be subjected to public hearing in order to receive inputs from stakeholders in the state.

He mentioned local government autonomy and the strengthening of the local administration as the two items that would be subjected to public hearing and called for support in that direction.

“We want to assure Nigerians of our support towards the constitutional amendment for good governance and speedy development in the country,” he said.

Meanwhile, in Benue, the state House of Assembly has voted for the abrogation of the state Joint Account Committee (JAC) to allow the local government areas financial autonomy.

The House took the decision while deliberating on the 1999 Constitutional Amendment transmitted to it by the National Assembly.

Members were unanimous that the state government should share its internally generated revenue (IGR) with the local government areas while the House will continue to appropriate funds for the local governments.

Furthermore, the Benue State House of Assembly held that in strengthening the local governments, it should be led by a democratically elected chairman, deputy as well as legislative council who are entitled to three (3) year term.

“The House shall not recognise any undemocratically elected local government council and as such, it shall not be entitled to any funding”.

In another vein,  the House voted against independent candidacy for all elective positions in the country even as it vehemently held that any person who was sworn-in to complete the term of a President or Governor,  should be entitled to only  one term and not a second term.

Similarly, they voted for the alterations of the age qualification for those aspiring for position of Presidency and members of the House of Representatives and State Assembly from 40 years to 35.

Members also supported the alteration of the Nigeria Police Force to Nigeria Police to conform to their function.

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