Besides making governance difficult, concentration of so much power at the centre fuels the struggle for federal power. We believe that devolving some power to the States will improve good governance and also make the centre less attractive
THERE are indications that some of the bills that failed to scale the hurdle during the last attempt by the National Assembly to amend the constitution, will be revisited. Top on the bill is the bill on devolution of powers, which will reduce the powers of the Federal Government and make it more efficient.
The Deputy President of the Senate (DPS), Ike Ekweremadu, dropped the hint, Wednesday, in Abuja, when he briefed the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF), on the constitution amendment exercise.
The DPS, who met with the Forum at the Presidential Villa explained that efforts were on to build consensus around some of the failed bills, especially the bill on devolution of powers, with a view to revisiting it to unbundle and make the Federal Government more efficient.
He, however, explained that efforts were on to build consensus around some of the failed bills, especially the bill on devolution of powers, with a view to revisiting it to unbundle and make the Federal Government more efficient.
According to him,the National Assembly had not given up to the proposed amendments of Second Schedule, Part I & II to move certain items, such as railway and power, to the Concurrent Legislative List to give more legislative powers to states.
“Besides making governance difficult, concentration of so much power at the centre fuels the struggle for federal power. We believe that devolving some power to the States will improve good governance and also make the centre less attractive”, he stated.
He also explained that of the 33 bills on the proposed amendments, 21 were passed by the Senate and House of Representatives, while 12 failed.
In a press statement by his Senior Media Aide, Uche Anichukwu, the Deputy President of the Senate explained that amendments towards financial autonomy for the Local Government Councils and the State Assemblies only seeks to alter Section 162 of the Constitution to abrogate the State Joint Local Government Accounts and create the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the State from which all allocations due to the Local Government Councils and the State Assemblies shall be directly paid from the Federation Account.
On the concerns that it would be an aberration of federalism for both to draw revenues directly from the Federation Account, Ekweremadu stated that the proposed amendments would guarantee the democratic existence, funding, and tenure of local government councils.
Noting that “the financial autonomy for Local Governments would not return primary education to the era of unpaid salaries,” he explained that “although education remained the constitutional responsibilities of the Local Governments, provisions have been made to deduct from the source the monthly financial obligations of the Local Governments to primary education for remission into the account of state agencies overseeing basic education.”
He maintained that “altering Section 134 and 179 of the Constitution would avail the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), sufficient time for it to conduct bye-elections; and section 225 to empower it to de-register political parties was not total.
“INEC’s power to deregister parties will apply strictly to non-fulfillment of certain conditions such as breach of registration requirements and failure to secure/win either a Presidential, Governorship, Local Government chairmanship or a seat in the National or State Assembly or a Councillorship seat.
“Bill No. 10, which seeks to alter sections 58, 59 and 100 only seeks to resolve the usual situation where the President or Governor neglects to signify his/her assent to or veto of a bill from the legislature.
“So, the President or Governor will now have 30 days to signify assent/veto rather than keep everyone in endless suspense, while passed bills gather dust in the shelf. In the United States, the Constitution provides for only two weeks. So, the intent is to enable timely passage of laws for good governance.”
On Bill No. 4, which seeks to set a timeframe of 30 days for the President and Governors to nominate the Ministers and Commissioners along with their proposed respective portfolios, he maintained that the 1999 Constitution did not envisage a situation where some governments would run without cabinet for months or years.
He added: “It will also serve the nation better if members of the National Assembly can screen nominees based on specific portfolios. That way, we are able to ascertain their suitability as we see in developed democracies like the United States.”
Ekweremadu allayed fears that independent candidacy could make the electoral process cumbersome, noting that INEC would, by law, set the modalities for qualification as an independent candidate.
He said that Bill No. 16 seeks to restrict a person who was sworn-in as President or Governor to only completing the term of the elected President or Governor from contesting for the same office for more than one term.
On Bill No. 21, he explained that the successful amendment of the Constitution in 2010, which set the timeframe for the determination of election petitions, had greatly improved the nation’s electoral system, hence the need to replicate it in the area of pre-election disputes.