BY SONI DANIEL, OKEY NDIRIBE & EMMAN OVUAKPORIE
…approve autonomy for LG, state assemblies …
ABUJA—Indication emerged Thursday that the House of Representatives has dumped the clamour for the creation of new states in the country.
The House has also distanced itself from the request for a six-year single tenure for the President and governors, sticking to the provision of the 1999 Constitution of two terms of four years each.
These formed the highlights of the report of the Constitution Review Committee, headed by the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives counterpart, Emeka Ihedioha, which is due for presentation next week.
Vanguard learnt from competent sources that the committee, however, recommended full autonomy for the 774 LGAs and the 36 Houses of Assembly in the country.
It was gathered that the committee decided to jettison the creation of new states following the pressure mounted by some Northern governors and political leaders that they did not want new states at the moment.
Pressure from Northern governors
One of the northern governors recently described the move by the National Assembly for new states as a waste of time and resources and asked the members to discontinue with the exercise.
The outspoken governor had also accused the lawmakers of trying to weaken the north with new states, a development that drew criticisms from the House, which described his utterances as unbecoming of his position.
It was learnt that although almost all the states endorsed state creation during the nationwide collation of opinions, the issue was later ‘shut down’ to calm frayed nerves.
A lawmaker, who is familiar with the development, said, “The issue of state creation generated a lot of controversy and we have decided to dump the matter in the interest of peace.
“We don’t want a situation where the good work done by the committee to be rubbished as a result of controversial items. We have therefore endorsed autonomy for the local governments and the various state houses of assembly, something we believe, will bring about stability and progress in the states.
It was not, however, clear if state governors, who were not comfortable with any form of autonomy for the local governments and their Houses of Assembly, would allow the matter to scale through when it is reverted for voting in their respected states.
For any of the items approved by the constitution review committee to become law, 24 out of the 36 Houses of Assemblies must concur.
Already, the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, NGF, is opposed to local government autonomy, on the grounds that the third tier of government is part and parcel of the respective states, with whom they maintain joint accounts.
It would be recalled that during the last attempt to grant autonomy to state assemblies, the NGF kicked against the idea and it was dropped, making it possible for governors to remote control their speakers and the members.
It is not clear how democratically-elected governors are opposed to autonomy for the third tier of government and their legislature when the reverse is the case at the Federal level.
The presentation of the collated report was suspended last January following a disagreement between the committee members and some leaders of the House over certain items on the agenda.
Reps to present report next week
The collated report of the peoples’ public sessions on the review of the 1999 Constitution conducted by the House in the 360 federal constituencies in the country is due for public presentation on Thursday, April 18, 2013.
A statement issued and signed by the Clerk of the adhoc committee, Chinedu Akubueze, said the presentation was earlier due to hold on Thursday, January 31, 2013, but was postponed to allow members more time to verify that the results reflected the voting in their various constituencies.
The statement read: “Collated results of the sessions which held on November 10, 2012, will be presented at the House of Representatives and presided over by speaker of the House, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal.
“The results will show the voting pattern on all the issues itemized in the template for voting by Nigerians during the sessions at the various federal constituencies.
“The public presentation is in keeping with the promise made by the Deputy Speaker/Chairman of the Committee, Emeka Ihedioha, that the House will make the process of the public sessions, and, indeed, the entire constitution amendment transparent, inclusive and accountable to the Nigerian people.”
The event, which will hold at Conference Room 231 of the House of Representatives New Building, is expected to be attended by the Chairman, Nigerian Governors’ Forum, representing state governors; Chairman, Conference of Speakers of State Legislatures, representing speakers of State Houses of Assembly; and President, Nigerian Bar Association, NBA.
Others include President, Association of Local Governments of Nigeria, ALGON; President, Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC; President, Trade Union Congress, TUC; President, Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU; President, Nigerian Union of Teachers, NUT; President, National Council of Women Societies, NCWS; and President, National Union of Local Government Employees, NULGE; President, Nigerian Union of Journalists, NUJ; President, National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS.