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Constitution review: State Houses of Assembly mobilise for autonomy

By Soni Daniel, Regional Editor, North

ABUJA — As the National Assembly fine-tunes its review of the Constitution, Speakers of the 36 states’ Houses of Assembly have begun serious mobilisation towards getting independence from their respective governors.

However, the state governors, it was also gathered, were not comfortable with granting autonomy to their Houses of Assembly.

A governor told one of our correspondents that they were not in support of autonomy for the respective Houses, just as they did not support the removal of immunity from the President and governors.

Speaker of the Enugu State House of Assembly, Mr. Eugene Odo, in an interview with our correspondent in Abuja, said they were ready to back independence for the assemblies.

Odo, who also heads the Constitution Review Committee of the Conference of Nigerian Speakers, said that the speakers had resolved to ensure the independence of the respective Houses of Assembly to be able to serve their constituents better.

Senate President, David Mark; President Jonathan and House of Reps Speaker, Tambuwal
Senate President, David Mark; President Jonathan and House of Reps Speaker, Tambuwal

Odo said: “The autonomy of the legislature is very paramount. We have always wanted autonomy but unfortunately we lost it during the last amendment. Those of us in the South-East did very well, as we all voted for autonomy except for one state.

“I know that the South-South did not do much, so we lost all the states in the South-South. The South-West did very well but the North did not do well.

“This time we are regrouping to make sure that we pass the resolution in favour of granting autonomy to the state Houses of Assembly.

Advantages of autonomy

“The whole essence of autonomy is not to fight the executive but to strengthen the polity and the economy.

“It equally assists in making sure that what is budgeted for the legislature is properly released to them. By so doing, proper oversight and good governance are guaranteed.

“You can imagine state legislators going on oversight function and applying to the executive to get funds, which they will use to prosecute the oversight function. I do not think that is what the doctrine of Separation of Power teaches.

“The doctrine tries to give each arm of government a level of independence to enable it to do its duty.

“Of course, the separation of power is not water tight, but then it has to guarantee some level of independence as not to inhibit the proper functioning of each of the arms of government. That is the main reason why we want autonomy for the state legislature.”

On Jonathan’s performance

Asked to assess the performance of President Goodluck Jonathan in the last two years, Odo said that Jonathan had done well, but added that the problems he inherited from his predecessors were still hindering the progress of the nation.

The Speaker said: “Mr. President has really done very well. Most of these problems in the country today were not caused by him. These problems have been there even when Mr. President had not dreamt of entering politics.

“But since he is our major trustee, we have to urge him to do more. I believe Mr. President has done well. And I am particularly impressed by the aggressive road maintenance across the country.

“He has equally done very well in the area of sanitising the economy itself. I am aware that so many companies are now coming in to encourage mass production of rice in this country.

“At least, we should be proud that this is what we produce and this is what we have been able to offer from this country.”


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