By Henry Umoru

ABUJA—MOVES by some Northern senators to stop yesterday’s clause by clause debate on the report of the Senate Committee on the review of the 1999 Constitution on bills to further alter the provisions of the constitution of the country, was resisted by senators from the South and Middle Belt.

This culminated in a shouting match among the senators in the executive session which lasted for 40 minutes.

The senators had gone into a closed session before the debate on the report of the Committee on Constitution Review.

Consideration of the report which was slated as the third item on the Order paper was almost dropped as some senators from the north spoke vehemently against the debate on the report, giving excuses that there was the need for them to take the report back to their constituents and leaders for inputs and then return back for discussions.

Vanguard gathered that the closed session, Senators Danjuma Goje, Adamu Aliero, Ibrahim Gobir, among others, called for a postponement of the debate, but other senators as the Deputy Minority whip, Senator Biodun Olujimi, PDP, Ekiti South and others, protested against the position of the northern senators which then led to a rowdy session.

The Southern senators contended that the period before now was enough for their northern colleagues to have gone to their people and leaders for inputs.

Vanguard also gathered that the intervention of Senator James Manager, PDP, Delta South, could not calm the frayed nerves of the Southern senators and at the end of the day, the report was debated by the senators.

Meanwhile, as clause by clause debate commenced yesterday on the report, the Senate said that henceforth, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, should conduct local government elections in Nigeria, against the present arrangement where State Independent Electoral Commissins, SIEC, conduct the elections.

This was originally not part of the recommendations by the Senator Ike Ekweremadu-led Committee on Constitution Review as this additional one came from Senator Dino Melaye, APC, Kogi West.  It was seconded by Senator Sunday Ogbuoji, PDP, Ebonyi South.

Senator Melaye, who noted that autonomy of local governments was sacrosanct, said there could only be fairness, if elections into councils were handled by INEC.

He said:  “How do we speak of local government autonomy, without addressing the foundation. States has to be stripped of the power to constitute state electoral commissions to conduct local government elections.

‘’The State Independent Electoral Commission (SIEC) which is constituted by the state government is practically a joke. The LGA election has to be conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in order to guarantee its credibility nationwide.

“What used to happen is that State Governors sit in the comfort of their offices and select who and who be pronounced as chairmen of LGAs by the SIEC in their respective states. There is always no conduct of actual LGA election in any state”. Allowing states to oversee the conduct of local government elections will continue to make a mess of the call for LGA autonomy.”

Senate President, Bukola Saraki, who presided through a voice vote, held that the responsibility of conducting local government elections be taken away from the state to Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and it was unanimously taken by the Senate.

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