State legislators reject local govt autonomy, split attorney general, justice minister's office

By The Citizen

Speakers of the 36 states' Houses of Assembly returned their adopted version of the constitution amendments to the National Assembly on Friday.

The document, which was submitted to the Chairman of the Constitution Amendment Committee and Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, granted approval to  the separation of the office of the Attorney General from that of Minister/Commissioner of Justice.

It approved the financial  independence of the state  legislature but silent on the autonomy clause for the 774 local government councils across the country.

Chairman, Conference of Speakers of State Houses of Assembly, Hon. Samuel Ikon, who spoke on behalf of his colleagues at the presentation of the document,  also said the states legislature also approved the creation of the office of the Accountant General of the Federal Government.

He said, 'Let me announce that, we have exceeded the required figure for financial autonomy for state legislature; we have also met the required figure for separation of the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation from the Office of the Minister of Justice.

'I hope that sections not agreed to may find relevance in the future.'

Ikon's silence on the vexed issue of local council autonomy in the approved amendment, showed that the lawmakers had technically rejected the amendment to the clause.

Senate President, David Mark, commended the state lawmakers for approving financial autonomy for themselves but expressed reservation on their inability to pass the local government autonomy.

He said, 'One of the areas which I think we ask you to approve on  is the local government autonomy. I don't know if you had the courage to do that, but if you did not pass it, no problem, it is a continuous exercise.'

The Senate President also acknowledged the speed with which the state assemblies had attended to the recommended amendments.

He said, 'I want to assure you and assure Nigerians that we in the National Assembly will also act very swiftly and we will do our own work as timely as possible.

'Many Nigerians were of the opinion that we were not going to make any amendment in the Seventh Senate and in the Seventh democratic dispensation.

'However, having returned  it to us now,  you have made our work very easy regardless  of the ones that have met the constitutional requirement for amendments.

'It is a constitution that is binding on all of us irrespective of our position in the society, irrespective of our position in the country. So, we the operators are very important and we are key in the working of the constitution.'

Ekweremadu, who received the approved document on behalf of the NASS Constitution Amendment Committee, had earlier noted that that was a culmination of the will of the people of Nigeria.

According to him, 'The  durability of constitutions depends on public support as citizens and the public are less inclined to support a constitution without their input.

He said, 'There is no doubt that broad citizens' participation, which was the mainstay of the review process has added value to the democratic process and improved the quality of governance.

'It will also provide for accountability and transparency in governance; and, create an independent judicial system that would ensure the proper administration of justice in Nigeria.'

He said the amended clauses would be transmitted to President Goodluck Jonathan for his signature to become law.