The Nation - If the recommendation of the Senate Committee on the review of the 1999 Constitution is accepted by the House of Representatives and assented to by President Muhammadu Buhari, the state joint local government account will be a thing of the past.
The abolition of the state joint local government account is one of the highlights Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, presented to the Senate Thursday.
Ekweremadu also said that the Senate constitution committee adopted the recommendation to create a mayoral seat for the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja.
He noted that the committee, inaugurated on 13th January, 2016 had a clear mandate to reprocess the aspects of the Fourth Alteration Bill that had gained national consensus and enjoyed huge good-will from the general public, states, non-governmental organizations and international development organizations.
On local government administration, Ekweremadu said that Section 7 of the Constitution was amended essentially to strengthen local government administration in Nigeria by elaborately providing – A uniform 3-year tenure for elected local government council officials; That Local Governments without a democratically elected council shall not be entitled to any revenue from the Federation Account.
Members of the committee, he said, believed that amendments will ensure effective service delivery and insulate local governments from undue and counter-productive interferences from state governments.
On distributable pool account, he said that Section 162 of the Constitution was amended to – Provide for national savings of 50% of oil revenues above the bench mark for a particular year and 10% of any non- oil revenue paid into the Federation Account; Or such other percentage not less than that provided in this section as the National Assembly may determine in the Appropriation Act of a particular year.
To provide that any such savings as stipulated in this section will be distributed in accordance with the prevailing revenue sharing formula and in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution provided that the savings shall not be distributed in any period less than ten years from the date of a particular savings; and to abrogate the State Joint Local Government Account and paying monies due to Local Government Councils directly into their respective accounts
The amended section, he said, also defined the fund of the State government; “that is, internally generated revenue from which a portion shall be paid into the Local Government Allocation Account.”
On authorization of expenditure, Ekweremadu said that Sections 82 and 122 of the Constitution were amended to reduce the period within which the President or a Governor may authorize the withdrawal of monies from the Consolidated Revenue Fund in the absence of an appropriation act from six months to three months.
The amendment, he explained was essentially to compel early presentation of budget proposal by the Executive arm of government thereby giving the legislature sufficient time to scrutinize such proposal.
On political parties and electoral matters, he said that Sections 134 (4) & (5), 179 (4) & (5) and 225 were amended to – Extend the time for conducting presidential and Governorship re-run elections where no clear winner has emerged from seven to 21 days to give INEC sufficient time to plan, considering the logistics that is required such as printing and transporting new ballot papers for the elections;
To empower the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to de-register political parties for 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 elections.
On financial autonomy of state legislatures, he said that Section 121 of the Constitution was amended to guarantee a first line charge funding of State Houses of Assembly from the consolidated revenue fund of the State.
On status of the Federal Capital Territory, he noted that Sections 256, 299, 300, 301 and 302 of the Constitution were amended to Create the Office of an elected Mayor for the FCT with powers to administer the FCT as if it were a State of the Federation by exercising all functions presently administered by the Minister of the FCT.
On nomination of ministers and commissioners, he said that Sections 147 and 192 of the Constitution were amended to – Ensure that the President and Governors designate and assign portfolios to persons nominated as ministers or commissioners respectively prior to confirmation by the Senate or State House of Assembly;
Provide a period of 60 days within which such nominations shall be forwarded to the Senate or State House of Assembly following inauguration; and
Provide 35% representation for women in the appointment of ministers and commissioners.
On the Legislature, he said that Sections 51, 67, 93 and 315 were amended to – Create the National Assembly Service Commission and the State House of Assembly Service Commission and empower the National Assembly and State House of Assembly respectively to provide for the powers and structure of the Commissions through subsequent legislations, and
To make it mandatory for the President to attend a joint meeting of the National Assembly once a year to deliver a State of the Nation Address.
Remove the law-making power of the Executive arm of government under S. 315 because “the extant provision is starkly contrary to Section 4 of the Constitution which confers law-making powers exclusively on the legislature.”
On the Judiciary, he said Sections 233, 237, 247, 251 and Part I of the Third Schedule of the Constitution were amended to- Provide for all appeals from the Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court to be by leave of the Supreme Court except in the case of Interpretation of the Constitution, death sentences and fundamental human rights.
Allow two justices of the Court of Appeal sitting in chambers to dispose any application for leave to appeal after considering the records of proceedings if the justices believe the interest of justice does not require an oral hearing of the application.
Establish a criminal division of the Federal High Court to try electoral offences, terrorism cases, economic and financial crimes cases etc.
Provide for appeals from the decisions of the National Industrial Court to the Court of Appeal.
Provide for 12 Justices of the Court of Appeal to be learned in Labour and Employment Matters for the purpose of hearing appeals from the National Industrial Court.
Improve the quality of representation in the National Judicial Council.
Put the Code of Conduct Tribunal under the control of the judiciary instead of the executive.
On devolution of powers, he said that the Second Schedule, Part I and II of the Constitution were altered to decongest the Exclusive legislative list to give more powers to states. This enhances the principle of federalism and good governance. It substituted “Post and Telegraphs” with “Post and Telecommunications”, and moved Pensions, Prisons, Railways, Stamp Duties and Wages from the Exclusive Legislative List to the Concurrent List and added Arbitration, Environment, Healthcare, Housing, Road Safety, pensions, Land and Agriculture, Youths, Public Complaints to the Concurrent List.
The committee also effected local government change of name by amending the First Schedule to change the names of local governments as follows:
“Afikpo North” and “Afikpo South” to “Afikpo” and “Edda” respectively;
“Egbado North” and “Egbado South” to “ Yewa North” and “Yewa South”;
“Obia/Akpor” to “Obio/Akpor”.
Ekweremadu noted that the Senate committee had concluded its assignment; they agreed to wait for the House of Representatives on Constitution review to conclude so that the two committee would harmonize before presenting the final report to the two chambers.
Senate President, Abubakar Bukola Saraki, asked the committee to work to beat the January 2017 deadline slated for the passage of the Bill.