*** Only 11 State Houses of Assembly have demonstrated their independence and loyalty to the Constitution regarding the 44 bills Six months after the transmission of the Bills, Omo -Agege
*** Accuses Governors of truncating a Democratic Process
***Says only Abia, Akwa-Ibom, Anambra, Delta, Edo, Kaduna, Katsina, Kogi, Lagos, Ogun and Osun States have considered, voted on, and forwarded their resolutions on the 44 bills to the National Assembly
It is certainly not the best time for the Senate and House of Representatives Committees on Constitution Review as six months after the transmission of 44 Bills to the State Houses of Assembly, only 11 State Houses of Assembly out of the 36 States’ Houses of Assembly have considered some of the 44 bills transmitted to them for concurrence in March this year.
The states according to the National Assembly have demonstrated their independence and loyalty to the . Constitution regarding the said bills.
Strong indications emerged yesterday that the constitution review exercise by the 9th National Assembly may have hit the rocks following the refusal of 25 State Houses of Assembly to consider any of the 44 items sent to them for concurrence.
Addressing Journalists yesterday in Abuja, Deputy President of the Senate and Chairman, Constitution Review, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, All Progressives Congress, APC, Delta Central said that the 25 State Houses of Assembly have vehemently refused to consider and vote on the bills through a letter from the Conference of Speakers of State Assemblies that they will not act on the 44 Bills unless the National Assembly passes four new Bills they have proposed in the letter.
The Deputy President of the Senate who disclosed that 25 State Houses of Assembly were yet to consider and vote on these bills, said that so far, only Abia, Akwa-Ibom, Anambra, Delta, Edo, Kaduna, Katsina, Kogi, Lagos, Ogun and Osun States have successfully considered, voted on, and forwarded their resolutions on the 44 bills to the National Assembly.
Omo- Agege who described the situation at hand as most disheartening, coming six solid months after the 44 bills have been sent to the States for consideration, alleged that refusal of the 25 State Assemblies to consider the bills was a case of hand of Esau , the voice of Jacob .
The Chairman of the Committee who accused the Governors of truncating a democratic process, said that the Governors of the affected 25 States are behind actions taken by respective Assemblies as a way of frustrating efforts at giving financial and administrative autonomy to local government councils across the country.
Omo- Agege said, said : ” Six months after transmitting 44 Bills to State Assemblies for concurrence, it is most disheartening to inform you that only 11 State Houses of Assembly have demonstrated their independence and loyalty to the Constitution regarding the bills.
“25 State Houses of Assembly have yet to consider and vote on these bills. So far, only Abia, Akwa-Ibom, Anambra, Delta, Edo, Kaduna, Katsina, Kogi, Lagos, Ogun and the Osun States have successfully considered, voted on, and forwarded their resolutions on the 44 bills to the National Assembly.
“More worrisome is that while we are still expecting the receipt of the resolutions of the remaining Houses of Assembly, we received a letter from the Conference of Speakers of State Assemblies informing the National Assembly that the remaining states will not act on the 44 Bills unless the National Assembly passes four new Bills they have proposed in the letter.
“The Bills they propose seek to amend the Constitution to Establish State Police;
Establish State Judicial Council;
Streamline the procedure for removing Presiding Officers of State Houses of Assembly; and, institutionalize Legislative Bureaucracy in the Constitution.
“The National Assembly is in no way averse to acting on any proposed Bill or memoranda appropriately tabled before it, at any time in its life.
“However, it is legally inappropriate for the Conference of Speakers to use the four Bills as a quid pro quo to act on the 44 Bills the National Assembly 44 Bills transmitted. It is clear, and we cannot overstate, that this letter is not in keeping with the obligation the Constitution has placed on them regarding the Constitutional amendment.
“It is disheartening that some State Houses of Assembly, through the Conference of Speakers, would give the National Assembly conditions before fulfilling their constitutional obligations.
” Although the Conference of Speakers did not allude to it in their letter, we are aware of the undue interference with legislative processes and the political capture of some State Houses of Assembly by some State Governors.
” No doubt, some State Governors have worked tirelessly to turn the Conference of Speakers and some State Assemblies into political puppets, thereby undermining and delegitimizing the legislative institution at the state level.
“This interference has been ramped up, especially in opposition to the Bills granting financial and administrative autonomy to Local Governments”.
“An independent state legislature is essential to the well-being of Nigeria’s constitutional democracy. That is why the ongoing attempt by some State Governors, with the support of some Speakers and allies in the State Houses of Assembly, to eliminate that independence should alarm all Nigerians. This posturing by the Conference of Speakers of State Assemblies should be shown for what it truly is — a total disregard for the Nigerian constitutional system.
“It remains true that each State House of Assembly is independent of the other. However, Constitution amendment Bills require the approval of two-thirds (24) of the 36 State’s House of Assembly before they can be presented for the President’s assent. Therefore, how a State Assembly decides on each of the Bills is its prerogative. But, there must be a decision for citizens to know where each State House of Assembly stand on the issues the Bills seek to address.
” Please permit us to use this opportunity to appeal to citizens, civil society organizations, interest/professional groups and institutions to prevail on the Conference of Speakers to withdraw their threat to truncate the constitution amendment process. Instead, we should all speak up to defend our Constitution and democracy.
” Suppose we ignore this brazen attempt by some Governors to truncate a constitutional process. In that case, we will ultimately be enablers of the undermining of a critical bulwark of our democracy — which we should not be.
“While we use this medium to applaud all State Houses of Assembly that have successfully considered and approved the Constitution Alteration Bills, we also urge the remaining 25 State Houses of Assembly to keep faith with Nigerians and the Constitution they swore to uphold. May we all honour our pledge to Nigerians to build and reform by listening to the people.”
In their separate remarks, the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress ( NLC ) Ayuba Wabba and the President of the National Union of Local Government Employees ( NULGE), Comrade Ambali Olatunji, commended the National Assembly on financial and administrative autonomy proposed for local government councils.
They both called on the affected 25 State Houses of Assembly to concur to the constitutional amendments in the interest of good governance at the grassroots.
Wabba said, “This is very sad information of arm-twisting the lawmaker. I can tell you that this process has been very transparent from the public hearing to this very stage and I can state that the position of NLC on state police was very clear. If you check the history of thuggery, bandits and Boko Haram in Nigeria, it started with political thuggery, so we are not mature for state police
“If a state governor can deploy political thugs to peaceful protest, you should know that if he has state police, he will do more than that. It is important for the process to be very transparent. Before 1999, Nigeria never had bandits, Boko Haram and political thug, why do we have them now and how do they acquire arms, a lot of them bear arms, and the political elites buy arms for them.
” All of us can attest that elections in the local government is not transparent because of the interference of state governors, is that what we want for the state police
“We are pan Nigerian organisation, and we understand the issues, there is a state that has not to pay salaries for 26 months including medical doctors and in that state, their accreditation has been withdrawn
“So let’s put all these issues in the basket, I think we have to commend the national assembly for doing the needful
“We are going to start mobilisation immediately, we cannot take Nigeria for a ride for institutions to be working, it is the foundation of good governance, all developed countries have strong institutions, in the judiciary must be independent, same with Local Government and the Legislature
“We will commence the process of ensuring the autonomy for local government, Judiciary and for our legislature is actually approved by the state assembly.”
On his part, Ambali Olatunji said, “the conditions given by the state houses of Assembly is an attempt to blackmail the national assembly. We are ready to engage them. The basic thing is that they are delaying this amendment be cause of Local Government Autonomy.
“The governor were engaged on the issue of autonomy to Local Government. Those governors opposing local government autonomy are the ones diverting local government money, as they siphon it.”
According to Omo- Agege, they are requesting the National Assembly to include the establishment of State Police, and State Judicial Council, streamlining of procedures for removing Presiding officers of State Houses of Assembly and institutionalization of Legislative Bureaucracy in the Constitution.