New constitution proposes appointment of ministers, commissioners within 30 days
• Okays LG Autonomy, Sets Time Frame For Pre-Budget Expenditure
The National Assembly (NASS), has introduced major alterations to the country’s constitution to further check the powers of the executive arm of government at federal and state levels, even as it has vowed to pass the recommendations of the amendment panel this week.
The report of the Senate Committee on Constitution Amendment was harmonised with that of the House of Representatives at a final meeting in Lagos last week.
Findings from the joint committee presided over by Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, and the House of Representatives’ Deputy Speaker, Yusuf Lasun, showed that the president and state governors would no longer be allowed to operate without ministers or commissioners beyond 30 days after their inauguration.
Section 147, in which the constitution provides for the appointment of ministers was altered to provide that once the president takes Oath of Office, he has only 30 days within which to appoint his ministers.
Other key issues in the report of the joint committee, which was laid before the Senate, last Thursday, were the amendment of sections 82 and 122 of the 1999 Constitution to reduce the period within which the president or the state governor may authorise expenditure from the Consolidated Revenue Fund, from six months to three months.
Based on the current provisions, the president or governor could make expenditures based on the provisions of the Appropriation Act (or Budget) of the previous year for up to six months, pending the approval of the budget for the current fiscal year.
The NASS believed that this was why presidents and governors are not always in a hurry to send in appropriation bills for incoming fiscal years.
The joint committee has equally recommended the amendment of Section 162 to abolish State/ Local Government Joint Account, so that each local council could maintain an independent special account into which allocations accruing to it shall be directly paid from the Federation Account and the state government.
The constitution amendment as approved by the joint committee also sought to provide a uniform three-year tenure for all the local councils. The joint committee is of the view that tenures of local governments have been abused with some states reducing it to as low as one year.
It was also learnt that there is a provision to ensure that monies allocated to local councils are used for the purposes for which they were meant, including, prompt and regular payment of primary school teachers’ salaries.
Section 7 of the constitution has been further altered to provide that only democratically constituted local councils can receive allocation from the Federation Account and state governments, and can be recognised by any authority or exercise any function exercisable by local councils in the Constitution.
According to the committee’s recommendations, sections 58, 59, and 100 of the constitution would be altered to provide 30 days timeframe for the president or governor to assent to a bill passed by the National Assembly, state assemblies or indicate his refusal of assent.
“Where the president or governor does not do so indicate refusal to assent to a bill, it automatically becomes a law after 30 days.” The joint committee, it was further learnt has recommended that a timeline/timeframe be set for the adjudication of pre-election disputes.
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