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Rivers Assembly rejects council autonomy, okays immunity for lawmakers

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Rivers Assembly

The Rivers State House of Assembly has rejected financial autonomy for local governments just as it opposed granting the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) power to de-register political parties

The lawmakers expressed their positions in their voting on alterations proposed in the nation’s constitution by the National Assembly.

Out of the 28 members present in the House, 27 voted against the alteration number 5, which seeks to permit local government councils to operate separate accounts.

The only female lawmaker, Victoria Nyeche, however, voted in favour of the Fourth Alteration Bill 2017.

Chairman of the House Committee on Information and Communication, Sam Ogeh, told newsmen after the sitting that the lawmakers rejected the bill because they did not consider local government autonomy as an issue that required immediate attention.

Ogeh, however, noted that no legislation is absolute, the fourth alteration won’t be the final amendment. “We are in a county that is moving on daily basis, and as events unfold, we will try to improve and better some things.”

Nyeche told The Guardian that she voted in favour of the bill because believed local council financial autonomy would strengthen democracy.

“The local government autonomy is very critical because by its independence, they can be more accountable. Power should revolve from the centre to the grassroots. I also voted in favour of INEC independence and power because as an electoral umpire, it should be able to hire and fire and deregister political parties,” she said.

The House also rejected alteration number 14, which seeks to provide for independent candidates contesting for elective positions.

However, the lawmakers, approved alteration number 24, which outlines the process for amendment of the constitution where the president withholds his assent.

They also approved alteration number 27 which provides for the reduction of age and qualification to contest the position of president, governor as well as national and state assembly seats in order to accommodate youths in the electoral process.

They approve alteration number 8 which permits immunity for legislators during sitting. Also approved was alteration number 28, which specifies the period within which the president or state governor must present an appropriation bill to the legislature for consideration.

Alteration number 4 which confers financial autonomy on state assemblies and alteration number 2, which reduces the period that the president or state governor can spend money before the passage of the next budget from six months to three months.

The Speaker, Ikuinyi-Owaji Ibani, who presided over the voting, urged the federal lawmakers to revisit the issue of devolution of power, stating that too much powers at the centre is making the country to drift to a unitary system.


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