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Constitution amendment: Local council autonomy suffers setback as state Assemblies return bills

By John Akubo, Abuja
25 January 2023   |   4:04 am
State Houses of Assembly have rejected the much talked about local council autonomy, expected to reposition the third tier of government for effective governance at the grassroots.

State Houses of Assembly have rejected the much talked about local council autonomy, expected to reposition the third tier of government for effective governance at the grassroots.

Also knocked out were eight other Constitutional amendment bills transmitted by the National Assembly for concurrence.

The National Assembly had, in March, voted on 68 bills, aimed at amending the 1999 Constitution. Thereafter, 44 bills were approved by both the Senate and the House of Representatives and transmitted to the state Assemblies for concurrence.

A simple majority of votes is required in at least two-thirds of state Assemblies (24 out of 36). Amendments that sail through would then be sent to the President for assent.

The Senate, in a motion by Ovie Omo-Agege (APC, Delta), during plenary, yesterday, said 27 out of the 36 state Assemblies had forwarded their resolutions on the amendment bills to the National Assembly.

Omo-Agege, whose motion was presented by Opeyemi Bamidele (APC, Ekiti), said 35 bills satisfied Constitutional provision, having been approved by not less than 24 state Assemblies. He added that nine bills failed to scale through.

Salient among the bills voted against by the state parliaments is the one seeking to grant financial and administrative autonomy to the country’s local councils.

There has been debate over the autonomy of councils, which usually operate joint accounts with state governments.

Supporters of local council autonomy believe that without administrative and financial independence, it would be difficult to bring governance to the grassroots.

Among the 35 bills approved by state Assemblies are financial autonomy of state legislatures and state judiciary; power devolution to allow state governments build and operate airports, prisons, railways and power grid system.

Others include legislative power to summon the President and governors; timeframe to submit ministerial and commissioner nominees and timeframe for submission of national budget.