Senate Recommends 6-year Single Term, LG Autonomy

The Senate committee on constitution review has recommended a six-year single term for the President and state governors in future elections, a source in the committee told Daily Trust yesterday.
The single term presidency has been a subject of heated dispute since 2005, when it truncated the attempt to do a wholesome amendment of the constitution, following fears that former president Olusegun Obasanjo was using it in a bid to extend his constitutional tenure.
Daily Trust also learnt that the Senate committee led by Deputy Senate President Senator Ike Ekweremadu has recommended abolishing of the controversial ‘states and local government joint account’ to enable the third tier of government receive revenue allocations directly from the federation account.
“As a check, there is also a clause which prohibits release of revenue allocation to local governments that do not have elected council chairmen and councillors,” the source said.
The committee also recommended the scrapping of states’ electoral commissions (SIECs), and transferred the function to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
State governors have resisted the two proposals on local governments and are widely expected to put up a fight when the bill goes to state assemblies for approval.
But majority of public opinion during the public hearings conducted by the two chambers of the National Assembly tilted in support of financial autonomy for local government and the scraping of SIECS, which are generally believed to be manipulated by the governors.
The lawmakers are looking at dozens of sections to be amended in the constitution and have set a July 2013 deadline to conclude the exercise.
The Senate committee’s report will be presented to plenary this week, Deputy Senate president, Ike Ekweremadu who also chairs the committee, has said.
He, however, stressed that the committee’s recommendations are subject to approval of colleagues in plenary, as well as concurrence by the House of Representatives.
“By this week, we should be laying on the table the report of the Senate committee on constitution review. You recall that we created time line when we started. Our objective is to ensure that by this time we should be able to be lying on the table, probably have a discourse and pass at the Senate, and then we should be able to push it to the House of Representatives and the state assemblies respectively,” Ekweremadu said.
According to him: “We are hoping that they will be able to move as fast as we are doing so that hopefully, we will be able to achieve our July deadline. Even if we are going to miss it, it will not be too long behind the mark. We tenaciously followed our programme and time line regarding constitutional amendment.”
The deputy senate president, however, said that the report is not final. “No matter what our respective positions are, we are going to submit ourselves to the decision of our colleagues at plenary. Of course, that is going to be informed by the feelings of their constituents and ultimately the feeling of Nigerians.”
State creation agitators fail to meet requirement
Meanwhile, Senator Ekweremadu revealed that none of the agitators for state creation met the requirements as stipulated by Section 8 (1) of the 1999 constitution as amended.
The committee had received over 50 proposals for the creation of additional states across the federation.
But speaking to journalists in Abuja yesterday, Senator Ekweremadu said: “People think they will come to Abuja and submit memoranda and the National Assembly will deliberate on it and then subsequently announce that so and so states have been created. Unfortunately that is not the case.
“When we received request, that request must as a matter of constitutional requirement have the signature of two-third of the local government councils of the affected area requesting for the state.
“That will include the councillors and the chairmen of the council from the area requesting for the state. And you know these must be elected councillors and chairmen because the constitution did not envisage caretaker,” he added.
“If it is found out that they are not elected chairmen, it means that they have not fulfilled that obligation. Furthermore, there must be signature of the two-third of the state assemblies from those respective areas requesting for a state. Then, there will be two-third signature of the National Assembly. What has happened now is that, our traditional rulers, out of the love for their people, quickly signed the request for creation of state and come and submit in Abuja, without looking at what the constitution says.
“They are not the ones who should be signatories, it has to be parliamentarians. My own understanding of the constitution is that, it is not just going to be parliamentarians but serving a parliamentarian, that is sitting members, not those who were members in 1960.
“That is one of the details people have avoided in making these requests. So this is one of the constraints. For us, we support creation of states. But you have to follow the procedure laid down by the constitution which most people are trying to avoid. That is our stand on it,” Deputy Senate president said.


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