John Ameh, Abuja
The House of Representatives has said that local governments in the country will get financial autonomy in the new amendments being proposed to the 1999 Constitution.
The Senate and the House are separately amending the constitution, though the reports of both arms of the National Assembly will be later harmonised.
The Deputy Speaker of the House, Mr. Yussuf Lasun, spoke in Abuja on Friday at a retreat for members of the Special Ad Hoc Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution.
Lasun stated that financial autonomy for the third tier of the government was important for local government councils to effectively discharge their functions in a democracy.
But, he explained that it would involve some rigorous procedure.
He said, “It is very dicey because it will involve you to amend so many sections of the constitution. But what I will assure you is that we are going to push for financial autonomy.
“We are concerned because if you go all over the country today, local governments are no longer in existence, and that is not good for democracy. It is not good for development and that is why it has become very difficult for the people of the grassroots to feel the impact of government.”
Meanwhile, efforts made in the past to grant autonomy to the councils had failed.
During the 2010 review of the constitution, the National Assembly had included financial autonomy for state Houses of Assembly and local government councils.
However, state assemblies refused to approve the recommendation as required under Section 9 of the constitution.
By the provision of the constitution, any proposed amendment must be approved by two-thirds majority (24) of the 36 state Houses of Assembly.
In 2010, the proposal for autonomy failed to meet the requirement as the assemblies came under pressure from their governors not to approve it.
Lasun did not say whether the governors, who took advantage of the current state/local government joint account, were prepared to back the proposal for autonomy.
However, he argued that local government councils were responsible for about 40 per cent of the development in the country and needed financial autonomy to function better.
Lasun, who added that a new constitution would be ready in May 2018, disclosed that some aspects of the 2014 National Conference report would be lifted and included in the constitution.
The deputy speaker spoke further, “We are going to consider it and we have done that.
“We have taken those that we think are reasonable and they are going to form part of what we will consider here.”
Each of the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory are represented on the constitution review committee.
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