By Kauthar Anumba-Khaleel,Abuja
The Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives and Chairman, ad hoc committee on the review of the 1999 constitution, Yusuf Lasun has stated that the National Assembly will ensure that Local Governments in the country get financial autonomy in the ongoing constitution review.
Lasun, who said this at a retreat of the special ad hoc committee yesterday, said regardless of the “dicey” nature of granting the local governments autonomy, they are essential to democracy as well as the development in any country, hence the need for their financial independence.
He said: “it’s very dicey because it will involve you to amend so many sections of the constitution. But what I will assure you is we’re 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’s 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.
“Local government is an important part of democracy and once they cannot operate on their own, once they don’t have elected officials at the local government level, once they don’t have access to their own money, definitely, it would be difficult to do anything at that level.”
The deputy speaker said local governments the world over, are responsible for almost 40 percent of development hence the need to give them a platform to effectively carry out their functions.
He however stressed that for constitution amendment to succeed, state assemblies must be fully on board.
“If the states want the constitution to be amended, they would append their signature to what we pass at the National Assembly”, he said.
On whether the report of the Constitutional Conference held by the last administration would be included in the consideration of his committee, Lasun said: “We have done that. We’ve taken those part that we think are reasonable and they’re going to form part of what we will consider here.”
The Deputy Speaker said at most, the reviewed constitution would be ready by May 2018.
“If we follow our programme very diligently, I think it cannot be earlier than February/ March next year. But I can assure you of one thing, we’re going to ensure that we achieve all these within the third year of this administration.
“This is because constitution review has a lot of political implications and we don’t want anybody to start reading meaning into whatever section of the constitution we want to amend at that point”, Lasun stated.