ADEBIYI ADEDAPO, Abuja
In a new amendment to the 1999 constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria (as amended), the National Assembly is set to pass a resolution seeking to grant financial autonomy to the Houses of assembly in the 36 states of the federation.
The ongoing amendment will also grant administrative and financial autonomy to the 774 local government councils in Nigeria.
These amendments, LEADERSHIP Sunday gathered, are expected to ensure effective service delivery and insulate the legislative arm of government in the states and the local governments from undue and counter-productive interferences from state governments.
The lawmakers resolved that local government system is a third tier of government which should have democratically elected executives and legislative arm.
By financial autonomy, the local governments will operate a separate account where allocations from the federal government and the state government will be paid, while administrative autonomy guarantees that only local governments with democratically elected officials shall be recognised by the constitution and function in any capacity.
A document exclusively obtained by LEADERSHIP Sunday revealed that a Bill for an Act to alter the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 to provide for funding of the Houses of Assembly in the states and the Judiciary directly from the consolidated revenue fund of the state is currently being considered by the special ad-hoc committee of the House of Representatives on constitutional review.
Also, a separate Bill for an Act seeking to abrogate the state joint local government accounts and another Bill seeking to strengthen local government administration in Nigeria are also being considered by the committee.
According to the document, the bill on the autonomy for state legislative houses seeks to alter Section 121 of the Principal Act by substituting for subsection (3), a new subsection ‘(3)’.
Section 121 (3) of the Constitution stipulates that “any amount standing to the credit of the judiciary in the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the State shall be paid directly to the heads of the courts concerned”.
But in the new amendment, the proposed subsection ‘3’ of the same section provides that “any amount standing to the credit of the- House of Assembly of the State and Judiciary in the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the State shall be paid directly to the said bodies respectively; in the case of judiciary, such amount shall be paid directly to the heads of the courts concerned”.
Also, an amendment to section 162 (6) abrogates the ‘state joint local government accounts’ and empowers each local government council to maintain its own special account to be called ‘Local Government Council Allocation Account’ into which allocations due to the local government council shall be directly paid from the federation account and from the government of the state.
The amendment also makes provisions for savings in the federation account prior to distribution to the respective levels of government.
Section 162(6) in the constitution provides that “each State shall maintain a special account to be called ‘State Joint Local Government Account’ into which shall be paid all allocations to the Local Government Councils of the State from the Federation Account and from the Government of the State”.
But in the new amendment, subsection 6 of the same section provides that “any amount standing to the credit of the States in the Federation Account shall be distributed among the States on such terms and in such manner as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly”.
Subsection 7 provides that each local government council shall maintain a special account to be called ‘Local Government Council Allocation Account’ into which shall be paid directly such allocation to the local government council from the federation account and from the government of the state.
This, in effect, shall abolish the current system of state local government joint account.
Meanwhile, an alteration to section 7(1) of the constitution is aimed at strengthening local government administration in Nigeria.
The new amendment, if passed into law, will insert a new clause into section 7(1).
The new insertion provides that a local government council not democratically elected shall not be recognised by any authority and persons and shall not be entitled to any revenue allocation from the federation account or the state government nor exercise any function exercised by a local government council under the constitution or any law for the time being in force.
The insertion further provides that democratically elected local government council shall be a tier of government in Nigeria and shall consist of executive and legislative arms.