CONSTITUTION AMENDMENT: REPS REMOVE IMMUNITY FOR PRESIDENT, GOVS •Give autonomy to LGs, scrap SIECs. The House of Representatives ad hoc committee on the review of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), on Thursday, submitted its report to the House and altered Section 308, which accorded immunity from prosecution for criminal offences for persons occupying the offices of president, vice president, governor and deputy governor, saying that the move would stem impunity levels from the occupiers of the offices. This came to the fore during the presentation of the committee’s report by its chairman, who is also the deputy speaker, Honourable Emeka Ihedioha, during the plenary session. This is coming just as the Speaker, Honourable Aminu Tambuwal, disclosed that the House would consider and adopt the report of the committee before proceeding on its annual recess, assuring that “we shall consult with the leadership and look at the possibility of considering the report before we go on vacation.” Ihedioha, while presenting the report, said Section 308 was amended “in line with the results from the peoples’ public sessions,” adding that the committee also removed the immunity from prosecution for persons occupying the offices to stem impunity levels. He said there would be no creation of new states in the current constitution amendment process, because proponent of the new states failed to meet constitutional requirements. “The committee received 35 requests for creation of states, but none of the requests submitted to the committee complied with the procedure for creation of states outlined in Section 8 of the Constitution,” he said. The committee, however, recognised that the existing provision in the constitution for the creation of new states was “unclear and cumbersome.” Also in the report, the committee urged the House to consider granting autonomy to local governments and allowing for independent candidates in future elections, while it also wanted un-elected local government chairmen barred from getting funds from Federal Allocation. The committee recommended a fixed uniform term of four years for local government councils and prescribed denial of appropriation to councils that were not democratically elected, adding that “under the amendment proposed, elections into local government councils would be managed by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).” The committee also said it altered the contentious Section 162 of the 1999 Constitution “to abrogate state joint local government accounts and empowered each local government to maintain its special account, to be called “Local Government Council Allocation Account,” into which shall be paid directly, allocations made to the local government by the Federal Government from the Federation Account and from the government of the state. The committee also altered Section 197 to abrogate State Independent Electoral Commissions (SIECs), so as “to protect the integrity of the electoral process at local government level and respond to the complaints of partisanship of SIECs. Accordingly, it deleted the existence of SIECs and vested the power to conduct local government councils elections across the states of the federation in the INEC. On indigeneship, the report indicated that “in order to address the various conflicts and crises surrounding the question of who is an indigene or settler in the community, the committee redefined citizenship to take away this divide, meaning that a person who has lived in a community for a specified period is entitled to the same rights and privileges as citizens of that community. The amendment under this chapter fully defines indegeneship in a way to eliminate the conflict that this has posed in the past.” On Section 65, the report maintained that “the committee agreed to allow for independent candidacy in elections in Nigeria, subject to conditions stipulated under the Electoral Act.” On Section 153, which deals with electoral offences, the committee claimed that it “felt that the issue of electoral offences is of such importance as to warrant the creation of an independent electoral offences commission to handle it.” On the independence of the offices of the Attorney-General of the Federation, the Accountant-General of the Federation and the Auditor-General of the Federation the report noted that in order to entrench their offices and insulate them from political control, “the committee put the offices on the first line charge of the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation.” The committee said it “included a new section in the constitution, creating a new office of the Accountant-General of the Federation and Accountant-General of the Federal Government, to ensure that persons are appointed into these two separate offices for professional management of resources.” On Section 150, he said, “to give effect to the results of the peoples’ public session, which voted to separate the office of the Minister of Justice from that of the Attorney-General of the Federation, the committee made amendments to reflect this and insulating an independent office of the Attorney-General of the Federation from partisanship and to be managed by a professional lawyer. This is also applicable at the state level.” The committee also altered Section 80, which it said was aimed at plugging “leakages from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation and public funds of Nigeria, to ensure that no expenditure is made by any organ of government without appropriation by the legislature.” Also, sections 81 and 82 were altered so as “to ensure timely passage of the national budget and discipline in expenditure,” while the committee stipulated that budgets be submitted by the executive for approval no later than 90 days before the expiration of the fiscal year. The report also amended Section 214 “to delete the word ‘Force’ from the name of the Nigeria Police, providing for the name of the police to now be “Nigerian Police,” rather than “Nigeria Police Force.” Commenting on the process adopted by the committee, Ihedioha said it carried out a thorough job in line with the mandate given to it by the House, stressing that, “the House should expedite the process of alteration of the constitution requiring collaboration with the Senate and the state houses of assembly.”
Posted on: Fri, 05 Jul 2013 07:00:59 +0000

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