by Ranti Joseph
The National Assembly on Wednesday has made provision for independent candidates in future elections.
To that effect, Section 177 of the constitution has been altered with the insertion of a new paragraph (d), which reads, “He is a member of a political party and is sponsored by that party or he is an independent candidate” in the fourth amendment to the 1999 Constitution.
Meanwhile, of the 36 states of the federation, 20 have signed against autonomy for local councils. The report of the Constitution Amendment Committee submitted Wednesday by its Chairman and Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, indicated that only 16 states voted in support of council autonomy. States that favoured council of autonomy are Adamawa, Anambra, Abia, Bauchi, Benue, Edo, Gombe, Imo, Kebbi, Kogi, Nasarawa, Niger, Ogun, Oyo, Plateau and Sokoto. While those that prevented it include Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Borno, Cross River and Delta. Others are Ebonyi, Ekiti, Enugu, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kwara, Lagos, Ondo, Osun, Rivers, Taraba, Yobe and Zamfara.
Also the proposed amendments that a local council not democratically elected shall not be recognised by all authorities and persons and shall not be entitled to any revenue allocation from the Federation Account or the state government, nor exercise any function exercisable by a local council under this constitution or any law for the time being in force; and shall stand dissolved at the expiration of a period of four years, commencing from the date the members of the council were sworn in were rejected.
The National Assembly has equally empowered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to deregister political parties that fail to win at least one election in the three tiers of government. “In an amendment of section 225, by inserting section 225A, INEC can deregister political parties if there is a breach of any of the requirements for registration and if such political parties fail to win presidential, governorship or at least one state, chairmanship of at least one local government/area council or a seat in the national or state assembly election.”
The new constitution also stipulates the timeline within which every pre-election matter shall be filed not later than seven days from the date of the occurrence of the event, decision or action complained of in the suit. “Besides, a court in every pre-election matter shall deliver its judgment in writing within 180 days from the date of filing of the suit while an appeal from a decision in a pre-election matter shall be filed within 14 days from the date of delivery of the judgment appealed against; and an appeal from a decision of a court in a pre-election matter shall be heard and disposed of within 60 days from the date of filing of the appeal.”
In Section 67, a new sub-section “67(1),” which states that a sitting President shall attend a joint meeting of the National Assembly once a year to deliver an address in respect of the state of the nation, was added.
In the new constitution, there is also stipulation that the President may attend any joint meeting of the National Assembly, either to deliver an address on national affairs, including fiscal measures, or to make such statement on the policy of government as he considers of national importance.
The office of the Attorney General of the Federation has been separated from the Justice Minister. Similarly, the office of the Accountant General of the Federation has been separated from that of the Accountant General of the Federal Government.
The latter shall be appointed by the President on the recommendation of the National Economic Council, subject to confirmation by the Senate, and shall be responsible for the administration and disbursement of allocations from the Federation Account to the tiers of government. Both offices have a four-year non-renewable tenure. However, the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation shall be funded from the Federation Account pursuant to an Act of the National Assembly.
In his presentation, Ekweremadu noted that this would be the last time any sitting President would have to sign the constitution, as Section 9 has been amended to ensure that after such amendments have been assented to by two thirds of the state’s Houses of Assembly and the two chambers of the National Assembly, such amendments become law.