by Chi Ibe
The Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives and Chairman of its Constitution Review Committee, Emeka Ihedioha, announced in Abuja yesterday that a new constitution for the country will not be due until April 2013
At a news conference, Ihedioha said about 75 proposals had been received from Nigerians and various groups calling for amendments to some sections of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) including 10 bills on amendments to the constitution from the House in plenary.
In collaboration with the Senate, Ihedioha said: “We have indicated achieving a fresh set of amendments to the Constitution by April 2013. We have received close to 75 submissions since then (September 2011) and expect to receive more.
“The memoranda submitted so far have focused on the following issues, among others – Federalism and Nigeria’s political structure, devolution of powers, Issues with respect to Local governments, indigeneship and citizenship, electoral reforms, excision of Land Use Act from the constitution, state creation, justiciability of Chapter II of the constitution, Judicial reforms and national security and police reform.”
Read the full details from the Punch below:
He said there was plan to whittle down the powers of governors, saying the House would be cautious in amending the constitution.
The House has already admitted a proposal to grant financial autonomy to state legislatures, a move that may bring the legislatures in conflict with their governors.
It also seeks to grant financial autonomy to local government councils by abolishing the State/Local Government Joint Account as being operated.
Among others, many Nigerians have demanded the removal of the immunity clause from the constitution so that the President and the governors would no longer enjoy immunity from prosecution while in office.
But, on Monday, Ihedioha claimed that there was no plan to tamper with the powers of the governors.
He said, “We do not set out to whittle down the powers of governors. Our duty is to have a constitution that fits into modern-day democratic practices.”
Asked the essence of granting autonomy to state legislatures if not to free them from the grips of governors, Ihedioha said the aim of the House was to streamline the operation of state legislatures with that of the National Assembly.
Meanwhile, chairman of the Senate Constitution Review Committee and Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, has said the next phase of the Constitution review exercise will offer another chance for state legislatures to gain financial autonomy.
Ekweremadu, who is also the Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, spoke at an interactive session on the activities of the National Institute for Legislative Studies on Monday in Abuja.
He said the National Assembly had secured its autonomy at the last amendment to the 1999 Constitution, as the autonomy had ensured that the National Assembly received its funds on first line charge.
According to him, the status has impacted positively on the National Assembly as members now carry out their oversight functions without hindrance.
Ekweremadu said, “The National Assembly made efforts to empower the state legislature in the last exercise, but unfortunately they (State Houses of Assembly) voted against their autonomy by two votes.
“They (state assemblies) have another chance in the on-going constitutional review process to vote for their autonomy.”