* AKHA Speaker, Onofiok Luke
By William EFFIONG
Thirty-one state Houses of assembly in Nigeria voted for autonomy of state legislatures of Nigeria, defying governors in their individual states.
In Akwa Ibom, Speaker Onofiok Luke led 12 lawmakers to vote in support of independence for state legislatures against pressure from the state executive.
But unlike in most of the other 30 states which also voted for legislative autonomy, the Akwa Ibom situation was somewhat dramatic as 10 members voted against legislative independence.
A former Speaker of the House, Aniekan Uko was shockingly one of those who voted against the item in the ongoing Constitution Amendment.
Mr Uko later explained his position later in a Facebook post that he voted against autonomy for state legislatures because the report by the House ad hoc committee had recommended the suspension of voting on autonomy for local government.
Constituents who responded to the post has however faulted his position on the grounds that he couldn’t have know what the House position would be on the issue of Local Government autonomy since the later was to be decided after legislative autonomy had been voted on.
Others who voted against autonomy for state legislatures include Aniekan Bassey of Uruan, Uduak Odudoh of Ikot Abasi/Eastern Obolo, Monday Eyo of Uyo, Aniefiok Denis of Etinan, Nse Essien of ONNA, David Lawrence of Eket, Asuquo Archibong of Uruefong Oruko, Effiong Bassey of Oron, and Mark Esset of Nsit Atai.
Speaker Onofiok Luke was one of the members of Conference of Speakers of Nigeria who on Thursday converged on Abuja to submit their resolutions on constitution amendments to the Chairman of the National Assembly, Dr. Bukola Saraki, who is also the President of the Senate.
According to the highlights of the decisions and votes by the Houses of Assembly, 31 out of 36 approved financial autonomy for the state legislature.
Thirty-two states voted for legislative autonomy.
The approved proposals are: Reduction of Executive’s power to engage in extra-budgetary spending from six to three months. The President cannot continue to withdraw funds from consolidated account after the expiration of the annual budget.
Financial autonomy for State Assembly. Autonomy for legislatures at all levels, Change of the name of Nigeria Police Force to Nigeria Police, Early laying of Budget, Avoiding oath taking for the office of the President or Governor more than twice. This proposal seeks to ban anyone who succeeds a president or a governor and completes the tenure of such president or governor from contesting for that same office more than once.
Pre-election matters will now be decided with the substantive case within 180 days. Not too young to run bill, which will review downward age restrictions for standing in elections.
Strengthening the Judiciary for speedy dispensation of justice.Constitutional Establishment of Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) in line with global standards.
The amendments rejected are abrogation of State-Local Government Joint Account; LG autonomy; independent candidature; and the proposal to give the legislature the power to override the president’s veto on matters of amendment to the Constitution without the President’s final signature.
A source, who spoke in confidence, said: “All the 36 State Houses of Assembly have finalised consideration of proposed amendments to the 1999 Constitution in line with Section 9 of the Constitution.
“All the Speakers will converge on Abuja on Thursday to submit our decisions and the details of our pattern of votes to the Chairman of the National Assembly, Dr. Bukola Saraki, who is also the President of the Senate.
“It was not easy because most state Houses of Assembly resisted the pressure from their governors to reject financial autonomy for the legislature at the state level.
“But we stood our ground to exercise our constitutional right in line with Section 9 of the constitution. We believe that our democracy can be robust and meaningful if the principle of Separation of Powers is upheld and State Houses of Assembly are financially independent.
“It is sad that most governors have turned state Houses of Assembly to puppets. We will never allow such oppression again.”
Section 9 of the 1999 Constitution says: “The National Assembly may, subject to the provision of this section, alter any of the provisions of this Constitution.
“An Act of the National Assembly for the alteration of this Constitution, not being an Act to which section 8 of this Constitution applies, shall not be passed in either House of the National Assembly unless the proposal is supported by the votes of not less than two-thirds majority of all the members of that House and approved by resolution of the Houses of Assembly of not less than two-thirds of all the States.
“An Act of the National Assembly for the purpose of altering the provisions of this section, section 8 or Chapter IV of this Constitution shall not be passed by either House of the National Assembly unless the proposal is approved by the votes of not less than four-fifths majority of all the members of each House, and also approved by resolution of the House of Assembly of not less than two-third of all States.
“For the purposes of section 8 of this Constitution and of subsections (2) and (3) of this section, the number of members of each House of the National Assembly shall, notwithstanding any vacancy, be deemed to be the number of members specified in sections 48 and 49 of this Constitution.”
It was however learnt that some governors have vowed to resist the approval of financial autonomy for Houses of Assembly.
A governor said: “It amounts to insincerity on the part of the Houses of Assembly to approve financial autonomy for themselves and refused such for local governments.
“He who seeks equity must do so with clean hands. We are opposed to financial autonomy for Houses of Assembly. Some people are trying to use them to achieve selfish ends.”
– Additional report by The Nation newspaper