Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Yakubu Dogara, has expressed disappointment over the failure of state legislatures to grant autonomy to local government areas in the ongoing constitution amendment. Receiving the returns of the voting by states houses of assembly on the Constitution Amendment Bill transmitted to them for assent by the National Assembly, the speaker said all hope was not lost as they can still decide to give their approval when the National Assembly presents it again in the future for the sake of deepening and delivering the dividends of democracy to the grassroots.
He, however, commended the lawmakers for granting state legislatures autonomy, saying they were courageous to take the bold step.
“I must commend you for deciding that the legislature in states should be independent. However, this is not an expression of the opinion of the National Assembly, I want to appropriate this as my personal opinion. I can say that I am disappointed because I thought that the courage demonstrated by these highly skilled legislators, some of whom are seated before us, would have delivered the long awaited local government autonomy, but unfortunately, maybe our courage didn’t go that far. “But you see, courage isn’t really the absence of fear, but it is acting in spite of your fears and if it was not because of men and women of courage, I tell you that the democracy itself that we experience now wouldn’t have been possible. When William Wilberforce said slaves must be free, he belonged to the party, majority of whom, were slave owners and on account of that, a revolution started,” he told the state legislators.
Hon Dogara said while most of the measures the National Assembly was seeking to introduce may not be popular, if they stand by them, the kind of future that will come from it will ensure the deepening of democracy and the progress of our Nigeria. He added that, “Just as this one (financial independence for state legislatures) failed the other time, maybe in the next exercise, because our state legislatures are now independent, they will be able to extend this same independence to local governments. We all know the benefits of the independence of the 3rd tier, we all know that.” The speaker urged President Muhammadu Buhari to give assent to the bill, especially as it represents the wishes of the Nigerian people expressed through the federal and state representatives in the legislature.
Clauses approved by the state houses of Assembly include reduction of period for extra budgetary expenditure by the Executive from six to three months, Legislative immunity for lawmakers, new regulations governing conducts of bye elections by INEC, removal of the word “Force” from Nigeria Police, limiting the tenure of presidents and governors to eight years by not taking oath of office more than twice, reduction in age for elective offices, stipulation of date for budget presentation by the President, inclusion of Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps in the constitution, among others.